Kenny Hill passes the ball during a drill in practice. (Photo by Jonathan Pickell)

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After finishing 6-7 last season, changes for TCU football were to be expected and head coach Gary Patterson announced Thursday after practice that wholesale adjustments have been made on the offensive side of the ball.

With the volume of teams that run an uptempo, shotgun spread offense in the Big 12, Patterson looked to make TCU’s offense unique again.

“Texas Tech, coach Meacham at Kansas and many other schools know the signals and know how everything runs, so we revamped everything,” Patterson said.

The process of jumpstarting the offense did not all take place on Thursday but was more of a gradual process that started in the spring.

“We revamped the whole thing: from how we call things, how we signal, how line up formations and everything in between,” Patterson said.

The changes that TCU made offensively were designed to make defenses respect the Horned Frogs’ run game.

“I think there were some things we had to change to win championships, we still have pace, but you have to be able to be a power football team if you need to be,” Patterson said.

This year, the offense is looking to pressure defenses into playing closer to the line of scrimmage.

“You have to force defenses to put people in the box at the line of scrimmage, and you can do that not only by running the ball but also by how you do the passing game,” Patterson said. “Both quarterbacks can run and move around, so for us there’s going to be a lot more to the playbook than there was a year ago, even in the run game, which will stop people from teeing off on us.”

So far, the offensive adjustments have yielded a more effective Kenny Hill in practice.

“It only counts when you do it on Saturdays, so now it’s time to go do that, and when Kenny runs around, you’ll see the confidence level,” Patterson said. “In the scrimmage, Kenny threw a pick in the red zone and a year ago, he probably would’ve been done for the rest of the day, but he bounced back and took us down on a drive and scored, so he’s a lot different of a player than he was a year ago.”

Still looking for help on the offensive line

“We’re not as a deep as I’d like to be, and we should have eight or nine offensive linemen playing at a high level, but right now we’re at seven,” Patterson said. “You need to be somewhere between eight and ten because of injuries.”

Backup offensive guard Casey McDermott Vai will miss the season because of an injury and will medical redshirt. Starting right tackle Lucas Niang is hampered by an injury, but is expected to play against Jackson State, but not the entire game, Patterson said. Matt Pryor filled in at tackle when Niang has been sidelined.

Defensive depth leads to versatile unit

Patterson said Dennis Collins, Ty Summers, Mat Boeson and Ben Banogu “will be in the mix” at defensive end. Summers’ health has been in question, but Patterson said he will probably play at defensive end against Jackson State, but has the potential to move back to linebacker against Arkansas and for other matchups.

Patterson named four players who are in line to see time at defensive tackle this season: Chris Bradley, Corey Bethley, Ross Blacklock and L.J. Collier are all in line to play at defensive tackle.

However, Collier has also seen time at defensive end.

“L.J. Collier is the other guy playing defensive end for us, but for this game, he’ll probably play at defensive tackle,” Patterson said. “In the Arkansas game, you could see L.J. play outside at defensive end, and he gives us flexibility to do both.”

Collier has been hindered by a foot injury but will be ready to play in TCU’s first game.

At linebacker, Patterson has been utilizing a handful of players.

“All of our linebackers run in the 4.5’s, and Montrel Wilson is a Daryl Washington-type,” Patterson said.”We have Travin [Howard]. Sammy Douglas can run. Arico [Evans] has moved inside and come a long way.”

Patterson said the number of capable linebackers led to Summers’ transition to defensive end, more than anything else. However, Summers could see a return to his position of the last few years depending on the opposition.

“Ty [Summers] was in the 700’s in the squat, 400’s in the bench and that can cause people on the edge problems when rushing the passer,” Patterson said. “You might see Ty maybe play some linebacker in the Arkansas game because you need a bigger linebacker inside.”

Ultimately, TCU’s mixing and matching defensively is just Patterson looking to find his stingiest formations.

“We’re doing some new things down the line this season with defensive personnel groupings to stay ahead of people in this league,” Patterson said.

The kicking carousel continues

Patterson reiterated Thursday that his starting kicker selection has changed every day of practice. TCU is looking to avoid last year’s situation where Patterson said he was held hostage by a kicker he didn’t trust.

“The guy who has really helped us is Lucas Gravelle, the snapper,” Patterson said. “He’s made the punt team better, great coverage guy and he’s a mature, married influence. He doesn’t let guys feel sorry for themselves.”

Kicker Brandon Ritchie resumed practicing after a week and a half off to rest his leg and nearly converted on a 57-yard field goal attempt. “He just barely missed,” Patterson said. “It was straight.”

Jonathan Song made a kick from over 50 yards Thursday.

“I had two of them make from over 50 today,” Patterson said.

Seeing shades of 2014

After being unranked in the Associated Press and coaches’ poll, Gary Patterson has his team right where he likes it to be.

“It makes my job a lot easier when people say that we’re not worth a darn,” Patterson said. “Then I don’t have to tell them that.”

The last time the Horned Frogs were unranked was 2014, when they went 12-1 and finished No. 3.

“I think probably there’s a lot of similarities,” Patterson said. “Nobody’s giving me a chance. The thing you’ve got that’s different from ’14, that year you were playing 10 games in the state of Texas. This year, we’ve got to go on the road six times.”

The Horned Frogs will travel to Arkansas, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Iowa State, Oklahoma and Texas Tech.
“Those are tough places to play,” Patterson said.

Even though they won just six games a year ago, the Horned Frogs won four of its five road games last year. Traditionally, TCU has had plenty of success outside of Fort Worth under Patterson, going 62-28 on the road during his tenure, including 14-9 in the Big 12.

The Frogs take the field in front of a crowd at 7 p.m. Saturday night Sept. 2 against Jackson State.