For new co-offensive coordinator Curtis Luper, it didn’t take long to explain what it will take to get TCU moving the ball again.
“We need to play better around our quarterbacks. Better than we did last year,” he said Saturday during a visit with reporters, part of a football media day on the eve of fall camp. “That’s upfront, that’s in the backfield, that’s on the perimeter. We led the nation in drops, and it wasn’t just the receivers — it was running backs, tight ends, everyone. So we need to play better around the quarterbacks.
Luper, in his fifth season at TCU, spent the past three years as running backs coach. He was elevated to co-offensive coordinator with Sonny Cumbie after the departure of Doug Meacham.
“It doesn’t feel like a new job yet,” Luper said with a laugh. “Not much has changed. Sonny being the play-caller now, we’ll all support him just like we did when Meach was the play-caller. There have been subtle changes, but nothing drastic.”
That means the Horned Frogs remain committed to the Air Raid offense. They just want to change how they played in it compared with last season’s 6-7 finish.
“A lot of the same plays we called the first two years didn’t work out as well,” Cumbie said. “You try to figure out why. You try to stay ahead of the curve.”
One of the reasons wasn’t so hard to figure out.
Quarterback Kenny Hill was victimized by 38 dropped passes. But he also threw 13 interceptions.
“You have to self-assess and ask, ‘Why weren’t we as successful?’ The quarterback didn’t play consistent. We turned the football over. We had crucial drops on offense,” Cumbie said. “Those were the three areas that you look at and say, ‘How do we get better in these three areas?’ before we assess anything scheme-wise. And then you go from there.”
Hill told reporters two weeks ago at Big 12 Media Days that TCU’s improvement depends on him.
Luper said Hill got better in the spring because everyone else got better.
“Players make a difference,” Luper said. “Shaun Nixon makes a difference coming back to our offense. KaVontae Turpin, we were better with him on the field than off. Our offensive line, we’re more experienced. We’ve got as much experience coming back as just about anybody in the country offensively. The expectation is we’ll play better. We’re going to coach better, and our players should play better.”
Cumbie and Luper said running backs Kyle Hicks, Sewo Olonilua and Darius Anderson are going to be leaned on, even as the Frogs continue to attack with Hill’s arm.
“Sewo and Darius, they had good freshmen years, but we didn’t ask a lot of them because we had Tre Johnson, we had Derrick Green,” Luper said. “We don’t have those guys now, so we’re going to ask a little bit more of those two from the beginning. From the get-go, they’ll be more involved offensively. It takes more than one to win the Big 12. The team that won the Big 12 championship last year had two really good ones.”
The offensive coaches also want to take advantage of Hill’s legs. The senior from Southlake led Big 12 quarterbacks in rushing last year and had 10 touchdown runs.
“He’s an explosive runner,” Cumbie said. “When you look at the cuts from last season, he had several explosive plays. The thing that I like about Kenny as a runner is, he’s not making nine guys miss on a pass play like Trevone Boykin, but when you call the quarterback run, getting north and south and getting positive yardage, he’s as good or better. We’ll tap into that.”