When TCU made the move to the Big 12 three seasons ago, it did so with the reputation of having one of the nation’s best defenses.
It was a reputation coach Gary Patterson prided himself on and one that had gotten the Horned Frogs a Rose Bowl win against Wisconsin and ultimately an invitation to the Big 12.
But what TCU didn’t bank on was that even though its defense was doing its best to slow down the blitzkrieg-style offenses of the Big 12, the offense wasn’t doing enough to keep the Horned Frogs competitive.
Last season, TCU ranked No. 2 in the Big 12 in total defense and No. 5 in the conference in scoring defense. However, the Horned Frogs’ offense was ninth in total offense and eighth in scoring offense.
It also failed to qualify for a bowl game for the first time in 15 seasons after finishing 4-8 and 2-7 in the Big 12.
Something had to change. So, coach Gary Patterson hired co-offensive coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie, two men who have been immersed in high-powered, quick-strike spread offenses, in an effort to compete with TCU’s Big 12 brethren.
“I thought going into the league two years I thought even on offense that I thought I was going to have to tweak it just looking at the history of how we played against Big 12 teams on offense and other teams going down through the years that we played,” Patterson said during Big 12 media day on Monday. “So all of us, you gotta make good business decisions, but you've got to make them that you build your foundation… You can't turn the ball over. We've got to score points.”
But figuring out which quarterback gives the Horned Frogs the greatest advantage in scoring points is proving to be difficult. Patterson said Trevone Boykin and Texas A&M transfer Matt Joeckel are competing for the starting role and that both bring something different to the field. In an ideal world, TCU might be better off having Joeckel, who backed up Johnny Manziel at A&M, as the starter and moving the speedy and elusive Boykin to receiver.
“Definition of a great player is a great player makes everybody around him better. I think that's what we're looking for in our two guys,” Patterson said. “I think the key is to find the guy that has the swagger, that allows us to move the football, score the points and the guy that's not going to turn the ball over. Felt like last year, if we just would have done that, we would have had an opportunity to win a couple more ball games.”
Patterson acknowledged that the learning curve on this offense is steep and that even with a good showing against Samford in the season opener on Aug. 30, the conference opener against Oklahoma on Oct. 4 would be the true measuring stick of the Horned Frogs’ success, especially with two bye weeks in the first month of the season.
Patterson doesn’t think his team is as far away as his 2013 record would suggest, but he knows cleaning up the mistakes his team didn’t make before its move to the Big 12 is a good place to start.
“For us it's finding that four or five plays,” Patterson said. “You've got to be a smarter football team. In this league the margin of error is different. There were good teams in any league we've played in. But on a week to week basis the margin of errors is less. And so you have to be able to understand that when those four or five plays happen that you've got to make sure that you make them.”
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