TCU didn’t need to use its 12-1 season and Peach Bowl championship in recruiting this year.
Its reputation had done the trick long before.
“This class, over half of them chose TCU when we were coming off the 4-8 season,” coach Gary Patterson said Wednesday in announcing the school’s 21-member class, headlined by four-star receivers Jaelan Austin of South Grand Prairie and Jarrison Stewart of Mesquite Horn.
“And they didn’t waver,” Patterson said. “I think 12 to 14 of them chose TCU when TCU wasn’t 12-1. To me, that’s really important. It shows that they picked the school, the university, for the right reasons, and they all fit a need. It’s really exciting. It’s a very smart group, as far as football smarts.”
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Patterson said the momentum from last season’s No. 3 finish in the national rankings is showing up in the 2016 class.
But the 4-8 season from 2013 was not held against the Horned Frogs.
“Not by the ones that count,” Patterson said. “For the simple reason they knew what we did before.”
Austin is ranked by Scout.com as the No. 6 receiver in the state and No. 52 in the country. Stewart is No. 8 and No. 54. They and cornerback DeShawn Raymond of Metairie, La., and linebacker Semaj Thomas of Fort Worth Southwest are the Horned Frogs’ four 4-star recruits.
That gives the school 23 such recruits in the last seven classes, compared with five over the previous eight years.
“We need linebacker help from this group, we need safety help from this group,” he said. “I think all the wide receivers would like to play, and we needed depth from this group at wide receiver.”
The impact of the Horned Frogs’ new spread offense, and a second year of recruiting for co-offensive coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie, is most clear in the recruitment of the receivers, Patterson said.
Stewart is one example of a player who had multiple offers and chose TCU.
“The offense is why,” Patterson said. “The offense is the draw. We didn’t want these guys to leave the state, leave the area. We did a good job of keeping them at home.”
Arlington Bowie speedster Tony James, Yoakum’s Tre’Vontae Hights and Monroe (La.) Neville’s KaVontae Turpin played quarterback or running back in high school, but will become receivers or H-backs at TCU.
“Turpin is a really good player we feel like can be a returner, kind of like a B.J. Catalon, one more dynamic in some ways,” Patterson said.
Defensively, the Horned Frogs tried to focus on fast and intelligent players to fill holes at linebacker and safety.
He said players like the four-star corner Raymond and safeties Julius Lewis of Mansfield, Niko Small of Arlington Bowie and Montrel Wilson of Keller Fossil Ridge caught his eye because of that.
“A guy I’m really high on, Niko Small, had an unbelievable SAT — really smart. It came down to us and Stanford,” Patterson said.
Of safety Arico Evans from Dallas Hillcrest, Patterson said, “He’s very physical for his size, if you watch his highlights. He’s also very smart, which is what our free safety position is — smart, physical and can play man coverage.”
On the defensive line, TCU picked up a pass-rushing defensive end from Euless Trinity, Tipa Galea’i, and an end from Round Rock, Breylin Mitchell.
On the offensive line, the Horned Frogs added center Jozie Milton of Clinton, La., guard Cordel Iwuagwu of Houston Westfield, and two tackles, Sam Awolope of Fort Bend Marshall and David Bolisomi of Denton Ryan. Patterson said it would be a good idea to redshirt two or three of the linemen.
Two players got away from the Horned Frogs. Dallas South Oak Cliff receiver J.F. Thomas backed out of his commitment and signed with Texas Tech, and Gladewater defensive tackle Daylon Mack went with Texas A&M.
But focusing on the players who did sign Wednesday, and the three who are already on campus — linebackers Mike Freeze and Alec Dunham and the cornerback Raymond — Patterson characterized the group as smart and willing to work.
“You still go after those guys who are willing to come to TCU when you were 4-8,” he said.
Patterson said he is considering a spring game, although he would hold out quarterback Trevone Boykin, who is trying to strengthen the left wrist that bothered him at times last year. Patterson said Boykin will compete fully in the spring practices.
The game would give backups Bram Kohlhausen and Foster Sawyer a chance to compete. The Horned Frogs did not sign a quarterback in recruiting.
Patterson said defensive end Mike Tuaua and offensive tackle Hala Vaitai will sit out the spring practices with shoulder injuries. Spring training begins Feb. 28.
Running back Shaun Nixon, who missed last season with a knee injury, is almost to full health and working in the off-season program.
Also, linebacker Ty Summers is back to full health, Patterson said.
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7760