To the 2011 TCU football season ticket holders, alumni, et al. regarding the defending Rose Bowl champions:
Looking for another crop of straight-laced players led by a certain redhead with all the intangibles to take TCU back to the promised land in 2011? Won’t find it here.
If you’re looking for a scrappy bunch of talented, underrated outlaws to take TCU to a Mountain West Championship next year and possibly a BCS National Championship, you’ve come to the right place.
When assessing the 2011 TCU football team with the final spring practice today, the logic has been simple:
No Andy Dalton. No Jake Kirkpatrick. No Tejay Johnson or Bart Johnson.
“I’ve got two coaches on the field telling guys where to be, because we don’t have any leadership right now,” said head coach Gary Patterson after spring practice on a soggy Monday in late March. “And without that it’s tough to get better.”
When that’s established, panic, naturally, sets in.
But it shouldn’t, because as much as analysts and fans want to believe it is, the biggest difference between last year’s team and this year’s team isn’t a lack of leadership but rather a different breed of leadership.
Those surrounding the program can promote and protect projected sophomore starting quarterback Casey Pachall all they want, but anyone familiar with the TCU football team knows Pachall is not Andy Dalton on or off the field.
The image adjustment from Dalton to Pachall might be the biggest things fans must accept. This isn’t to say Pachall is any type of troublemaker, it’s just that the sophomore doesn’t exactly project the typical, All-American image Dalton did.
Dalton said and did all the right things. Not only was an All-American, he looked like an All-American, too. His appearance was as straight-laced as they come.
Quite the contrast to Pachall, whose hair is long like the tattoo sleeve on his right arm.
The on-the-field difference, though, is something Pachall’s doubters could get used to.
No knock on Dalton, but Pachall is taller, faster and has a stronger arm than his predecessor. There’s no telling what kind of poise he has, but Pachall sure isn’t lacking in confidence. His passes this spring have been quick, crisp and except for a drop here or there, nearly all complete.
The same goes for the rest of Pachall’s gang.
Everyone knows senior linebacker Tank Carder’s story after he was named Rose Bowl Defensive Most Valuable Player, but what fans might not know is that Carder will have a hard time out-competing fellow junior linebacker Tanner Brock for the Butkus Trophy.
The rap on Brock, though, was that he was never able to get out of Patterson’s doghouse last year. Well, even so, he still hit harder than any TCU defender in 2010. And whether he gets out of Patterson’s doghouse or not in 2011, he surely won’t get be left out of the NFL Draft in a couple of years.
Size and speed matter most on defense and Brock has plenty of both.
The same could be said for most all of TCU’s current no-names. Guys like sophomore wide receiver Josh Boyce, redshirt freshman safety Antonio Graves, redshirt freshman wide receiver Ethan Grant, sophomore tailback Waymon James and sophomore tailback Dwight Smith.
Smith, arguably one of the most dominant running backs in Texas high school football history, will have a hard time finding the field next year seeing he’ll likely be behind juniors Ed Wesley, Matthew Tucker, Aundre Dean, and James on the depth chart by the start of the season.
When talking about depth, this team has it. The Frogs might be inexperienced, but they are deep and rich in talent on both sides of the ball. Talent usually goes a long way in making up for inexperience.
And the reason there shouldn’t be much to worry about in terms of leadership for next year’s team is simple: The leaders, guys like Pachall, Brock and Carder, directly reflect their followers — guys like Boyce, Graves, James, etc.
This 2011 version of the Horned Frogs is talented, underrated and flat out bad to the bone.
Ryan Osborne is a freshman journalism major from Lawton, Okla. and a writer for SportDFW.com.