Earlier this week, it was announced that TCU was getting a big injection of Frog Factor into their coaching staff by promoting former defensive tackle Zarnell Fitch and giving former linebacker Jason Phillips an increased responsibility load.
Fitch, who rejoined TCU as the director of high school relations in 2014, will join Dan Sharp as a fellow defensive line coach. Phillips, who will retain the title of second-year graduate assistant, will have the responsibility of coaching the linebackers, which he did in Alamo Bowl preparation after DeMontie Cross took the Missouri defensive coordinator position. The move likely comes from the NCAA limit of nine assistant coaches, which means that either Phillips or Fitch would be getting the spot made by Cross.
With the hires, in addition to the hiring of former Denton Guyer and Oklahoma State quarterback J.W. Walsh as an offensive graduate assistant, the Frogs have set themselves up quite well on the coaching front for 2016.
The Phillips promotion of responsibilities was pretty easy to forsee, and Horned Frog Insider called it shortly after Cross accepted the Mizzou job. It's a fantastic move for TCU, who gets to keep one of its best linebacker talents in the Gary Patterson era as the builder of future TCU linebackers.
Phillips played a big part in TCU’s defensive improvements this year, including his time as linebackers coach in Alamo Bowl preparation. With linebacker Travin Howard earning defensive MVP honors in the game, it's pretty safe to say that Phillips earned his new role with results.
He's already a well-known force in TCU lore, ranking up as one of the best linebackers ever under Patterson. In his four years at TCU, he had 315 career tackles, 7.5 sacks and 38 tackles-for-loss for the Frogs in 50 games, and was the first player in Mountain West Conference history to be named first- or second-team all-conference four straight seasons.
He spent six years in the pros after getting drafted in 2009, which wasn't too long after he gave TCU the best poster in school history:
Given his standing as a graduate assistant, as well as his natural talent, knowledge of the 4-2-5 defense, and ability to put the fear of God into just about anyone, TCU couldn't have found a better linebackers coach than Phillips. The Frog Factor is strong in this one, and will be for the TCU linebackers in 2016. Howard, Ty Summers, Montrel Wilson and more will be dangerous next year, especially with the additions of a healthy Sammy Douglas and the entrance of No. 1 JUCO LB recruit Tyree Horton this summer.
Frog Factor will definitely be present on the defensive front, and not just at linebacker. With Fitch moving in to coach the defensive line with long-time Frogs assistant coach Dan Sharp, TCU's recruiting ability and knowledge at the defensive tackle position just exponentially increased.
As the former head coach at Lincoln High School (Dallas, Texas) - the prep school of TCU receiver Emanuel Porter - Fitch already had a keen eye and connection to the DFW high school circuit. That connection put him into TCU's staff as director of high school relations in 2014, where he led day-to-day operations in connecting to high schools and managing TCU recruiting efforts.
Fitch, full of Frog Factor himself, is also a former TCU graduate assistant. After playing for both Patterson and now co-defensive coordinator Chad Glasgow, Fitch knows what it takes to be successful on the field.
How Fitch will split his duties with Sharp isn't immediately clear, but it wouldn't be much of a stretch to think that Fitch will be giving special attention to the nose tackles for the Frogs. Sharp, who will be in his second year as defensive line coach, continues to be a critical part of TCU's coaching staff, as he has been for more than 15 years.
The moves could not be made any better for TCU. With two great Horned Frogs coming into the program to lead new generations of great Horned Frogs, there will be absolutely no shortage of Frog Factor in 2016.
And that means a win-win scenario for all involved.