From the early days of entering the Big 12, TCU coach Gary Patterson was adamant it was going to take two full seasons before he had a firm grasp of his new environment. Not that he is saying this, but give him one more year.
While Texas Tech celebrates a bowl win, Baylor parties unlike ever before and Texas looks for a new coach to rule the castle, Gary Patterson and TCU have quietly spent what is normally bowl season remaking the program.
“I am excited. I don’t know if we could have done all that we have done if we had made it to a bowl,” GP said.
Maybe it’s a PR spin to appease the purple masses, but unlike the guy running things at Valley Ranch, Gary is smart enough to recognize when something requires something more than a tweak. Surgery was required.
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“You have to change things for a lot of reasons,” Patterson said in his first interview since his team’s season ended on Nov. 30. “No. 1 — we have to score more points. It’s a perception thing and, already in recruiting, it’s proven to be a real positive.”
Gary’s appearance may suggest he is slow to change, but he has fully embraced the need to update his 2.5-yards-and-punt offense. No more “just don’t screw it up for our No. 1 defense.”
Patterson sounds thrilled at the addition of new hires Doug Meacham from Houston and Sonny Cumbie from Texas Tech to modernize his offense. The offensive schemes that have worked so effectively from Texas A&M to Oklahoma State to Texas Tech will now be playing at Amon G. Carter Stadium.
Patterson insisted the changes on his staff and a new scheme were his. He had been talking about doing this in the middle of the schedule and, by the end of the season, had installed a few additional passing plays that made him wish he had added in a few earlier.
After averaging 25.1 points per game — good for 87th in the FBS level — he had to make this change.
“I thought it was the best for TCU football. I didn’t change coaches because someone pressured me,” he said. “I never had a conversation where someone said, ‘Change coordinators.’ These guys (Rusty Burns and Jarrett Anderson) were the same guys that beat Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. The difference was we had so many seniors on that team. Last two years, we had six or seven.”
These developments are good for TCU, but here is why it needs one more year: He doesn’t have the right personnel just yet.
“We’re going to find out,” he said. “You have to have players. I thought by doing this it would not allow the great wide receiver to leave Texas. I do believe that [recruits] know we are going to put the ball in the air, but we believe, like Oklahoma State, you have to be able to run the football, too.”
His most proven returning quarterback — junior Trevone Boykin — was arguably his best wide receiver last season. GP has a pair of high school QB recruits who won’t be on campus until June. Cumbie has worked successfully with QBs who made the jump as true freshmen at Texas Tech. It’s not fun, but it can work.
The offensive line remains a mystery. His wide receivers range from erratic to clueless to disappointing. Senior-to-be Brandon Carter should be an all-Big 12 player instead of a guy who looks as though he doesn’t get it.
The personnel may not be ideal, but what TCU has done is commit to opening it up.
“That’s why you have to change. I don’t think you can put a handle on what I see the offense being,” he said. “The key is to have a vertical package and to have people who can do that and get out of the [defensive box]. I’m defending that and you have to be able to spread people out.”
Given his track record, it’s hard to bet against GP. Given what he has to work with, it’s hard to think this plan will thrive immediately.
Throughout the season, he said he would no longer recruit junior college offensive linemen; he’s already changed his mind on that. JUCO guys are seldom reliable. There is a reason they’re in JUCO.
After watching his team finish 4-8 in a season where many projected the Frogs to be a dark-horse candidate to win the Big 12, Gary knew he had to do something major to make his team relevant again. He is a defensive guy who would prefer to win 12-9, but even he recognized the trend in football today is scoring points.
He has gone through a similar transition before. The first was just before TCU earned those two consecutive BCS berths.
What he has not done is go through a similar transition in the Big 12. To bet against him would be stupid. To think it’s going to be done with great success immediately is a bit hasty. He’s going to need players, and one more year.