Preview 2017: TCU In For Big Bounceback Year?
TCU might be a relatively small school, but if history is any indication, it’s about to be in for a very big year.
Okay, TCU, we know you have it in you. You’ve succeeded after overcoming far worse things than a 6-7 campaign.
If you can overcome the size disadvantage and be a star in the Big 12, you can overcome a disappointing year.
This isn’t a Texas or Oklahoma in terms of the massive, blue-blood college football powerhouse programs that’s limited only by the talents of the coaching staff and recruiting/talent coordinators, but it proved under Gary Patterson that it can compete and win at the highest of levels no matter what.
And it’s proved that it can be better than 6-7, like it was last season.
It’s also proved under Patterson that it can tweak and adjust to go from okay to amazing in a snap, doing it at a school that’s still a relative Power Five newbie.
It’s easy to forget, but TCU made the move from the Mountain West just a few years ago in 2012, and it’s always going to fight a bit of an uphill battle.
It’s taken a while to recruit at a Big 12 level and not be just a Little Engine That Could with talents who overachieved to fit a type. It’s also easy to forget that TCU just isn’t that big – it’s one of the smallest Power Five schools and it’s the smallest in the Big 12 by a mile.
Why does it matter? With an enrollment of just over 10,000, the resources just aren’t the same as the monster schools. By comparison, Texas and Texas A&M each have an enrollment well over 50,000, Oklahoma and Texas Tech are way over 30,000, and in the region, SMU is at around 12,000 and Baylor around 16,000. And yet, TCU is expected to be an every year power player now.
And why not? The smaller-school thing mattered a bit in the Mountain West – when it went 25-1 in 2010 and 2011 with a Rose Bowl win over a killer Wisconsin team and the only loss coming in the Fiesta Bowl to a Boise State team that went unbeaten.
But by this point, Patterson has been able to take the systems and formulas that worked as a Group of Five program and infused them with more Power Five talents.
Patterson is so good, and TCU has gotten so strong so fast, that it seems like a shocker when the team doesn’t crank out a double-digit win season. If Patterson can flip a switch and turn a 2013 4-8 team into a 12-1 national title contender, than he and his staff should be able to handle making the necessary adjustments to get this team back in the conference title chase.
The pass defense might have had problems last season, but now the secondary is among the most experienced and loaded in the Big 12. The defensive front needs an overhaul of talent, but the pass rushers showed up this spring and dominated the Horned Frog O at times.
Add in the killer linebacker combination of Ty Summers, Travin Howard and Sammy Douglas, and the D might just be back to the ridiculously high standards set over the Patterson era.
While the offense wasn’t as efficient or as explosive as it was when QB Trevone Boykin was making it rock, Kenny Hill is a talented veteran who appears ready to live up to his potential – forgetting how rocky some of the spring scrimmages were. The receiving corps is far deeper than it was last season, RB Kyle Hicks is back to balance things out, and the line should be good enough.
What have we learned under Patterson? TCU might have one mediocre year, but it’s not going to have two bad ones in a row. It’s still the same small school that’s won 149 games in the last 16 years.
And it’s the same small school that might just end up winning the new Big 12 Championship game.