So how do you improve upon an offense that has a Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback and last year averaged 533 yards per game?
As guitarist Nigel said in the movie Spinal Tap, you turn it up to 11.
“I’m like you,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said this week. “I’ve only been with [this offense] one year.
“I’m kinda interested to see what Year 2 looks like.”
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Clearly, there are few football coaches in America who know — and can teach — defense as well as Patterson. But the best decision Patterson ever made for his Horned Frogs defense came two years ago, when he hired Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie to overhaul the TCU offense.
With Meacham and Cumbie sharing the coordinator duties, the Frogs finished second in the nation in scoring (46.5 points per game) and broke 26 school records.
“We don’t ever really look at it in terms of numbers,” Meacham said. “Who we play, where we’re playing them, rankings, weather — none of that stuff means anything.
“It’s about getting better. It’s about improving. And it’s about focusing on what the defense has and what we need to do to be good against any defense.”
That challenge stares the co-coordinators in the face every day: Patterson’s well-schooled defense. Even as the offensive pace quickens in practice scrimmages, Patterson doesn’t allow his defense to just stay on the field in its basic front.
“You can’t do that,” Patterson explained the daily battle of wits. “You have to keep coaching.”
Ranked No. 2 in preseason polls, TCU’s fortunes are being tied to how rapidly Patterson can plug the holes left by six departed players on defense. The replacement candidates have the task of practicing over the next weeks against All-America quarterback Trevone Boykin, who finished fourth in the Heisman voting last season.
“The sky’s the limit, in terms of his capabilities, his instinct, his skill set,” Meacham said of his quarterback.
“When you watch Trevone,” Cumbie added, “he’s just such a pure passer. He’s a really smart kid, and he’s picked up this offense really quickly.
“Those are the things, when you watch him play, that really impress me.”
A year ago, however, nobody would have predicted that TCU would score 58 points on Baylor, 82 on Texas Tech, 48 on Texas and 42 in the Peach Bowl against Ole Miss.
A year ago, frankly, some of us were dumb enough to wonder whether Boykin would even be the Frogs’ starting quarterback. We thought veteran Matt Joeckel, who had transferred from Texas A&M, would win the job.
Credit has to go to Cumbie and Meacham for seeing the potential in Boykin and unlocking the offensive talent that was on the roster.
“We got really lucky,” Meacham confessed. “You can say what you want. We fell into a really unique situation, talent level-wise.”
How do they dial the offense up to 11, therefore, in the already loud Big 12?
“I think you can kind of rely on the knowledge they’ve obtained through the first year,” Meacham said. “Now that the base offense is in, it allows you to kind of toy with a few things, improve a few areas — some of the routes, some of the base concepts we do.
“The base foundation has been laid. Now it’s the next step.”
The head coach, to name one, can’t wait to see it.
Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697