Gary Patterson put his hands on his knees and panted.
After two hours in the afternoon heat, the TCU coach was nearly as worn out as his players Thursday when the Horned Frogs finished their second practice just before 6 p.m.
In this early “teaching phase,” focus and effort means as much as anything, and in that regard, Patterson was pleased.
“I told them if they practice like that, we’ll go half [the practice] inside,” he said.
But while he steered toward broader issues — like the effort, and installing the offense and defense — he also gave some insight, if only vaguely, into a handful of position battles.
His linebackers, the one area of the team not returning any starters, are still “sometimes good, sometimes bad.” On Thursday, they were good, and a part of that came from true freshman Mike Freeze, who enrolled in January and emerged from spring workouts as a starter.
“He’s tall, rangy, fast and has good instincts,” Patterson said.
Also standing out at the position was Montrel Wilson, another true freshman who signed with the Frogs as a safety out of Keller Fossil Ridge. One reason Wilson was moved to linebacker was because Paul Whitmill, one of two TCU linebackers with game experience, might move to fullback, Patterson said.
Wilson, listed at 6-3, 198, is already contributing.
“Montrel also being there really helped [the performance of the linebackers Thursday],” Patterson said. “He’s going to be a good player.”
Strong safety battle
At strong safety, Patterson said junior Denzel Johnson impressed Thursday.
Johnson, who had 16 tackles last year, finished spring workouts as the starter at the position, replacing Sam Carter. If Johnson gets pushed for the job, it’ll likely be from sophomore Travin Howard, but that didn’t happen Thursday.
“They both made some plays today,” Patterson said. “I would’ve thought [Howard] would’ve had a chance to make it more even. I think, today, Denzel kind of widened himself from him.”
Loaded at receiver
Patterson tabbed freshmen Jaelan Austin and Kavontae Turpin as two newcomers who stood out among TCU’s wealth of receivers.
“[Turpin] is fast, shifty, can catch the ball well, and he’s smart,” Patterson said.
Seniors Josh Doctson, Kolby Listenbee and Deante’ Gray and junior Ty Slanina are TCU’s returning starters at the position. Sophomores Emmanuel Porter and Desmon White and senior Ja’Juan Story also had double-digit receptions, while junior Cameron Echols-Luper, most notably the Frogs’ punt returner, should also contribute again.
Andre Petties-Wilson and Corey McBride will be in the mix as redshirt freshmen. Tony James, Trevontae Hights and Jarrison Stewart join Austin and Turpin as incoming freshmen.
▪ Quarterback transfer Kenny Hill is running the scout team. Hill played at Texas A&M last year before enrolling at TCU this summer. He’ll sit out this year, per NCAA transfer rules, and then have two seasons of eligibility left.
▪ Freshman cornerback Julius Lewis was out with an injury Thursday, but Patterson said he should return soon.
▪ The Frogs’ “teaching phase” will go five more practices. “Every day is new,” Patterson said. “We’ll get it all installed, and then we get into the evaluation phase. It’s been the same way for 18 years. Never changed.”
Ryan Osborne, 817-390-7760