The needs of the TCU football team were apparent nearly every week during the 2013 season.
An offense in disarray needed new blood and a shot in the arm both on and off the field.
The first part of the equation was answered when coach Gary Patterson announced the hiring of new co-offensive coordinators in Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie, who have been tasked with revamping the Horned Frogs’ offensive philosophy.
The second came Wednesday, when Patterson announced his 2014 recruiting class. The Horned Frogs signed a school-record five four-star recruits, all on the offensive side of the ball.
TCU filled needs at every offensive position, even at running back where talented options already existed, when Lake Travis star Shaun Nixon switched to TCU from Texas A&M.
Coveted Dallas Skyline offensive tackle Ty Barrett leads a group of five offensive linemen in the 24-player class. Patterson confirmed that offensive tackle Tayo Fabuluje is back on the team after leaving TCU last August to transfer to BYU for academics only.
Offensive line has been an issue during the Frogs’ first two seasons in the Big 12, so six incoming players, including Fabuluje, could significantly improve an area of concern. The wide receiver corps, which underperformed in 2013, will get a jolt from two four-star recruits in Emanuel Porter and Corey McBride, both of whom Patterson indicated could earn playing time in 2014.
But the biggest question mark on the roster remains who will play quarterback in 2014.
Longtime commits Foster Sawyer (Fort Worth All Saints) and Grayson Muehlstein (Decatur) give the new offensive coaches plenty of choices and styles to work with. Both are at least 6-foot-4 and at least 210 pounds. Sawyer is a more pro-style, drop-back passer, while Muehlstein is the dual threat. Both stayed true to TCU despite plenty of offers elsewhere.
“Very rarely are you going to have two guys of their ability come to the same place,” Patterson said. “I think it has a lot to do with the kind of people they are and they’re also competitors. They competed with each other at our camps, and they’re friends and they get along. It’s a tribute to them. Because it’s not like there weren’t other people trying to get them. They’re both coming here because they love TCU. They want this kind of degree, but they also want to play big-time football.”
The duo gives TCU the No. 2-ranked quarterback class in the nation, Patterson said. He indicated that both would have a shot at winning the starting job — perhaps sharing the role — despite neither being able to enroll this spring.
They’ll have to beat out junior Trevone Boykin, sophomore Tyler Matthews and redshirt freshman Zach Allen, however. That’s something that seemed highly unlikely in the past under Patterson. But the new offense and the new coaches seemed to have warmed Patterson to the possibility.
Patterson mentioned that Meacham used two freshmen at Houston in 2013.
“The offense is simple enough that a younger player can play and play at a high level, and that’s what we’re hoping,” he said, mentioning Porter as a potential freshman earning playing time. “This offense could help them, along with Foster and Grayson.”
“We made a change not because the guys we had in place were not good football coaches. Whether we like it or not, perception-wise, you’ve got to be able to get the type of young man who wants to go to school here. I think one of the things that helped keep both of those guys is knowing what kind of offense we were going to go to.”
The class, which was ranked anywhere from 37th to 51st by various recruiting outlets, was evenly divided with 12 players on either side of the ball. Six defensive backs, led by safety Travin Howard and cornerbacks Corry O’Meally and Nick Orr, could help keep TCU’s already thick secondary well-stocked over the next four or five years.
Orr and Desmon White both attended DeSoto. White (5-7, 150) was overlooked by many because of his size, but could find a similar role as former Frogs great Jeremy Kerley.
“He’s got unbelievable ability,” Patterson said of White. “He’s hard to catch in a phone booth.”
Seven members of the class are from out of state, the most for TCU since 2003.
Patterson said missing a bowl this past season for only the second time in his 16 years at TCU allowed his staff more time to evaluate recruits and make the changes he deems necessary to get the program back to its winning ways.
“We have to evaluate earlier and you have to get on kids early,” he said. “That’s one of the things we were able to do. If this process works, it’s what we’ll have to do from now on. The worse thing [a recruit] can say to a coach is: If you would have got to me sooner.”
This is TCU’s third recruiting class in the Big 12, and Patterson has talked of changing his approach in recruiting and with his staff since last fall. He’s still hoping to attract more Dallas-Fort Worth area stars to consider TCU.
“Morphing into an Oklahoma State/Texas Tech style of throwing offense is going to attract the kind of wide receiver that maybe has left the Metroplex or surrounding areas,” he said. “Now we’ll have a chance to keep them closer to home as we move forward. I think you won’t know that until you go through another recruiting class or two.”
Patterson has reiterated his mantra since the day it was announced TCU was moving to the Big 12.
“I told you guys it was going to be a three- to five-year process,” he said. “It’s about depth, it’s about establishing you can do it. When we break through and win nine to 11 ballgames and we prove that we can do this in this league, then I think when you’re sitting right in the middle of 7 million people … it’s a goal line. I haven’t changed my mind as far as that’s concerned.”
The end of that process begins with the class of 2014.