TCU scored its fewest points in two decades. How the Frogs plan to be more explosive

TCU football cranks up the heat during practice at fall camp

Texas Christian University football team hit the field hard for Day 2 of fall camp in Fort Worth.
Up Next
Texas Christian University football team hit the field hard for Day 2 of fall camp in Fort Worth.

TCU had its worst scoring average of the Gary Patterson era in 2018.

The Frogs averaged just 23.5 points a game last season, the program’s worst mark in two decades. It hasn’t been that low since they put up 22.3 points a game in 1998.

Co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie pointed to the turnovers as the No. 1 issue in dissecting a forgettable offensive year.

“Turnovers are never good,” said Cumbie, referencing the 26 giveaways by TCU last season.

“We never had a game really offensively where you get the momentum and you really capitalize on it and you gain momentum through the game. We always ended up shooting ourselves in the foot.”

Turnovers weren’t the only issues.

Cumbie put blame on the coaching staff, too, saying he and his fellow coaches should’ve done a better job.

“You evaluate everything,” Cumbie said. “Why weren’t we good, really, in most areas? It starts with coaching. How can we coach better? Is there something that we’re doing schematically that needs to change?

“Hopefully we’ve addressed that moving forward.”

TCU feels it’s found a cure to the offensive woes and Cumbie believes a more explosive unit is on the horizon.

More explosive means runs of 12 yards or more, and pass plays of 16 yards or more. It means opening up the passing game and taking more opportune shots down the field. It means wearing defenses out with a big, bruising running game.

“When we play, we want to be a tough, physical offense that’s explosive,” Cumbie said. “When opponents see us play, they’re not looking forward to playing against us. The biggest thing is getting back to a TCU offense that’s relentless with how hard it plays, and plays very physical, and has the ability to be very explosive.”

Early signs are being seen in fall camp.

Coach Gary Patterson mentioned standout receiver Jalen Reagor running by the secondary three times in practice late last week. Freshman running back Daimarqua Foster had a 50-plus yard run on Saturday.

Other receivers such as Mikel Barkley, TreVontae Hights, Taye Barber, Dylan Thomas, Tevailance Hunt and Derius Davis are having solid camps as well.

Patterson said TCU is throwing the deep ball as well as it has since 2014. The Frogs averaged 46.5 points and 533 yards a game in that Peach Bowl-winning season compared to the 23.5 points and 368.1 yards in the Cheez-It Bowl-winning season last year.

Is TCU getting closer to that wide-open attack of ‘14?

“I’m not going to elaborate because I ain’t gonna tell anybody else what we’re doing,” Patterson said.

But there’s no question TCU’s offense should become more explosive. After all, it’s hard to envision it going the other way.

Cumbie made it clear the offense would play to its strengths this season, starting with the running game. That might not fit with true ‘Air Raid’ principles, but the offensive philosophy is about doing whatever suits TCU best.

As Cumbie said, “The biggest thing you have to ask is, ‘How do we best attack the defense?’”

That should start with a smash-mouth approach.

TCU has two offensive tackles (Lucas Niang and Anthony McKinney) and two running backs (Sewo Olonilua and Darius Anderson) with potential to become NFL Draft picks next year. Establishing the run should be a priority.

That mindset should put TCU in position to win the time of possession battle, something that it did in six of its seven wins last year. Not to mention that approach helps keep the defense fresh.

Another part of the equation is forcing defenses to account for the running game, which should open up more passing lanes for whoever wins the quarterback job to find receivers such as Reagor.

“Coming in, the offensive linemen are the most experienced guys and our two running backs are really good players, so you can’t turn a blind eye to the running game,” Cumbie said. “When you’re trying to sift through a little bit who the quarterback is going to be, who do you lean on and who are the most experienced and better players you have on your offense? I think you probably try to lean on those guys early on until the quarterback situation comes stable.”

Cumbie and co-offensive coordinator Curtis Luper each raved about the running game situation, and said TCU would like to run sets with both Olonilua and Anderson in the lineup.

That doesn’t necessarily mean a true 20- or 21-personnel grouping with two tailbacks, as Olonilua has flexibility to line up as a tight end or H-back.

“We’d love to have them both on the field,” Luper said. “If we had 100 snaps, we’d love to have both of those guys on the field for 70 snaps.”

Added Cumbie: “It’s just putting your best players on the field. Like with a tight end, is putting him in the game better than your third or fourth receivers? That’s what you’ve got to ask yourself at times. Our running backs are really talented.

“We want to keep those guys on the field as much as possible.”

In the end, TCU simply wants to find an offense that is more explosive and puts more points on the scoreboard. Whether it’s running the ball more effectively, or airing it out, the Frogs will do what is necessary to improve upon last season.

A more explosive offense is certainly music to the ears of the players.

“I just want y’all to stay tuned,” Reagor said, smiling at Big 12 Media Days last year. “It’ll be a fun year.”

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram