FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — TCU coach Gary Patterson was getting frustrated with his linebackers during preseason practice when they had pursuit angles on Kenedy Snell, and then were unable to tackle the 5-foot-8 freshman running back.
“Now I saw why we didn’t catch him,” Patterson said. “He can really get up and go.”
Snell turned a short pass into a 71-yard sprint untouched down the sideline against SMU for a touchdown in the last game for the 16th-ranked Horned Frogs (3-0). In that same game, receiver Jalen Reagor made a leaping catch in the end zone on the final play of the first half to put TCU ahead to stay.
“The guy’s a 6-8 high jumper, a 26-foot long jumper,” Patterson said. “So he’s got some springs.”
Those skilled freshmen, who at this time last year were playing for Waxahachie High School less than an hour from the TCU campus, could now be getting the ball more with the Frogs heading into Big 12 play. TCU’s conference opener is Saturday at sixth-ranked Oklahoma State (3-0).
“That’s a huge boost when we’re blocking, we see them run by or catch a pass,” senior left tackle Joseph Noteboom said. “It’s just excitement to know they’re freshmen but they’re not playing like it.”
Snell scored the first touchdown of the season for TCU, taking a short pass from Kenny Hill, dodging a defender and then reversing field on the 13-yard play in the opener against Jackson State. Reagor, a four-star recruit who initially committed to Oklahoma before switching to TCU, gained 32 yards on his first college catch that night.
Patterson, who doesn’t let his freshmen talk to the media, said that like with any youngsters, the Frogs will “just slowly but surely work” to give Snell and Reagor more plays and certain plays to utilize their skills — such as the half-ending play against SMU that Reagor preceded on the sideline by telling Hill to just throw it up —and he’d go get it.
It was an impressive play, even though four defenders stood and watched without making any effort to bat away the 38-yard TD pass.
“That definitely makes up for last week,” Hill said with a smile, referring to what would have been a 32-yard TD at Arkansas if the wide-open Reagor hadn’t dropped a pass while trying to make a one-handed grab.
Yes, there will still be some teachable moments for the youngsters.
“He still needs to play every play, as far as doing the right things,” Patterson said. “Not just the plays that are coming to you. You’ve still got to block, you’ve still got to run the right route, you still have to do all the things you need to do that freshmen need to learn about.”
Not only where they football teammates last season at Waxahachie, Snell and Reagor were part of the 100- and 200-meter relay teams there. Snell was the Texas Class 5A runner-up in the 100-meter dash at 10.48 seconds.
As soon as he threw the pass to Snell out of the backfield in the SMU game and saw where everybody was on the field, Hill said he knew Snell was going to the end zone again. The running back had already scored on a 10-yard run in the game.
“They both had a really good fall camp, and they made plays, and it’s just carrying over into the season,” senior cornerback Ranthony Texada said. “They’re really hard-working guys, high-intensity guys, so they’re definitely doing well for us so far.”