Thursday, April 8, 2010

Offensive skill players often become defensive stars at TCU


Column by RICK GOSSELIN / The Dallas Morning News | rgosselin@dallasnews.com

Rick Gosselin

TCU coach Gary Patterson believes defense still can win championships at the college level. It also can forge NFL careers for his players.

Jerry Hughes signed with TCU as a running back in 2006. He was a finalist for offensive player of the year honors in the Houston area when he rushed for 1,412 yards and 19 touchdowns as a senior at Sugar Land Austin High School.

Hughes had visions of becoming the next LaDainian Tomlinson at TCU. But four years later, Hughes finds himself as the next Aaron Schobel.

Hughes never took a handoff for the Horned Frogs. As a freshman, Hughes was moved from halfback to defensive end, where he blossomed into one of the best pass rushers in the nation and a potential first-round NFL draft pick this month.

"Our whole idea is to find a way to get our best players on the field and play at a high level," Patterson explained. "Some (coaching staffs) have to be able to see a kid do it on film to believe they can do it.

"But there's a certain level of trust (there) that certain guys can grow certain guys up." We have a lot of confidence in our offseason program for a guy like Jerry Hughes to gain 50 pounds and still keep his speed."

Hughes wasn't the first offensive skill player Patterson moved to defense - and he won't be the last.

Stephen Hodge and Jason Phillips arrived at TCU as quarterbacks. Hodge developed into an All-Mountain West safety and Phillips an All-Mountain West middle linebacker. Phillips became a fifth-round pick by Baltimore and Hodge a sixth-rounder by the Cowboys, both in 2009.

Tommy Blake was a 2,000-yard rusher in high school who also moved to defensive end at TCU, and became a two-time All-Mountain West selection.

"Your defensive guys have to be as athletic as the offensive guys," Patterson said. "You can't catch a running back unless you recruit a running back. You can't ask a guy 4.8 to catch a guy running 4.5."

At first, Hughes was reluctant to change positions. Then Patterson explained the reality of his situation - there weren't going to be many opportunities for the fifth halfback on the depth chart.

"You always dream about scoring those touchdowns in college," Hughes said. "But at the same time he broke it down for me, showed me the depth chart and told me he had the confidence in me to make the transition.

"I felt he knew what he was doing. There's a reason he's the head coach. There was no reason to butt heads on this. He's giving you a chance to get on the field and play. You like that. You don't want to spend 2-3 years on the sideline. By allowing us to get on the field and showcasing our skills, it really helps us out."

It helps Patterson and the TCU program out as well.

Fortified by those offensive transplants, the Horned Frogs annually field one of the most athletic defenses in the NCAA. Also one of the best defenses. TCU finished No. 1 each of the last two seasons and No. 2 in 2006. The Horned Frogs also have ranked among the Top 10 in scoring defense each of the last four years.

"Offense brings in the crowd," Hughes said, "but defense wins games. The heart of a good football team is its defense. We take great pride in our defense. We strive every season to be the best defense in the nation."

Patterson's 2010 recruiting class fosters an optimism that TCU can maintain its lofty defensive standard.

"We have four quarterbacks and six tailbacks in this recruiting class," Patterson said. "A couple are going to play defense. You can't base your whole recruiting class on, 'We can change them all ...' But you can change 20 percent of them."

3 comments:

BuckNasty said...

Yeah. Didn't notice this was on here the other day until just now. Can't delete the post though. Sorry.

Texas Hammer said...

Welcome to the party, Rick.

You're only the eleventy-billionth person to write this fucking article.

Who are these people and why do they get paid?

Sir Wesley Willis said...

Gosselin is apparently extremely respected in the media circles, and I have NO idea why. He's a less visible Mel Kiper.