TCU’s just about a week into fall training camp, and Gary Patterson is already wheezing in the heat, staining his visor with sweat and getting frustrated about his defense’s shortcomings.
Sounds just about right - and sounds like a great sign.
That’s the funny thing about Gary Patterson and his vocal criticisms of his defense. If anything’s been more consistent with TCU offseasons, it’s that the more critical Gary is, the better the result will be during the season.
Look back at some at some of TCU’s past seasons…
In 2009, Gary told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that his defense was “Bad. Just write ‘bad’ with a period.” That defense ended up producing two NFL Pro Bowlers in Daryl Washington and Jerry Hughes as the Frogs had their first undefeated regular season and BCS appearance.
In 2010, Gary claimed he had no quality backups on his team and ripped the team’s defensive effort in scrimmages, telling ESPN Dallas that “they got their ass kicked.” Just in the unlikely case that fans forgot, that team won the Rose Bowl.
In 2011, Gary Patterson said he couldn’t find urgency with his team and questioned the maturity of his players. That squad would go on to win 11 games, including an upset over #5 Boise State en route to a third straight undefeated conference run to get a third straight Mountain West title.
And in last year’s fall training camp, Gary often harped on how he had no quarterback. Later that year? Trevone Boykin finished fourth for the Heisman trophy and TCU finished #3 in the nation with a Peach Bowl trophy.
See something in common here? It’s Angry Gary. And any time he makes an appearance, that’s good.
The ballad of Angry Gary is the ballad of a coach who expects more out of his players than what their natural talent gives them. More importantly, it gives an insight in to camp that Gary doesn’t necessarily say outright.
Gary may claim he’s a straight talker, and he is. He just happen to do it in a very unique way. More often than not, he keeps to the adage that the more he talks about a player, the more he wants them to live up to potential. If he’s really keen about them, he’ll look a reporter in the eye and speak almost directly to that reporter when he’s asked a question about that player.
And if he says something about how he needs to see improvement, it’s rarely because the player is doing poorly. More likely, it’s because Gary is to put a fire under that player’s rear end.
When Gary got questions about his defense in 2012 and 2013, he had a lot to say about guys like Kenny Cain and Elisha Olabode. When he was mad at players like them, he was targeting reporters as he gave out what quite literally a message to those individual players.
Angry Gary is coach speak for players who need to improve and have the capability to improve, and any time TCU’s offseason has Angry Gary speaking, it’s a positive thing.
Given that, it’s likely safe to say that it’s excellent news to hear that Gary’s been furious about his current linebackers and defense for this upcoming year - arguably TCU’s biggest question mark coming into this year.
Although Gary won’t be releasing a depth chart for several weeks, he’ll have no shortage of options when it comes to the key of his 4-2-5 defense.
Mike Freeze, a true freshman, will likely start at middle linebacker. Freeze, a former linebacker and safety from North Texas power Graham, possibly has some of the most raw talent at linebacker since Tanner Brock. According to who you listen to in Graham, Freeze was running a 4.5 40-yard dash out of high school, and according to me, Freeze has one of the greatest names to ever enter TCU’s program.
He’s a bit undersized right now at 220 pounds, but his 6’4 frame can easily tack on more weight - and given TCU’s gym schedule, he’ll get those pounds on sooner than later.
Freeze still has a lot to learn in the 4-2-5 scheme, but the former three-star recruit has already done enough to get Gary’s attention.
After enrolling early, Freeze earned the top spot on Gary’s spring depth chart, and apparently hasn’t lost that honor yet. As Brad reported earlier, Paul Whitmill has already moved to fullback, likely due to how well the new guys are doing.
Meanwhile, opposite of Freeze, Sammy Douglas or freshman Alec Dunham should get the strong-side linebacker position, while the other will likely rotate with Ty Summers as relievers. Douglas is the outsider’s pick due to his seniority and familiarity with the scheme, but don’t rule out the new guy.
Dunham, like Freeze, is a speedster. The former Coldspring star got offers from Oklahoma, Utah and Mizzou amongst others, and for good reason. In watching his high school reels, Dunham has a knack for finding the ball and hitting the ball carrier quickly. As Gary so famously noted after a Texas Tech game, his way to winning games is “Speed, baby” and that’s the way Dunham operates. Douglas will have his hands full with this competition.
No matter who wins the battles, the point is clear. Angry Gary has a lot to say about his linebackers.
If history holds up, that’s a great thing for TCU.