Snow and ice pushed back the start of TCU’s spring football practice to Sunday, but that fit right in for the schedules of cornerback Cameron Echols-Luper and receiver Kolby Listenbee.
Their flight from the Big 12 Indoor Track & Field Championships in Ames, Iowa, landed at 1:30, about 4 1/2 hours before the start of practice. Just enough time to put away the track spikes and grab a helmet.
For Echols-Luper, who won the long jump championship on Friday, it was especially helpful to make the first day because he is moving to corner after playing receiver last season.
“He missed some of the meetings, but really, it was a pretty good day for him, considering he’d been busy all day,” coach Gary Patterson said.
The Horned Frogs are trying to find a starting cornerback to replace Kevin White. At the other corner, Ranthony Texada started every game last year as a freshman.
“All of them,” Patterson said, asked who is in the mix for the open corner spot. “Plus the two we have coming in in the fall. So we’ll find one. But I thought for his first day of doing all of it, that it was really a good first day.”
The spring roster listed nine cornerbacks, including early enrollee DeShawn Raymond. The February signings included Julius Lewis of Mansfield and Jeff Gladney of New Boston.
Patterson said some of spring practice is devoted to making sure the reworked coaching staff knows how to function. Chad Glasgow and DeMontie Cross were named co-defensive coordinators last week. Dan Sharp was named defensive line coach, and Paul Gonzalez was named cornerback coach.
“You get people moved around, so everybody sees it from a different light,” Patterson said. “Everybody learns. That’s why we spend so much time working on all of the details, and we still screwed up some things today because we go so fast. There’s no such thing as easing into it. It’s all about reps. The coaches have got to get where they’re supposed to be.”
Asked how Gonzalez is making the transition after three years as a graduate assistant coach for the Frogs, Patterson smiled. “He was the cornerbacks coach last year,” he said.
‘Effort and communication’
Patterson said the two things he looks for on the first day of spring practice are “effort and communication.”
He said communication was a big reason for the success of last year’s defense behind secondary veterans Sam Carter, Kevin White and Chris Hackett and linebackers Paul Dawson and Marcus Mallet.
“You had quite a glue guy in Sam Carter,” Patterson said. “A lot of production came out of those five guys. That’s why those guys played so well the last couple of years. So how do you get these guys, this group here, to where they know and react so they can play, not just do their job?”
Patterson said he’s optimistic about communication developing, but that it takes time.
“When the whole group talks to each other, like we did a year ago, life is pretty easy,” Patterson said. “If everybody stands there and worries about just their job, then you have a lot of problems. Not just in our defense — every defense.”
Patterson said it’s hard to know yet a role for defensive tackle Aaron Curry, eligible after sitting out a year following his transfer from Nebraska.
“He might be our fourth team, he might be our first team,” Patterson said. “We only lost one guy, so there’s a lot of guys coming back. It’s not like has to have a dominant role, but obviously, we’d like him to have a role.”
Patterson said he didn’t even watch the defensive line.
“I was watching the whole back seven,” Patterson said. “We’re in shorts. Right now, we’re playing basketball. Until we get out of basketball, I don’t even watch the D-line.”
Veterans Sammy Douglas and Paul Whitmill worked together at linebacker, as did early enrollees Alec Dunham and Mike Freeze.
But Patterson cautioned not to make too much of who is working where.
“They’re all getting work,” he said. “It’ll be a rotating door until we find the guys we want.”
Patterson said the first five practices are devoted to teaching. He said he won’t be able to tell anything about personnel until practices 6 through 11 of the 15 are complete. Spring camp ends with a spring game on April 10.
“It was all about learning one coverage, a couple of fronts and a blitz against everything our offense does,” Patterson said. “Tomorrow, we’ll do the same thing. We’ll do a different coverage, a different blitz all day. The next day, it’s going to be a whole new defense. It’s the way we’ve been doing it for 27 years in this defense.”
Still, Patterson said he is trying to teach fast in the two hours he has.
“It’s everything — from the clock keeper to where we set the ball to where the cones are supposed to be,” he said. “Everything’s about a time element, because you’ve got to get off the field in two hours and you’ve got to get reps.”
▪ Patterson said, for now, Deante Gray will continue working at receiver. Patterson said in January and again last week that he’d like to get a look at Gray at cornerback.
▪ Zach Allen is moving from quarterback to receiver. “We just have so many where he was on the depth chart,” Patterson said. “Just trying to get him on the field where he has a chance to play more.”
▪ Recruiting signees Niko Small, Arico Evans, Tony James, Semaje Thomas, Jarrison Stewart and Jaelan Austin attended the practice.
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7760