Short on cornerbacks, TCU coach Gary Patterson moved receiver Tony James and put him to work at that position as spring football practice opened Friday.
“He’s fast. We’ve had a lot of great DBs that were wide receivers,” Patterson said.
James, who caught three passes last season as a freshman, teamed with Jeff Gladney, who redshirted last season because of injury, and impressed Patterson.
“They’re smart,” he said. “The two corners, I was very impressed with, for a first day.”
The Horned Frogs are light on cornerbacks with the loss of Julius Lewis to injury in workouts last month and Ranthony Texada sidelined for spring while he recovers from a knee injury suffered in Week 3 last season.
Torrance Mosley played in seven games last season and started three. Deshawn Raymond played mostly special teams last season.
Patterson said TCU has a history of success with receivers playing cornerback, using Jason Goss as an example.
“They just have ball skills,” he said. “The other thing they do is they know how to read coverage. A lot of times, if you just play defense, you didn’t play offense, you never learned how to read coverage. So he understands, him and Gladney. Both are very intelligent guys. When you tell them somethng, they understand it, which is three-quarters of the battle.”
Patterson said the scrimmages will decide the quarterback competition, like two years ago when Trevone Boykin won the job.
“It came down to who handled the offense best in scrimmages,” Patterson said. “That’s the way we’ll judge the quarterbacks. The definition of a great player is one who, when he’s on the field, everyone on the field gets better. ... That’s why we chose Trevone two years ago. The rest of the offense got better when he was on the field. Whichever of the quarterbacks is the guy that everybody plays better around will be the guy that we play with.”
Junior Kenny Hill is the most experienced quarterback in a group that includes sophomore Foster Sawyer, sophomore Grayson Muehlstein and freshman Brennen Wooten.
Patterson sounded pleased with Friday’s opening spring practice, perhaps a reflection of the experience the Frogs will boast on defense.
They list 11 returning starters when the injured players from last season who will return in 2016 are included.
“I didn’t lose my voice completely,” Patterson said with a smile, asked to evaluate the first practice. “If it would have been bad, we wouldn’t have been able to talk.”
Patterson said defensive tackle and cornerback are areas to work on, but experience is evident.
The Frogs had to go deep in the roster last season to make up for dozens of injuries.
“Today’s practice was good competition, but they acted like a team,” Patterson said. “There weren’t guys diving on the ground. Sometimes you got guys trying to be All-Americans. Everybody kind of knew what their place was, what they need to do and how they needed to do it. That’s the sign of a team that’s played a couple of snaps.”
Asked if the Frogs will try the committee approach to replace All-American receiver Josh Doctson, Patterson said, “We’re hoping that Taj does.”
Taj Williams was the No. 1-rated junior college receiver last season.
But TCU has options, Patterson said.
“You also have a player coming in the fall, hopefully, another JUCO guy. Also another inside receiver,” he said. “We didn’t know Josh Doctson was going to be Josh Doctson three years ago. And all of a sudden, here’s Josh Doctson. I think you find out what these guys can do, and they’ll mold the offense around what these guys can do, and we’ll go from there.”
Patterson, coming off knee replacement surgery following the Alamo Bowl, said he’s “way ahead of schedule” in his recovery and felt fine in Friday’s practice.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “There was no way that I’d be out here in a cart coaching.”
He joked with reporters who asked him if he’d be able to make his traditional Colonial round with pro golfer J.J. Henry.
“If I keep making the progress I had, I’ll be good,” he said. “I feel better right now stability wise than since college. This has been hurting 37 years.”
So will it allow him to run down referees faster?
Patterson shook his head.
“I run down players.”
▪ Patterson said of junior college safety Markell Simmons, “I like the way he has ownership of trying to be one of the top two safeties.”
▪ Patterson said running back Kyle Hicks had a strong off-season. “Now we’ll see what kind of spring he has,” he said.
▪ A TCU spokesperson said defensive tackle Tevin Lawson transfered to Nicholls State.