Whether they’re there to catch up with coach, check in on the fourth-ranked Horned Frogs, or just in town to visit the campus of their alma mater, the legacy of TCU football under Patterson is a source of great pride.
Especially for those players who have helped Patterson’s defense become one of the most respected in college football. TCU leads the Big 12 in total defense, allowing 291.3 yards a game, 62 fewer than the next closest team, No. 25 Iowa State, which hosts the Frogs at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. TCU ranks 11th nationally in total defense. Impressive considering that four of the top seven offenses in the country are in the Big 12.
Patterson’s success and reputation for being something of a defensive savant have helped him recruit better players intrigued by his 4-2-5 scheme.
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Patterson’s secret weapon over the years has been the influence of his former players, like when NFL standouts such as Jerry Hughes or Jason Verrett show up during spring practice.
Young players caught off guard early in their TCU careers can be calmed by a wise alumnus who has NFL skins on the wall.
“Coach Patterson is going to push you and it might not be the way you’ve been pushed before,” said Hughes, a 2010 first-round draft pick now in his fifth season with the Buffalo Bills. “He’s doing this so you can go out and perform. It’s never personal. He wants to win games just like we want to win games when we’re out on the field.”
Starstruck TCU freshmen may be hesitant at first, Hughes said, but eventually the questions start coming fast.
“Once we rip that Band-Aid off then we start talking football,” he said. “I’m in their ear. Anything they need, any questions they have, so that they can be in the same position as I am now.”
The presence of guys like Hughes, Verrett and David Hawthorne, an eight-year NFL veteran who took part in the coin toss before TCU played Kansas, is a hefty voucher for Patterson, one that makes his job easier. He doesn’t need to spend much time convincing young players he knows what’s best. The images of former greats such as Jason Phillips, Tejay Johnson and Tank Carder are on display throughout TCU’s facilities.
“Oh, we’re well aware of [the defensive legacy],” TCU corner back Ranthony Texada said. “That’s why a lot of us came here, to be honest. To play for Coach P, a defensive-minded guy. That’s why I came here. [Those former players] have high expectations for us, too.”
Hughes senses that he and his fellow alumni have a hand in helping Patterson, who he thinks has mellowed.
“I feel like it does. When you’re a college kid and going through the whole grind of going to class and practice, [it can be confusing],” Hughes said. “I enjoy coming back to deliver that message to those guys. By him yelling and coaching, you can’t take it personally. Eventually, you’ll be hanging out with him at his house, eating barbecue and listening to him play guitar.”
Texada, a four-year starting senior, already sounds like an alumnus.
“He puts together great game plans for teams. He watches a lot of film and he gets us ready. That’s what he does and that’s why he is where he is,” said Texada, who said he still learns something new about the game every day, especially the way Patterson breaks down the film. “He’s a really smart guy when it comes to football ... just watching everything as a final piece, it’s amazing sometimes to watch.”
No. 4 TCU at No. 25 Iowa State
2:30 p.m. Saturday, WFAA/8