As many as three true freshman wide receivers could see action in TCU’s season-opening road trip to Minnesota on Sept. 3, coach Gary Patterson said Wednesday after practice.
Jaelan Austin from South Grand Prairie High School and Jarrison Stewart from Mesquite Horn were two players mentioned by Patterson, along with KaVontae Turpin, who Patterson had previously mentioned through fall camp as a kick return option.
Stewart was headed for a redshirt season, but the late transfer of wide receiver Cameron Echols-Luper to Arkansas State will force Stewart into early action, Patterson said.
Austin caught 35 passes for 715 yards and seven touchdowns during his senior season at South Grand Prairie. The 6-foot, 192-pound receiver was a four-star recruit out of high school and was ranked No. 6 at his position in the state, according to Scout.com.
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Stewart (6-0, 190) gained 1,168 yards receiving and scored 20 touchdowns last season.
Senior wide receiver Josh Doctson is expected to play against Minnesota after limited action in fall camp due to an undisclosed injury, Patterson said.
Patterson listed senior wide receiver Deante’ Gray as “doubtful.” Gray is returning from knee surgery in the spring due to a non-contact knee injury during spring ball.
Doctson led TCU in receiving yards (1,018), catches (65) and touchdowns (11) last season. His jumping ability allows quarterback Trevone Boykin the option of leaving a pass high for the 6-foot-3 receiver to grab over a defender.
Gray caught 36 passes for 582 yards and eight touchdowns as one of TCU’s faster options in the slot.
With fall camp in the books, Patterson said his extremely young linebacking corps was the most improved unit through the two and a half weeks of practice.
With the possibility of several true freshmen seeing significant action and no returners with a start under their belt, the bar began low.
“We’ve got some work to do, but they’ve come a long way,” Patterson said. “We’ve asked them to do quite a lot. The biggest thing is, it’s baptism by fire.”
Patterson said true freshman linebacker Mike Freeze remains with the first team, but he would not disclose who was taking first-team reps alongside the 6-3, 220-pounder.
After missing his entire senior season at Graham High School with a shoulder injury, Freeze enrolled at TCU early and Patterson liked what he saw during spring ball.
“He’s a guy that steps up,” Patterson said. “When he played in the spring game, he played really well. He’s a guy that plays, I think when you get in front of the lights, he really steps it up and that’s what I’m counting on. It’s going to be a big stage. He’s just got to keep getting better.”
True freshman linebacker Montrel Wilson out of Keller Fossil Ridge has returned after missing several practices due to injury and is running with the second-team defense, Patterson said. Wilson moved to linebacker from safety before fall practice and was seeing significant time with the first team early in camp.
The remaining probable options to fill the other vacancy are redshirt freshman Ty Summers, junior Sammy Douglas and true freshman Alec Dunham.
“We don’t have anyone else, so here’s the key — whether they are a one or not a one, we don’t have a choice. They’re the only one,” Patterson said.
TCU will spend Thursday working on game plans and watching film, simulating the day off the Frogs typically take on Mondays leading up to a Saturday game.
TCU opens the season on a Thursday, so Friday will be a full-contact practice to begin the game week.