TCU coach Gary Patterson was dutifully answering questions from the media after Thursday's closed practice. Like most of his post-practice sessions with the media, which on this day consisted of three reporters, Patterson was candid on some topics, more cryptic on others.
Then, suddenly, Patterson started ticking off a status report by position, a state of the Frogs, if you will. He talked about the offensive line needing to grow up, the need for depth at linebacker and the battle for the backup quarterback spot.
The Horned Frogs' final August camp scrimmage is this morning at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Three weeks from today, TCU opens its season against Grambling State. There's still time to prepare, but Monday marks the first day of classes, and the continuing crush of injuries and other player losses have put the Frogs' coaching staff into a corner.
Patterson said it first in the spring and now he has upped the ante: Freshmen will be all over the Frogs' 2012 depth chart.
So in the spirit of Patterson's status report, here's a look, position by position, at where TCU stands three weeks from its opener, with a comment from the coach:
The battle to be Casey Pachall's backup continues. Matt Brown and Trevone Boykin both have looked good, but Boykin appears to have a slight edge.
Gary Patterson: "Trevone Boykin and Casey are the two [who played well during Wednesday's scrimmage]. Matt didn't have a good scrimmage and neither did Tyler [Matthews], but that was his first one. Boykin took most of the reps [Thursday]. Pretty soon we're going to have to lock into one guy."
Freshman B.J. Catalon and senior Aundre Dean have been battling to be the third man in the rotation behind Matthew Tucker and Waymon James. Dean's untapped potential could be a valuable addition.
Patterson: "[We] stayed healthy; Waymon looks a little tired right now. [We've] got to find a fullback."
Perhaps the deepest and most talented area on the team. Josh Boyce, Skye Dawson, Brandon Carter and Cam White lead a cast of returnees. LaDarius Brown, the biggest receiver on the team, adds another dimension to the receiving corps.
Patterson: "We can run, we have good players. They're all a year older. That's different than last year when we had six brand new freshman wide receivers and nobody knew what they were doing."
Depth issues have forced Cliff Murphy to move from defensive end to tight end with the loss of Stephen Bryant (shoulder injury) and freshman Joey Hunt has moved from defensive tackle to center. The likely loss of James Dunbar (academics) creates issues at right tackle. Freshman tackles Halapoulivaati Vaitai (Haltom High School) and Aviante Collins have impressed and are second on the depth chart.
Patterson: "We have to keep growing up our tackles. Eric Tausch could be our starting center or guard. And he could play tackle, so he's probably the most valuable guy we've got up front."
Left end Stansly Maponga has had a great camp, while right end Ross Forrest missed the past week with an injury. That's allowed Arlington Martin freshman Devonte Fields to shine.
Patterson: "We need a better pass rush. We have to keep rotating at tackle. It's going to be by committee. We may have guys play where every two snaps we're rotating. We have to be able to play fast, we have to be able to rush them against these offenses that go quick."
Perhaps the biggest question mark besides offensive line is who will start alongside senior Kenny Cain. Former Aledo stars Joel Hasley and Danny Heiss have been out with injuries, which has allowed several newcomers to make an impression. Freshman A.J. Hilliard and Paul Dawson (a transfer from Trinity Valley Community College) have made big strides and should contribute this season.
Patterson: "We have to keep gathering depth; it's going to take a by-committee [approach]."
Starters Jason Verrett and Kevin White have had solid camps. Freshman Deanté Gray has stepped up with the injury to Travoskey Garrett and probably will share backup duties with Keivon Gamble, Brian Alexis and Kolby Griffin.
Patterson: "We're better than we were a year ago."
Strong safety Sam Carter, weak safety Jonathan Anderson and free safety Elisha Olabode appear to have a hold on the starting jobs. But Chris Hackett is pushing Olabode, who has an injured toe. Freshman Zach Jackson and junior Trent Thomas are pushing Anderson. Freshman Derrick Kindred has looked good at strong safety, Patterson said.
Patterson: "I'm really excited about [freshman] Jordan Moore at strong safety. He's more of a track guy who's learning how to play football. He's very, very athletic."
Freshman kicker Jaden Oberkrom (Arlington Martin) easily cleared two 61-yard field goals during a scrimmage earlier this week, Patterson said. Freshman punter Ethan Perry also has looked good, but Patterson wants to see more consistency. Senior punter Cale Patterson has been more consistent, Patterson said.
Patterson: "No, we've never had that kind of leg [place-kicker] before."