Head coach Gary Patterson’s football program has long been able to find under-recruited players and turn them into NFL products.
Part of this can be attributed to the complexity of Patterson’s defense, one that rivals professional schemes and allows TCU players to come in as rookies ahead of the curve.
Ty Summers, for example, originally committed to Rice as a quarterback. Four years later, the San Antonio product has played three different positions on Patterson’s defense and is on the brink of being selected in this month’s NFL Draft.
Summers played middle linebacker, outside linebacker and defensive end during his time at TCU. In the process he went from an under-recruited passer to the second leading tackler in the Patterson era.
“I think one of the things they learned that the NFL really likes is we teach kids to process, we don’t just teach them to go,” Patterson said. “And when they do their individual meetings, that’s one of the things I think they’re most impressed about.”
The Horned Frog’s defense often forces players to learn multiple positions and be able to rotate during games.
The versatility and football knowledge that comes from Patterson’s system continues to impress NFL teams.
“Whenever I was able to talk about my defense and explain it to teams at the combine and such, they were really impressed with my knowledge of the game,” Summers said.
Along with increasing their football knowledge, the ability to play multiple positions lets players work on skills that they may never develop if they become stuck in one spot.
Ben Banogu, who was selected to the
“I think it puts me ahead of the curve,” Banogu said. “I know it put LJ [Collier] ahead of the curve too. We do a lot of complicated stuff at TCU, a lot of things that the coaches ask of the D-line that they don’t ask at other schools.”
The Horned Frogs’ defense has been a strong pipeline for NFL teams since Patterson took over at TCU in 2000.
Twenty-one defenders have been drafted under Patterson, with three more likely to be added to the group at this month’s NFL draft in Nashville.
Those three, Summers, Banogu and LJ Collier, were all rated three-stars or lower coming out of high school, according to 247Sports.
This trend of Paterson developing lower-rated recruits into defensive stalwarts isn’t new.
Travin Howard entered Fort Worth as a three-star safety and left as the team’s all-time leading tackler under Patterson before being drafted last season by the Rams. Paul Dawson was a three-star athlete that became a third-round draft pick in 2015 at linebacker. Jerry Hughes was a two-star defensive end that became a two-time All-American and first-round draft pick.
“Coach P doesn’t just go out and recruit any old five-star, four-star guy, he gets guys that he can mold,” Banogu said this past July at Big 12 Media Days. “Guys that he wants. Guys that fit his defense.”
By mastering Patterson’s scheme and developing their own talent along the way, players like Howard, Dawson and Hughes vaulted themselves onto the same tier as the players rated above them.
Summers, Banogu and Collier have done the same and will enter their rookie seasons with the unique set of advantages that come from playing under Patterson.
“The main thing for us is to know mentally we’re already ahead of the curve,” Banogu said.
The NFL Draft will begin Thursday, April 25 in Nashville.