How do you have the nation’s best defense three years in a row?
TCU has finished first in the nation in total defense each of the past three seasons and part of the reason why may have been a result of good fortune, head coach Gary Patterson said.
“You have to have luck on your side,” Patterson said at a weekly media luncheon Tuesday. “All it takes is one bad game. You give up a couple easy passes or you give up a long run and all that [defensive ranking] is out the window.”
Of course, just catching a few breaks isn’t the only key to being the nation’s top defense.
Consistency and building a program not dependent on top recruits or All-Americans is important too, the coach said.
“We always felt like we wanted to develop a system where if we had average players that we could compete,” Patterson said.
But the Frogs definitely have not had a shortage of talented players the last few years.
Linebacker Daryl Washington and defensive end Jerry Hughes were named first team All-Americans in 2009. Both of them are on NFL teams now – Washington with the Arizona Cardinals and Hughes with the Indianapolis Colts.
Last year was no different.
Safety Tejay Johnson, defensive end Wayne Daniels, and linebacker Tank Carder were all named first team All-Americans in 2010. Carder returns, but both Daniels and Johnson are gone, leaving TCU to have to find new defensive leaders.
But Patterson said reloading rosters is just part of it.
“When you’ve got better players you can beat people maybe by two or three touchdowns,” Patterson said. “But if you don’t have better players and you’re younger you’ve got to go find ways to win by less than seven. So for us, that’s probably going to be one of those years this year.”
The 2011 talent pool for the Frogs isn’t completely dry, though.
In addition to Carder, junior linebacker Tanner Brock and defensive end Stansly Maponga, a freshman All-American in 2010, return to anchor the defense. Brock was the team’s leading tackler last year.
The secondary, though, may be the biggest area of concern.
Aside from Johnson, the Frogs also lost senior safeties Jason Teague and Malcolm Williams. Seniors Greg McCoy and Tekerrein Cuba have some experience in the secondary, but they headline a unit featuring seven players (starters and backups included) with little to no previous playing time.
Inexperience and all, the Frog defense will get their first tough test right out of the gates when they head to Waco Friday night to face Baylor and their quarterback Robert Griffin III.
Patterson said Griffin has the speed and big play potential to be a game-deciding factor.
“He’s an unbelievable athlete,” Patterson said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever faced anybody that can run as fast as he can. He’s a guy that can go beat you.”