TCU Horned Frogs (2000: 10-2)
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Coach and programOne week after Dennis Franchione left for Alabama last December, TCU completed its search for a new football coach.
Gary Patterson, who had been Franchione’s defensive coordinator at TCU for three seasons, was the 11th and last candidate to be interviewed for the vacated job.
TCU’s search committee made a unanimous decision. Patterson, a college assistant for 18 years, had his first head-coaching job.
His task will be to carry the momentum that Franchione generated the last three seasons. TCU is coming off its first 10-win season since 1938 when it won a national championship. The Horned Frogs have posted three straight winning seasons for the first time since the 1950s.
Last season, the Horned Frogs relied on a staunch defense and the running of LaDainian Tomlinson, who finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy race. Tomlinson, who was the 2000 Doak Walker award as the nation’s top running back, was the San Diego Chargers’ first pick in the NFL draft and the fifth pick overall.
Patterson knows Tomlinson can’t be replaced by one player, and he’ll look for several players to fill his shoes.
Four seasons after it won only one game, TCU is on solid football ground. It has won 25 games in the last three years and gone to three straight bowl games for the first time in school history.
In 2000, TCU was ranked every week of the season and got as high as ninth -- its highest ranking since the 1959 team was seventh. As his team enters C-USA, Patterson plans to continue what Franchione helped start at TCU.
“We have a tradition now,” Patterson said. “This team has an understanding of what it takes to be a winning program. We have won back to back [WAC] titles, gone to three straight bowl games, and it was because of hard work. I believe this team understands that for us to keep winning, we have to continue to have a strong work ethic."
OffenseWith the departure of Tomlinson, quarterback Casey Printers (6-3, 208), a junior, will become the focal point of the Horned Frogs’ offense. There will be an increased emphasis on the passing game.
It won’t be too much of a burden for Printers, who has started since he was a freshman in 1999. As a sophomore in 2000, Printers had no slump. He finished fourth in the nation in passing efficiency, completing 58 percent (102-of-176) of his passes for 1,584 yards in the regular season. He threw 16 touchdowns and was intercepted six times.
Senior Andrew Hayes-Stoker (5-8, 194) may be the starter at tailback, but plenty of others will share the carries. Several others made their bids for the job during the spring. Sophomore Ricky Madison (5-9, 193), who played in seven games last season and had 20 carries for 86 yards, showed glimpses of big-play abilities in the spring, and sophomore Corey Connally (5-11, 187) also had a good spring.
In the spring, Patterson said the wide receivers provided the biggest surprise, and it’s a good thing. The top two receivers from last season, Tim Maiden and Cedric James, were seniors. Both caught 19 passes, and they combined for 658 receiving yards and seven touchdowns.
LaTarence Dunbar (5-11, 187), a junior, appears to be the go-to guy this season. Dunbar was the team’s third-leading receiver last year with 17 catches for 251 yards and four touchdowns. He added two catches for 42 yards in the bowl game.
The nucleus of last year’s offensive line, nicknamed the “Big Uglies,” has departed, making room for the “Big Uglies II.” They are junior guards Josh Harbuck (6-6, 322) and J.T. Aughinbaugh (6-6, 323), junior center Jamal Powell (6-3, 322) and junior tackle Brady Barrick (6-5, 303).
Defense and special teamsPatterson has concerns about depth on the defensive front entering the 2001 season. Gone are All-WAC defensive end Aaron Schobel and defensive tackle Shawn Worthen along with two other starters.
The only returning starter on the line is senior end Chad McCarty (6-2, 255), who had 30 tackles, including seven for loss and three sacks. He beat out sophomore Bo Schobel (6-5, 254) for the starting job last season and will have to do the same this year.
Sophomore nose tackle Chad Pugh (6-3, 277) is an all-star of the future, and he will probably be slotted ahead of redshirt freshman Brandon Johnson (6-2, 292). Pugh played in all 11 regular-season games and had 27 tackles, five for loss.
Both starting cornerbacks return, with backup Greg Walls as the only departed senior. Walls started 10 games at cornerback as a junior, but two juniors, Jason Goss (5-9, 182) and Bo Springfield (5-10, 183), managed to pin down the starting jobs last season. Springfield started four games late in the season.
Dunbar, the nation’s leading kick returner last season, will retain the job this season. Dunbar averaged 33.7 yards on 15 returns and ran two back for touchdowns.
Bottom linePatterson has a plan for winning football games in 2001. It’s not all that different from the previous three years when he was defensive coordinator for the Horned Frogs.
The first-year coach will rely on a stern defense, like last year when the Horned Frogs ranked first in the nation in total defense, allowing 245 yards per game, and first in scoring defense, allowing 9.6 points per game.
Offensively, the Horned Frogs will try to utilize the passing of Printers. Look for them to throw first, run second, and move the football with possession passing.