After a rare losing season, TCU coach Gary Patterson knew what was next for the Horned Frogs.
“Spring gets a lot tougher,” he said. “Being 6-6, 6-7 with the bowl game is not what we like.”
In Fort Worth, Patterson restored the “Night of Champions,” a weightlifting contest to mark the end of the off-season work before the start of spring practice.
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“I felt like we had gotten away from needing to be really strong and to highlight it,” Patterson said. “So we brought it back. We had some great numbers. We had some 700-pound squats. We had three or four defensive and offensive linemen that did like 860, 880. A 750 is a good squat for a linebacker, but it wasn’t an 880.”
The Frogs gave up 334 yards on the ground to Oklahoma State and 336 to Kansas State and their massive offensive lines in the final two home games last year.
To Patterson, who stakes his reputation on run defense, it was clear that muscle had left and was not replaced after the last seasons of Chucky Hunter in 2014 and Davion Pierson in 2015. On top of that, defensive ends Josh Carraway and Josh McFarland couldn’t spend enough time in the weight room because of a two-year run of injuries.
“They couldn’t really lift as much as they had before, and they couldn’t get as strong as you needed to get,” Patterson said. “For us, having a group that can go and lift, get back in the weight room, not have to sit out on something, I think will make a difference.”
Like any good business model, you’ve got to tweak it. But you don’t necessarily have to tear down the whole foundation. For us, the foundation’s there. We’ve proven we can do it the way we do it.
TCU coach Gary Patterson
The last Night of Champions for TCU was more than 10 years ago. It went on hiatus because Patterson became concerned it was getting too competitive and the players were on the verge of hurting themselves.
To be sure, the competitive spirit flared again, but Patterson liked the way it energized the offseason.
“It’s like the old “Jurassic Park” movie, the way they have the velociraptors and the guy says you’ve got to always change the weakness in the fence,” Patterson said. “Well it’s the same thing you got to do with 18- to 22-year-olds. You got to keep changing the weakness in the fence and change it where you have the energy.”
TCU returns 17 starters (10 offense, seven defense) for 2017. The spring game is scheduled for April 8. The season opener is Sept. 2 against Jackson State.
The “Iron Frog” winners, for overall strength by weight class over the entirety of the offseason, were cornerback Jeff Gladney (189 pounds and under), safety Niko Small (190 to 214 pounds), Olonilua (215 to 254 pounds) and defensive tackle L.J. Collier (255 pounds and up).
“Like any good business model, you’ve got to tweak it,” Patterson said. “But you don’t necessarily have to tear down the whole foundation. For us, the foundation’s there. We’ve proven we can do it the way we do it. But you’ve got to change things. You have to keep your standards high. If you’re not careful, you become average. We’re not about average here.”