TCU youth movement gets hands-on training

TCU coach Gary Patterson has said numerous times that the Horned Frogs' emergence in the Big 12 was not going to be a sprint.

He's cautioned fans that success in the long term is more important than the team's inaugural season in the league.

"It's not going to be about how we do this year," he's said several times. "It's going to be how we do in the first three to five years."

After a practice in early August, he said, "The sun, someday, is going to come up at TCU.... We just don't know if it's going to be next year or this season or down the road."

When that day arrives, there's a good chance Devonte Fields, Trevone Boykin and Deanté Gray will be on the field.

The trio was part of a large contingent of young TCU players who gave fans a sneak peek into the future Saturday. The 16th-ranked Frogs played 13 true freshmen in their 56-0 victory against Grambling State, including four starters -- defensive end Fields, offensive right tackle Aviante Collins, kicker Jaden Oberkrom and punt returner Gray.

The Frogs' previous high for true freshmen playing in a season -- not just one game -- was six in 2011.

In all, 10 first-time starters debuted Saturday, and that's not including several starters with just one previous start.

Boykin, who played in place of quarterback Casey Pachall the entire second half, showed off his speed and arm with a dazzling 34-yard scoring run and touchdown pass. The redshirt freshman completed all eight of his passes for 75 yards.

True freshman running back B.J. Catalon rushed for 63 yards on a team-high 13 carries.

"Tre did a great job, but at the same time I already knew he was a heck of an athlete," Pachall said. "I didn't expect anything less. Those younger guys did not exceed my expectations because I already knew how good they could be."

Patterson said he found plenty of things to correct with his players when they watched game film. But he admitted during his Tuesday media news conference that there are reasons to be optimistic.

"I think the future is bright for TCU because of the way he handles things," Patterson said of Boykin. "You could see the kind of athletic ability he has. He gives us other dimensions that Casey doesn't give us -- when a guy can run like he does and he's strong enough to go play wide receiver or tailback. He has that kind of ability, but he has a rocket for an arm."

Fields, from Arlington Martin High School, led the young defensive players with a grand debut. He led the Frogs with three tackles for losses, including his first sack.

"Devonte has impressed me since the first day he stepped foot on campus," senior linebacker Kenny Cain said. "The guy came in to be a starter. Fortunately, he got the job and he lived up to the standard. He has high expectations for himself."

Gray, who set a TCU record with 160 yards returning punts Saturday, scored on his first career touch -- a 70-yard return 1:59 into the game.

"It was exciting because he does have a lot of big-play ability," Patterson said before pointing out that Skye Dawson might be back returning punts after missing the first game because of a suspension. "The thing I was most impressed with was, for his size, how strong he was and the tackles he broke."

Patterson, rightly so, wasn't ready to anoint any of them all-conference players after one performance.

"You're glad he had success, but he'll play against better tackles," he said of Fields. "If you don't play well against the competition you should play well against, then you start worrying. But this gives you confidence. It was a learning experience.

"There are some guys with great potential, but I think they know where we're all at," Patterson said. "We've always done a pretty good job of keeping things in perspective.

"Again, this mission is not about just this season. This mission is about growing up to be the kind of team we want to be by Year 2 or 3 when some of these younger guys are older."

Stefan Stevenson


Twitter: @FollowtheFrogs