Although it wasn’t an official national holiday, for college football fans, yesterday’s National Signing Day for high school and junior college football players was enough reason to celebrate.Horned Frog Nation was no exception to this celebration, as head coach Gary Patterson announced that the team had signed 23 players to Letters of Intent to join the 2007 recruiting class. Patterson said that while he is excited about the potential and character of the class, he knows there is much work to be done before they earn full respect from fellow players and coaches.
“They’re all paper tigers to me,” Patterson said. “They always have been until they get here and show what they’re worth.”
The class, which includes seven new members to its secondary, is considered by Patterson to have a lot of speed, which he said, shows that this group has big-play potential.
“This is, collectively, the best skill class,” Patterson said, of the class and where it ranks compared to previous classes. “There are eight to 10 guys in this class who scored a lot of touchdowns. There’s a lot of yards in that group.”
While the class is made up of 18 players from Texas, Patterson and his staff were able to snag all-purpose athlete Sir Demarco Bledsoe and defensive end Jason Fitch from Oklahoma as well as three additions from California, defensive tackle John Fonua, cornerback Jercell Fort and safety Chris Goodson. Patterson cited a recent San Antonio Express-News article when trying to explain the increased awareness of TCU in California, as it is the No. 1 state for which the university receives out-of-state applications.
“LT,” Patterson said. “Those two letters seem to make a lot of difference for us.”
The class, which includes eight all-state performers in Texas and Oklahoma as well as three all-state honorable-mentions, is headlined by Huddo-native wide receiver Jeremy Kerley.
Kerley was ranked as a Rivals.com 4-star recruit in addition to being the No. 31 ranked player in Texas, according to Scout.com. He played several positions during his senior year, including quarterback and even got time playing defense as a cornerback. Patterson said Kerley, along with Fort Worth-native wide receiver Jonathan Jones, could see time as a freshman.
With the Frogs losing tailback Lonta Hobbs, they were able to rebuild at running back by signing Jai Cavness, out of Houston, and Joseph Banyard, out of Sweetwater. These two figure to complement a contingent of backs headed by sophomore Aaron Brown. Patterson compared Cavness to Hobbs but “only faster” and looked at Banyard as comparable to Merrill in that he’s “a slasher.”
One of the big topics for this year’s class was the overabundance of safeties who inked their names for next year. Patterson said the 2004 season, which saw the Frogs post a disappointing 5-6 record, served as a lesson to him and the rest of the Frogs that the consistent abundance of safeties is pivotal for his three-safety defensive scheme.
“That is a knowledge position for us,” Patterson said. “Not all of them will play this year, but it will make for real good competition.”
This year’s class also features a bundle of players who either have played or are capable of playing multiple positions.
Patterson said since his recruiting in previous years saw safety Brian Bonner and former wide receiver Cory Rodgers at quarterback as well as defensive end Tommy Blake and defensive tackle Jarrarcea Williams at running back, it’s nothing new to have players move around in order to maximize their playing potential.
“Our kids come in here and they play any position they want to,” Patterson said. “We’re going to see how we can put together our best 85 or 105 in our program and make it the best we can.”
Other notable signees include offensive tackle Spencer Thompson, of Plainview, and linebacker Tank Carder, of Sweeny. Thompson, who Patterson said is the “only offensive lineman in the history of West Texas to win offensive player of the year,” is an intense competitor who hasn’t backed away from the challenge of being the only signee currently enrolled in university classes while attending spring workouts at TCU. Carder, who Patterson said was offered a full ride to Texas A&M on a baseball scholarship, has a shot at handling opening kickoff duties because of his “tremendous leg.”
Fans might notice that the team was unable to sign a quarterback this recruiting season, but Patterson said the Frogs weren’t going to lower their standards in order to claim they signed a quarterback. He said that it will be a premium to sign one or two at the position next year.
The players signed for this year’s class want to be here and want to succeed at TCU, Patterson said. The success happening at the top with Chancellor Victor Boschini and the board of trustees is contagious and is helping the football program achieve even greater success, both on and off the field, he said.
“Our whole thing is we want to be the Miami of Texas,” Patterson said. “We want to be the private school, that’s our niche. We want a chance to win a national championship.