The TCU football team is finished with the “teaching phase” of fall camp. Now Gary Patterson and his coaching staff enter the evaluation phase with three weeks until the season opener against Southern on Sept. 1.
TCU held its first scrimmage between the offense and defense on Thursday, had a run-through practice Friday and will scrimmage again today.
“[Today] will be a lot better evaluation scrimmage,” Patterson said. “[Thursday] we saw who could block and tackle. As usual in the first one, a lot of good and a lot of bad. They all saw it and we’ll go forward from there.”
Here are takeaways from Patterson’s second news conference of fall camp –
1. QB update
Shawn Robinson and Michael Collins are still sharing first-team reps and Patterson said neither had separated himself to this point. Robinson is still the favorite given his experience, but Collins remains in the mix.
“I’ll know more [after today’s scrimmage] because now all the teaching is done and now it’s more into we’re getting better and reacting more than you’re thinking,” Patterson said.
Patterson had praise for each quarterback. He said Robinson “really gets himself out of trouble,” while Collins “runs a lot better than what you think he does.”
2. Injury updates
Freshman safety Atanza Vongor likely being out for the season with an injury was the news of the day from Patterson. But he offered a couple other injury updates.
Guard Casey McDermott Vai, who was working with the first-team at right guard during the only open practice of camp, is out for another week or two with an undisclosed injury.
“But we’re expecting him back before the first ballgame,” Patterson said.
For Patterson, Vai’s injury just gives other players an opportunity to get more reps and show what they can do. He mentioned safeties getting more reps when Niko Small was sidelined early on in camp.
“That’s one of the things we’ve done here – we don’t change what we teach,” Patterson said. “We teach whole part whole. You throw it on the board, see how much sticks, see how much they learn.”
3. O-line praise
The offensive line saw four players from last season land in NFL camps, but Patterson doesn’t seem concerned about the unit going into 2018.
“We’ve been pretty happy,” Patterson said. “Really, to be honest with you, our offensive line has come a long, long way.”
Patterson mentioned left tackle Anthony McKinney as someone who “has made a lot of progress.” McKinney and Austin Myers are the two leading candidates at left tackle.
4. Being versatile
Having the ability to play multiple positions is always a positive and Patterson mentioned a couple notable players doing so in the season.
Michael Onyemaobi, nicknamed “Yo-Yo” or “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” has been getting time at cornerback and safety.
And expect TCU to use linebacker Ty Summers at defensive end in a few games this season.
“There’re teams where we need faster defensive ends to play the read [option] and do some stuff,” Patterson said. “He’s going to give us an opportunity to be able to do that some.”
5. Special teamers
Cole Bunce is expected to be the Frogs’ kicker going into the season. He finished the season strong, including going 2-for-2 on field goals against Stanford in the Alamo Bowl. His 33-yarder with 3:07 left in the game proved to be the game-winner.
Jonathan Song will push Bunce for the job. Song opened last season as the starting kicker and went 8-for-8 on field goals, but missed the final five games with an injury.
In other special teams news, Patterson had only good things to say about freshman long snapper Antonio Ortiz.
“Ortiz has really emerged,” Patterson said. “He’s really done a great job. He’s really fast. I’ve been very impressed. We’re getting exactly what we thought we recruited.”