TCU’s Ross Blacklock ready to bounce back after injury-plagued 2018
He’s been named to watch lists for the Outland Trophy, which goes to the nation’s top interior lineman, and the Chuck Bednarik Award, which goes to the top defensive player.
But Blacklock certainly noticed his name missing on the preseason All-Big 12 team.
“I love it. Forget about me,” Blacklock said, smiling. “I love it.”
By the end of the season, though, he won’t be forgotten. Right?
“That’s the plan,” Blacklock said. “It doesn’t matter where we’re at right now, just in December.”
Blacklock has the makings of being in the conversation for those prestigious awards come December. He’s in the best shape of his life and is poised to wreak havoc on opposing offensive lines.
Receiver Jalen Reagor joked at Big 12 Media Days that there’s something “wrong” with any offensive linemen that lines up opposite Blacklock.
Blacklock enters the season with a vengeance after his 2018 season was lost to an Achilles injury.
“It definitely drove me to another level,” Blacklock said of his injury-plagued season. “I’m just ready, you know?”
It showed in his rehab.
Blacklock worked out two or three times a day, pushing himself to the max because of his lost season. But it got to the point where he had to rein himself in.
This is a defensive tackle that weighed 326 pounds during his stellar redshirt freshman season in 2017, and had dropped to 300 pounds.
“I didn’t know I was getting this small,” Blacklock said, chuckling. “People kept telling me you look good. I looked in the mirror one day and I had a six-pack and everything. I was at a point where I had to stop. I had to rest my body.”
Blacklock plans to get up to 310 pounds, possibly 315 pounds, by the time the season starts. All signs point to him returning to that high-level player when he had 6.5 tackles for loss and two sacks in 2017.
TCU coach Gary Patterson said Blacklock could develop into the best defensive tackle during his coaching tenure, but doesn’t want to start the NFL chatter quite yet.
Patterson tempered expectations given Blacklock’s relative small sample size, as well as the program’s history of NFL prospects bolting early.
“He has the potential to be [the best],” Patterson said. “The thing about Blacklock is he has unbelievable potential but he only has a 14-game resume. He redshirted one year and didn’t play at all last year. I don’t really like to talk about guys going out early though; people are talking about him and Reagor.
“Here at TCU, the guys that have gone out, it hasn’t fared well for them. The guys that have stayed like Jerry [Hughes] and [Jason] Verrett turned out to be first rounders and they’ve done well.”
The NFL talk won’t become a factor if Blacklock doesn’t produce on the field, of course. But Blacklock and fellow junior defensive tackle Corey Bethley form what should be one of the best interior units in the conference.
These are two 300-pound linemen who have the ability to create inside penetration. That should bode well and open up rushing lanes for the outside ends replacing two NFL talents in L.J. Collier and Ben Banogu.
TCU will be looking to players such as Ochaun Mathis and Shameik Blackshear to provide the edge rush, and ideally replicate a unit that ranked second in sacks among Big 12 teams last year (2.69 per game).
“Ochaun and Shameik are two fast guys on the outside, they remind you of L.J. and Ben,” Blacklock said. “It’s important for me and Corey to get that push to make those sacks and push that quarterback up.
“If they get a sack, I get a sack. I’m happy. As long as they eat, we all eat.”
Blacklock should eat plenty himself, too. This is a guy who ran a 4.9-second 40-yard dash before his Achilles injury, and now is leaner with a renewed passion for the game.
“Thank God it was just season-ending and not career-ending,” Blacklock said. “It was definitely adversity and the first time I dealt with something like that. I owned it, I didn’t let it own me.”