TCU's young defensive backs passing secondary education

Posted Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2011  comments  Print Reprints
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Through six August practices, the loss of several veterans to the TCU secondary hasn't rung any alarms for coach Gary Patterson.

Tejay Johnson, Colin Jones and Jason Teague, three starters from a year ago, have been replaced by three players with nine starts between them -- all by weak safety Tekerrein Cuba. Senior Johnny Fobbs takes over for Johnson and junior college transfer Jason Verrett appears to have the starting job at cornerback opposite Greg McCoy.

Verrett has looked sharp after impressing in the spring to earn the starting spot over Travaras Battle. Patterson has been pleased with his young defensive backs tasked with replacing trusted anchors such as Johnson. Safety Elisha Olabode made several nice stops Wednesday, including a one-on-one, open-field tackle, and cornerback Kevin White closed quickly to break up a pass in a scrimmage.

The Horned Frogs held their first true two-a-day Wednesday and have practiced 12 times in seven days, including morning walk-throughs.

"For as many young players as we have, I thought we controlled the game and we knew what we were doing, which is really good for 70 percent of your team being sophomores or less," Patterson said after Wednesday's scrimmage with an officiating crew.

There were few offensive fireworks or big defensive plays during the scrimmage, but the young defensive backs are holding their own.

It's not just the front- and second-line players who have impressed Patterson. True freshmen safeties Chris Hackett, Quincy Aldridge and Jamie Byrd also have turned heads.

"Byrd had an unbelievable play in the perimeter option," Patterson said Monday. "You see guys starting to come into their own."

Hackett, working at free safety, opened Patterson's eyes the first day of camp.

"To play free safety in our system is like playing quarterback," he said. "He really stuck out for me out of all the young safeties. He had an unbelievable first day."

Patterson loves what he is seeing out of Verrett, despite his 5-foot-10, 180-pound frame.

"We need a bigger corner in the boundary with what we do, but he's a fighter, he has a 40-inch vertical," Patterson said. "He's a smart player. We lost two really good players there in Jason Teague and Malcolm Williams. That position has to become expert at what they do. Verrett is the clear leader right now. Battle has a long way to go. We need Battle to come on."

Besides the obvious need for depth at all positions, TCU likes to keep fresh bodies moving in and out during the season, which puts a premium on quality depth.

"We feel like for us to be the kind of team we want to be we're going to have to rotate players," Patterson said. "We have to be able to play fresh. That way you're not making mental mistakes because you're tired."

Dean hobbled

Running back Aundre Dean has a mild hamstring injury. He missed practice earlier this week and cut short Wednesday's evening practice.

Stefan Stevenson

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