FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — For only the third time since Gary Patterson became TCU’s head coach, the Horned Frogs are coming off a losing season.
They immediately rebounded from those first two sub-.500 records with conference titles the following years.
Can they do that again in 2017?
“I think he believes we’re capable of that,” linebacker Ty Summers said, referring to the TCU coach who is going into his 17th season.
While the Frogs finished 6-7 last season, they twice lost in double overtime during the regular season. There was also a 52-46 home loss to Big 12 champion Oklahoma after scoring 22 consecutive points in the fourth quarter. Patterson, TCU’s winningest coach with a 149-54 record, figures his team could have won nine games.
“I feel like he was actually pretty positive for the most part,” Summers said. “Not positive in like it’s OK, but positive in a way that all we can do is go up from here, and knowing that history is we’ve come back. Especially what happened in 2014.”
The Frogs won a share of the Big 12 title in 2014, only their third season in the league, after going 4-8 in 2013 with four losses by a combined 11 points. They clinched the Mountain West Conference title in 2005, a year after going 5-6 in their final year in Conference USA.
TCU returns all but one offensive starter (tackle Aviante Collins) from last season, including senior quarterback Kenny Hill and Kyle Hicks, the team leader in rushing (1,042 yards, 12 touchdowns) and receptions (47).
Among the seven returning starters on defense are their three top tacklers. Travin Howard (130) and Summers (121), the starting linebackers in TCU’s 4-2-5 defense, were 1-2 in the Big 12.
“I tell everybody that the good news is we have everybody back, and the bad news is we were 6-6 (in the regular season), we got everybody back,” Patterson said. “Really like the team. I like the kids.”
Here are a few other things to know about the Horned Frogs, whose season opener is at home Sept. 2 against Jackson State:
Going into his fourth season as co-offensive coordinator, Sonny Cumbie will now be calling the plays. Doug Meacham, who had shared the OC role with Cumbie and called the plays before, left for Kansas.
“We just view it as our normal up-tempo offense and just doing what we do,” receiver John Diarse said. “Coach Cumbie has been here a while, and he knows this offense. It’s just normal to us.” Running backs coach Curtis Luper took on the additional role as co-offensive coordinator after Meacham’s departure.
ONE LAST TRILL
Hill had some standout games last season in his first season as TCU’s quarterback, including 449 yards and five TDs passing against Oklahoma, and 452 yards against SMU. He also had a league-high 13 interceptions. Patterson has said one of the big differences this season will be how the Frogs play at quarterback.
“I’m where I need to be going into this fall,” said Hill, the former Texas A&M transfer and now a senior. Hill said he’d give himself a C-plus grade after throwing for 3,208 yards and 17 touchdowns, with another 609 yards and 10 TDs rushing.
DROPPING THE BALL
By one group’s count last season, Hill was the NCAA quarterback hurt by the most dropped passes (38).
“As a receiver, you never want to let your quarterback down,” Diarse said.
But Hill didn’t pin all the blame on the receivers.
“They drop a ball, but then I’ll miss a pass. It’s the same difference,” Hill said. “They saved me so many times. … They make me look good more times than not.” TCU quarterbacks and receivers spent a lot more time on their own this offseason throwing and catching with each other.
After opening at home against the SWAC team from Mississippi, the first road game for the Frogs is a big test at old foe Arkansas, which won in double overtime in Fort Worth last season. They are then home against SMU, another old Southwest Conference rival, before a difficult Big 12 opener at Oklahoma State. TCU also plays conference road games against Kansas State and Oklahoma.