In Anthony Alabi, TCU has a left tackle who spends hours reading for pleasure at Barnes & Noble and admits to watching A Wedding Story on TLC. ?But only every now and then,? says Alabi, 23, who?s engaged to be married. Naturally, coach Gary Patterson would prefer a nails-eating tough guy at Alabi?s position. ?An offensive lineman really needs to have a grab-you-by-the-throat attitude,? Patterson says. ?For him to be the player he wants to be, his temperament has to pick up.?
Considering the progress Alabi has made the last three years, that?s not out of the question. He enrolled at Navy in 1999, intending to play defensive tackle as a walk-on, but his coaches, seeing that Alabi had the 6'6" frame, long arms and thick legs ideally suited for left tackle, wanted him to play offense. Instead, Alabi switched schools. In January 2000 the Texas native transferred to TCU, and called director of football operations Charley North to ask about walking on there. ?He was about to hang up on me, and then he asked, ?How big are you??? Alabi recalls. ?I told him I was 6'6", 280, even though I was only 250 at the time. He told me, ?Get up here as soon as you can.??
After redshirting in 2000, Alabi was offered a scholarship by then coach Dennis Franchione--if he would make the switch to offense. Alabi finally consented, and last season, as a junior at TCU, he anchored the line that helped the Horned Frogs average more than 200 yards rushing and 200 yards passing per game. ?When I moved to tackle, the position just fit like a glove,? says Alabi, who?s up to 320 pounds. ?I think it goes back to grade school: I was never the bully, I was the guy who protected all the kids from the bully.?
TCU played the bully for much of 2003, winning its first 10 games and flirting with a BCS bid before losing at Southern Miss and finishing 11?2. This season they?ll have another potent ground game, with junior Lonta Hobbs (nine rushing TDs despite an ankle injury) and sophomore Robert Merrill (five 100-yard games) and two proven winners at quarterback: likely starter Brandon Hassell (7?2 as a starter) and Tye Gunn (8?0). ?We won 11 games last year, and we?re still not satisfied,? Alabi says. ?That says a lot about how far we?ve come.? --G.M.