With each post-practice media session, Gary Patterson's concerns—may they be exaggerated or not—heading into the 2015 season become more clear. Defense. And more specifically, his linebackers.
Although this may be an unfamiliar position for Horned Frog fans, his concerns—on the surface—appear warranted.
Having lost linebackers Paul Dawson and Marcus Mallet to graduation, TCU could enter the 2015 season with two freshmen linebackers—Montrel Wilson and Mike Freeze--atop the TCU depth chart. Patterson could not recall starting one freshman at linebacker, let alone two, in his tenure.
Which of course means the learning process must enter fast-forward mode.
"I think they’re going to be really good some day," Patterson said. "Hopefully they’re good this year.”
Wilson and Freeze would follow a 2014 season in which Mallet and Dawson totaled five interceptions, 236 total tackles and seven sacks.
Last week, Patterson said the speed of the freshmen duo will allow him to incorporate defensive coverages that just didn't fit the skill set of Mallet and Dawson. Now his goal is to be sure that speed translates to the field.
"You know, Marcus Mallet was a five-flat but he played like a 4.5. I got to get the 4.5’s to play like a 4.5 instead of like a five-flat," he said.
“We just got to play faster," Patterson continued. “Defensively we got to get where we don’t think.”
The fulfillment of lofty expectations could partially ride on the shoulders of Freeze and Wilson, but Patterson won't let external expectations effect his coaching style.
“We don’t need entitlement, so if anyone thinks we're coaching like we think they’re third or second in the nation, it’s not happening. Right now we’re 70th. If we don’t play better on one side of the ball that’s what we’ll be,” Patterson said.