TCU ignoring outside noise from Ben Banogu’s preseason hype to ‘cupcake’ Southern

TCU’s standout pass rusher Ben Banogu is seemingly on every meaningful watch list for his position and has been named the Big 12’s preseason defensive player of the year.

So does Banogu view that as added pressure, or embrace the spotlight?

“Really, neither,” Banogu said. “I don’t try and pay too much attention to it. One of the better things is whenever guys come in and just kind of put their head down and work. That’s what I’ve been about since I’ve got here.

“I don’t really let the outside stuff affect how I train or how I prepare myself. At the end of the day, you have to play football and make plays. I’m in the business of doing that.”

For Banogu and the rest of TCU, it starts Saturday with a season-opening game against Southern, a Baton Rouge-based FCS school that competes in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC).

Plenty of eyes will be on Banogu throughout the season, though, as he’s the Frogs’ top draft-eligible prospect. He is coming off a season in which he had 8.5 sacks, 16.5 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles.

Even though he isn’t making too much of the preseason hype, Banogu acknowledged that being named to the Ted Hendricks Award watchlist is special because former TCU defensive end Jerry Hughes won that honor in 2009.

“Anytime you’re compared to someone like Jerry Hughes, a TCU great, it makes you take a step back,” Banogu said. “I thought that was pretty cool, but at the end of the day, you still have to finish the season.”

That mindset sits well with coach Gary Patterson.

Patterson has said throughout the offseason he’d rather have TCU ranked No. 65 and “prove people wrong,” rather than No. 16 and “prove people right.”

Patterson knows preseason lists don’t mean much, either. The Big 12’s preseason defensive player of the year last season was Kansas’ Dorance Armstrong Jr. (who is now with the Dallas Cowboys), but he wasn’t at the end of the season.

Instead, those honors went to Oklahoma’s Ogbonnia Okoronkwo.

“The biggest thing with Ben is not to try and be a great player, just try to make the plays you’re supposed to,” Patterson said. “He’s got the ability that all the rest of the stuff will play the part. The biggest mistake sometimes is you have to go make all these plays. Those guys at the next level [in the NFL] watch a lot of film and they talk to a lot of people, so they know what’s going on. You’re not fooling them at all.

“The biggest thing is to be a good person, play hard and let your abilities speak for themselves. That’s what we try to do here all the time — let your abilities speak for themselves.”

That includes against big-time opponents such as Ohio State on Sept. 15, and what some may view as a “cupcake” in Southern.

But the Frogs are downplaying the notion that Southern is a gimme game.

This is a school that remembers being tied with another FCS school, South Dakota State, at halftime to open the 2016 season before pulling away for a 59-41 victory.

“We’re not going to take an opponent for granted,” senior right guard Trey Elliott said. “We’re going to look at them like we look at Ohio State. They’re not a [FCS] team. They’re Ohio State to us. We’re going to look at every team the same.”

Again, that’s music to Patterson’s ears. He doesn’t want his team getting too far ahead of themselves.

Patterson hasn’t himself, brushing off any questions about the Urban Meyer scandal and Ohio State to this point.

Patterson might’ve said it best when asked about the school’s “Davey Day” promotion for Saturday’s season opener.

“If I get beat by Southern, I promise you they won’t remember it was Davey O’Brien day,” Patterson said, chuckling. “I promise you that – not in the newspapers.”

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