January 9, 2012

TCU recruiting, signing elite athletes

The Frogs are no longer signing mainly unheralded athletes.

Gary Patterson is renowned for finding the unheralded prospects and developing them into pro-potential talent.

Now he's going toe to toe with the big boys of recruiting.

For the 2012 signing class, the TCU coach and his staff have commitments from one of the top defensive players in the nation, recruits who played in the U.S. Army and Under Armour All-American games as well as players selected to the ESPN, Under Armour, and Sports Illustrated All-American teams.

"I honestly think it's the success they've had on the field and in the BCS," said Brian Perroni, a national recruiting analyst for "The Rose Bowl win really made TCU a national name.

"It's the fact that TCU has been winning and they've been sending players to the NFL."

The millions the university is spending on renovations to Amon G. Carter Stadium and the rest of TCU's football facilities hasn't hurt either, nor has the Horned Frogs' move to the Big 12.

"We're changing the equipment room, the whole training room, with underwater treadmills and everything you need to get guys back on the field earlier," Patterson said last month. "We will double the size of the locker room. We'll gain a lot; for recruiting purposes it's big."

Stadium renovations should be completed by the Sept. 8 opener against Grambling State and the locker rooms and other facilities should be ready by August camp.

"Recruits want to go to a winning program," said Damon Sayles, the Midlands recruiting coordinator for ESPN. "And if you are from Texas, recruits want to play in the Big 12. A lot of these kids want to play at the University of Texas, but now that TCU is in the Big 12, it's not a consolation prize anymore."

Back yard

Having one of the most fertile recruiting grounds at your back door is one thing.

Capitalizing on it is another.

The Horned Frogs have pledges from four players within 35 miles of the TCU campus: Arlington Bowie quarterback Kolby Listenbee, Arlington Martin defensive end Devonte Fields, Haltom offensive lineman Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Argyle quarterback Austin Aune.

Fields, a four-star recruit who was selected an Under Armour All-American and ESPN first-team All-American, chose TCU over Oklahoma and Missouri.

Listenbee chose TCU over Texas Tech and Texas A&M and has enrolled early.

"There's a lot of athletes here and if we go and win a championship it shows the next guys where the future is," Listenbee said.

TCU pulled somewhat of a coup last month when Vaitai switched his commitment from Texas Tech. He was one of the most highly sought-after linemen in the state and held offers from Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC programs.

In staying with the smaller and local school theme, the Horned Frogs also received a commitment from Aune, who led Argyle to the Class 3A Division II title game in December.

"You always want to take care of home," Sayles said. "It shows that you are able to recruit the area and you are able to get the best out of them once they get there.

"The kid stays close to the parents and it's going to attract more of an audience around the area."


TCU was lucky to get a sniff from the state's and nation's top recruits after being mired in mid-level conferences for the better part of a decade.

The past few years have been a different story.

Aledo's Johnathan Gray, the nation's top-rated running back, and Brenham defensive tackle Malcolm Brown, one of the top-rated defenders in the nation, had TCU among their three finalists.

Dallas Skyline receiver Thomas Johnson, who recently withdrew his commitment from Texas and is rated by ESPNU as the No. 35 player in the country, has the Horned Frogs on his short list.

"This is a little bit of a different approach for the Patterson staff in going after the kids that everybody else wants," Perroni said.

In 2011, TCU signed Waxahachie standout athlete LaDarius Brown, who was ranked among the top 100 players in the country by ESPNU and Rivals.

Former Euless Trinity receiver Brandon Carter switched his commitment from Oklahoma to TCU last year and was a staple in the Horned Frogs' receiving corps this season.

The year before, heralded Allen quarterback Matt Brown switched his commitment from Arizona to TCU. Also in 2010, Haltom defensive lineman Reggie Wilson, ranked among the top 50 players in the country, gave TCU serious consideration before ultimately picking Texas.

The future

TCU's 2012 recruits are not only highly ranked, but they also have accomplished more than the Horned Frogs' several past recruiting classes combined.

In addition to Fields' accomplishments, quarterback Tyler Matthews, who has enrolled early, played for the West squad in the U.S. Army All-American game.

So did Carthage athlete Edward Pope, who stood out on defense for the West team.

Lake Travis tight end Griffin Gilbert helped his team win its fifth straight state title and was selected a Rivals and Sports Illustrated first-team All-American.

Staff writer Stefan Stevenson contributed to this report.

Matthew Reagan


Twitter: @reaganmatthew

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