TCU wraps up ‘tough’ spring post-Big 12 title, playoff snub

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — The first thing TCU coach Gary Patterson told his team this offseason was to remember the 4-8 record from two seasons ago and not act like the team that was the Big 12 co-champion with 12 wins and came oh so close to a playoff spot last fall.

He then made sure spring practice was tough and physical for the Horned Frogs.

“I already told them, they’re going to have to play better to be able to reproduce what they did a year ago,” Patterson said. “I think we’re closer right now, the way I handle spring, as tough as I made it, for them to understand that it’s not going to be an easy thing.”

TCU wraps up spring practice Friday night with a workout at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Quarterback Trevone Boykin will be wearing a cast on his left hand and will not be on the field.

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Boykin, the Big 12 player of the year who finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting last season, had surgery last week on his left (non-throwing) wrist. He broke a small bone midway through last season, but didn’t miss any games and then went through most of spring practice as planned.

With the surgery done, the senior quarterback is expected to be fully ready for summer workouts.

“One thing we knew, we had to find a backup quarterback. I think we came a long ways,” Patterson said. “I wouldn’t say we feel like we have a backup that we feel like we can win a Big 12 title with at this point in time, but I think we’re a lot farther ahead than we were when we started 15 practices ago.”

Boykin being out the last week of workouts provided more opportunities for redshirt freshmen quarterbacks Grayson Muehlstein and Foster Sawyer. Sophomore Zach Allen, the only quarterback other than Boykin to throw a pass last season, has worked out as a receiver this spring.

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As for spring practice overall, Patterson’s approach is to treat the workouts “like the first 15 days of two-a-days” and making the most of the limited time.

“We’ve got (visiting) high school coaches going, this is your 14th practice and you’re about killing each other,” said Patterson, going into his 15th season as head coach. “That’s where you got to grow up.”

The Frogs last season shared the Big 12 title in only their third year in the league, and moved as high as third in the playoff rankings — before slipping to sixth in the final listing a day after beating Iowa State 55-3 in their regular-season finale. They went to the Peach Bowl instead, and beat then-No. 9 Mississippi 42-3.

Boykin is one of 10 returning starters on an offense that averaged 533 total yards and 47 points a game last season.

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But the Frogs have to replace five of their top six tacklers in their 4-2-5 defensive scheme. Gone are linebackers Paul Dawson (135 tackles, 20 tackles for loss) and Marcus Mallet (100 tackles) and three starting defensive backs now getting ready for the NFL draft.

“Can we play as well in the secondary? We’ll be faster than we were a year ago, but can we play as well as a team as a group that had 65 picks in three years? I don’t know,” Patterson said. “The place where we’re probably the thinnest would be linebacker. … That’s still where we’ll have to acquire depth.”