Gary Patterson likes what he sees before the Liberty Bowl. (Photo by Sam Bruton)

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If the Horned Frogs were set to face Jackson State today, Cole Bunce would be the starting place kicker, Gary Patterson said after practice Friday.

The sophomore from San Jose, Ca. took the lead on the field in the “50-yard range.”

“We had a long kick, and Bunce was only one who made it,” Patterson said. “You have to have a guy who makes it when it counts.”

The anointed starter from Monday, Brandon Ritchie, was “on the shelf” Friday because he didn’t kick as much during the spring and summer, when his eligibility had not yet been granted, Patterson said. Ritchie was cleared last week.

Field goal issues plagued the Horned Frogs in multiple losses last season when Ryan Graf and Brandon Hatfield were 19-for-25. Bunce was the kickoff specialist and did not attempt a field goal.

Patterson credited some of the kicking strides to Lucas Gravelle, the new long snapper who graduate transferred from Washington State. Patterson said he gets the ball to the holder quicker and more accurately.

“I think I feel a lot better with the kickers this year because of the snapper,” Patterson said. “Kickers are like golf swings in that if you change even a little thing they’re off, so I never say everything was okay there.”

Kenny Hill draws rave reviews 

Patterson continued to praise his starting quarterback Friday, a year after Hill lead the Big 12 in interceptions.

“Kenny is playing as well as we’ve ever seen him play, now he has to do it in a ball game because that’s how everyone gets judged,” Patterson said. “He’s been here two years, Sonny [Cumbie] has done a good job preparing him.”

Patterson said he’s seen growth in Hill’s state of mind.

“Hill showed mental tenacity in the team’s scrimmage last week, he threw a pick, it didn’t bother him, and he did what he needed to do,” Patterson said. “Now he has to handle adversity in a game, that’s what all great quarterbacks do.”

Depth at linebacker improves defensive line

“LJ [Collier] is giving us some depth, as a bigger defensive end against some of the teams we’ll play,” Patterson said.

Collier played at defensive tackle last season.

“Ben [Banogu] has had a good last couple of practices and [Matt] Boeson too at d-end,” Patterson said. “Dennis [Collins] has come a long way too.”

At the two linebacker spots, TCU is seeing some growth from not just younger players, but a senior as well.

“Sammy Douglas has had the best camp he’s ever had,” Patterson said. “Alec Dunham and Alex Bush have played well too, and with the depth at linebacker, that’s given us the ability to move Ty Summers down to give us some speed on the edges at defensive end, which means you don’t need as good of coverage guys in the secondary if the quarterback doesn’t have any time.”