“I just give all the credit to my DBs and the people on the backend,” Bethley said. “They’re doing their job very well, just making my job a lot easier. So I give all the credit to them and the coaches.”
The Frogs’ secondary has their own theory, too.
“Those dudes make it so much easier for us, people don’t understand,” free safety Niko Small said. “We always say, ‘When they eat, we eat.’ It doesn’t work the other way around. When they get pressure on the run game, or get pressure on the quarterback, they just toss up balls for us. So we love those guys up front.”
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Either way, Bethley deserves the love. The sophomore out of Katy has emerged as a disruptive, interior force for the Frogs and will be counted on heavily to make an impact against No. 4 Ohio State on Saturday.
TCU’s defense is playing well through its first two games against Southern and SMU. The Frogs haven’t allowed a second-half point and are holding teams to just 213.5 total yards a game.
So it’s no surprise when Bethley described the D-line as “a well-oiled machine” after the SMU victory.
“There’s still things we can get better at and me personally as a player to get better at,” Bethley said, “But as a whole I feel like [we’re a well-oiled machine].”
Bethley acknowledged he had to “step up my game” when TCU lost nose tackle Ross Blacklock (Achilles) for the season during fall camp.
That, coupled with end L.J. Collier and defensive tackle Joseph Broadnax being held out of the opener for disciplinary reasons, forced the coaching staff to move Bethley from his natural three-technique position to nose tackle for the opener.
Bethley registered a sack in the opener, but showed his real impact when he returned to the three-technique spot against SMU. With Broadnax starting at nose tackle, Bethley had a standout game from the under tackle position with five tackles and two sacks.
“I feel like I’m more natural at the three,” Bethley said afterward. “I can play both, but I feel more natural at the three. I can move around a little more and be more disruptive.”
Being disruptive is the No. 1 description for a three-technique tackle. This is the player who creates inside pressure and pass rush.
It’s the position that Hall of Famer Warren Sapp made famous in the Tampa 2 scheme. It’s the position where current NFL stars are cashing in such as the LA Rams’ Aaron Donald, Philadelphia’s Fletcher Cox, Tampa Bay’s Gerald McCoy and Cincinnati’s Geno Atkins.
Having a capable three-technique player is important in today’s game, whether it’s college or NFL. But coach Gary Patterson made it clear that containing the running game is just as important, especially against an Ohio State team that is averaging more than 300 yards on the ground.
“First off, you don’t need to talk about pass rush. First thing you better do is you better be able to hold your end [against the run],” Patterson said. “You better be able to handle double teams and they come right at you with everything they do. There’s no dodging.”
Bethley and Broadnax handled themselves well against SMU, and are expected to be the interior starters for a second straight week against Ohio State. But Patterson would like a four-man rotation to emerge on the interior and has given opportunities to redshirt freshmen Terrell Cooper and George Ellis III.
Cooper has yet to register a tackle, and Ellis has three tackles.
But the D-line is making progress. It should improve with more experience and Collier returning this week, too. Bethley certainly thinks so.
“Oh, man, that’s a monster [Collier] right there,” Bethley said. “He can help this team out because Ben [Banogu] is on the other side, I’m in the middle, at nose Joe Broadnax, L.J. Collier coming off the other side, just making everything a lot easier.
“They can’t single block all of us.”