Is TCU going to be good?
Do the Horned Frogs give off a confident vibe?
Does coach Gary Patterson sense something about the 2017 team?
All he will grant is that his team is older, more experienced and has some players back in key spots.
“Understate, overplay,” he said Tuesday at his weekly press conference. “That’s how we’ve stayed here 20 years. Understate, overplay.”
The understate part is over.
The overplay part is here.
The Frogs open Saturday night against Jackson State, their first chance to play since they finished a 6-7 year, just their third losing season under Patterson. They will be going for their 16th consecutive win in a home opener and the 150th victory in Patterson’s head coaching career, which began with TCU’s bowl game in 2000.
“You get what you get with Coach P,” cornerback Ranthony Texada said, asked if the head coach gives any hints about how good the Frogs can be. “He’s going to expect the most out of us. He hasn’t really changed much over the five years that I’ve been here. He expects us to play at a high level. He’s going to coach us at a high level all the time.”
Texada is one of seven returning starters on defense and 17 in all, making TCU one of the most experienced teams in the Big 12.
The last time Patterson had comparably experienced teams, TCU had 12- and 11-win seasons.
He’s not promising anything.
But it sounds like this group of players has done little to disappoint him.
“I’ll tell you this much — the team, I really like coaching them,” he said. “They’ve really worked hard. The young guys have learned a lot. We’ll have to play some young guys; they’ll have to grow up. But this group here has come a long way since we started camp. I don’t know what that means Saturday. But I like where we sit right now overall.”
The Frogs were picked fifth in the preseason media poll, behind Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Texas.
They’ll have to visit three of the four teams picked ahead of them.
Returning to the levels of 2014 and 2015 won’t be easy. But they have a track record of bouncing back from losing seasons, going 11-1 in 2005 after a 5-6 season and 12-1 in 2014 after a 4-8 season.
“Defensively, we still have to have some more attention to detail to play the way we play,” Patterson said. “We’ve got to be able to throw and catch. Obviously, you’ve got to be able to run the football, play in the red zone — same things we talk about every year.”
But some of the intangible building blocks that Patterson believes the best teams are built on — a desire to play, a willingness to prepare, an ability to create your own energy — might have shown themselves already. He hasn’t complained that they haven’t, anyway.
“My thing is, are they doing things the way guys have always done them here?” he said. “Maturity level, how they practice, how they take care of each other, how they speak to the media, how they handle themselves outside of football — all those different things.”
TCU is unranked to start the season. Patterson doesn’t mind. The team motto this year is “Eyes Up, Keep Climbing,” a nod to the Frogs’ underdog reputation.
“I believe if you mature a guy and you mature a group, you’ve got a better chance of winning,” Patterson said. “Even if they’re not as athletic, the mature group will fight their tails off and win games that maybe they weren’t supposed to in years that you don’t have as many players as you’d like to have.”
Is this that kind of team or that kind of year?
Maybe the Frogs and their coach start answering Saturday.
TCU vs. Jackson State
7 p.m. Saturday, FSSW
Head to head
Jackson State (3-8)