TCU began spring practice Friday missing some key parts.
All except Turpin are rehabbing injuries or recovering from surgeries to repair injuries. Turpin is sitting out for off-the-field reasons, Patterson said.
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“Turp needs to get where he needs to get academically and do some other things,” Patterson said. “We’re going through a learning experience. He’s got an opportunity to be back here in the fall. But right now, he’s going to class and doing the things he needs to do, get bigger and stronger. We’re doing it like we’re not going to have him, and then if he does make it back, it’s a positive.”
Another player, defensive end Tipa Galeai, was dismissed after being charged with assault in January.
Patterson and the Frogs, intent on rebounding from last season’s 6-7 record — only the third losing season under Patterson — will hold 15 practices, as allowed under NCAA rules, and will have a spring game April 18.
“A lot of guys aren’t practicing this spring,” Patterson said. “The way we approach it is, ‘Next guy up and make everybody better.’ Then you get them back and hopefully you’re a better football team.”
Here are five things to keep an eye on now that the Frogs have hit the field:
1 Getting Kenny right
Kenny Hill showed toughness and playmaking as a ballcarrier. By midseason, the coaches had made a clear effort to get him involved in the games with his legs, and he finished second on the team with 10 touchdown runs. But throwing it was another story. Thirteen interceptions from Hill was too much to overcome. The turnovers in the air were critical in the Arkansas, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Texas Tech games. With the transfer of backup Foster Sawyer, it looks more and more like the job is Hill’s again in 2017. Patterson said on National Signing Day that it’s unfair to think Shawn Robinson can be ready in one spring to compete for the job. So it’s up to quarterbacks coach Sonny Cumbie to get Hill ready for a better season.
Patterson sounded the alarm last spring about the dropped balls he was seeing at practice, and it continued in the fall practices. Then it showed up in the games. More passes were dropped on Kenny Hill than any other quarterback in the nation, according to Pro Football Focus. Combined with inconsistent accuracy from Hill and Sawyer, it led to a 58.6 completion percentage for TCU in 2016. That was third-worst in the Big 12. Players like Taj Williams and Isaiah Graham, inconsistent in their first TCU seasons, could benefit from experience. But the Frogs remained aggressive looking for receivers. Four-star signees Jalen Reagor and Omar Manning will get plenty of chances in the fall to show off their hands.
3 Defensive end
Who’s going to rush the passer? The sack leaders from the past three seasons, Josh Carraway and James McFarland, are gone. The possibilities, led by sophomore Brandon Bowen, are intriguing. Bowen is one of the players released from his letter of intent to Baylor, and the four-star athlete from Trophy Club Byron Nelson was one of the most sought-after recruits in Texas last year. Also potentially in the mix are ULM transfer Ben Banogu, redshirt Gary Overshown, sophomore Isaiah Chambers and veteran Mat Boesen, who had six sacks, including two forced fumbles, last year. Out of the mix is junior Tipa Galeai, charged with assault in January.
The Frogs return both starters, Jeff Gladney and Ranthony Texada. But Patterson fretted about a lack of depth all season. The spring work will be scrutinized for possible help. Noah Daniels, a former Baylor commit, is a prime consideration. Michael Onyemaobi may also get a chance, although he could be tried first at safety, where the Frogs also have a need. The defensive staff will also be looking closely at Julius Lewis, who surprised the team last year with an early recovery from an Achilles injury that was expected to keep him out the entire season. He started four games at midseason, but Gladney started the final two games of the regular season and the bowl game. Other corners on the roster include Vernon Scott, DeShawn Raymond and Cyd Calvin.
This was a problem last season. Then it wasn’t. Then it was again. Ryan Graf had a kick blocked that would have beaten Arkansas. Brandon Hatfield took over and won a game at Kansas. Then he missed two and had one blocked against Texas Tech. He made his next six, then missed two in the Liberty Bowl loss against Georgia. TCU is optimistic that Jonathan Song, coming off a quadriceps injury that knocked him out in fall camp, will be the kicker they envisioned for 2016. Last summer, the Frogs added Andrew David, a transfer from Michigan.