TCU isn't such an odd place for Randy Shannon to land.
The Horned Frogs' new linebackers coach hadn't been on the national radar since his head coaching stint at Miami ended in December 2010, but he wasn't a stranger to the TCU campus.
Shannon, who took over for Tony Tademy, made several visits to TCU practice while working for ESPN and mulling over his coaching options. He first visited a Frogs practice in December 2010 in Los Angeles before the Rose Bowl. He came back for more looks that spring and last fall.
"I just wanted to see something new," Shannon said. "Coach [Gary] Patterson has had a lot of success at developing a program. It's something you really want to be a part of from a coaching standpoint. Just watching the whole development of their players, the team, the coaches, the administration. Everybody wants to win. It's a great organization top to bottom. It's one of the best places you could be at in America."
For TCU, it was an eye-opening hire. During his six-year tenure as Miami's defensive coordinator, Shannon's defenses ranked in the top 10 in the nation five times. He succeeded Larry Coker as head coach in December 2006. Shannon went 28-22 in four seasons and led Miami to three bowl appearances He attended Miami's Norland High School before playing four years for the Hurricanes, including as a starting linebacker on the 1987 national championship team. He played two years with the Dallas Cowboys before going into coaching. He coached three years with the Miami Dolphins before returning to his alma mater in 2001.
"It's unbelievable," Patterson said. "He probably turned down eight to 10 defensive coordinator jobs in every conference in college football. Having an assistant who was a former head coach to bounce things off is [an asset]. You look at things far differently as an assistant than you do as a head coach."
Shannon said he was familiar with the Frogs' 4-2-5 defensive scheme and compared it to the nickel package he used often against certain opponents at Miami. Learning TCU's terminology is the biggest adjustment.
"Once you're in coaching you can coach anything," he said.
Patterson likes having another great defensive mind on his staff, plus, Patterson added, "Sometimes a guy that hasn't been with you so long just gives you a little boost of positive [influence]."
Shannon steps into a role that will require a lot of positive energy and patience. Kenny Cain is the only returning linebacker with experience. Joel Hasley, from Aledo High School, is listed atop the depth chart now but the battle for playing time is likely to continue into the season.
"Every position is up for grabs," Shannon said. "Injuries happen. Some guys learn faster. Some kids make more plays than others. It reminds me of my first year at Miami. We had guys that were young but they were athletic, they were tough and willing to work hard and that's all you want from them."
A group of sophomores, including Hasley, Marcus Mallet, Danny Heiss (also from Aledo), transfer Paul Dawson, and freshmen A.J. Hilliard and Austin Terry will all get a chance to earn playing time.
"It's my job to get those guys to play hard," Shannon said. "They're going to have to realize they're here at TCU for a reason. We went out and recruited them because we felt like they would be great players at TCU. If they're willing to work hard and learn we'll be OK at linebacker. I think these guys are willing to do it, and they have an opportunity to step up and be a part of something that's special."
After TCU's first practice Monday, Patterson was pleased to have Shannon out on the field instead of watching from the sidelines.
"He fit in with us," Patterson said. "He had to catch up to the tempo, but he did a good job. He knows a lot of football. If you're ever going to have a guy that was going to grow up a bunch of young linebackers he's the dude."