11 Aug College Sports: Frogs in fall camp: TCU finds itself facing…
FORT WORTH — It was a season ago that injuries took center stage for TCU football, as more than 40 players were sidelined at some point during the 2018 campaign.
Nine days into fall camp ahead of the 2019 season, Gary Patterson now finds himself erring on the side of caution when it comes to his key playmakers.
Call it load management, to borrow a term frequented in the NBA.
“Guys get sore, so you have to be smart,” Patterson told reporters following the team’s scrimmage at Amon G. Carter Stadium Saturday.
It doesn’t come as much a choice for the veteran TCU head coach either given some of the limitations the Frogs have a faced early on in fall camp. A number of players — most notably junior quarterback Mike Collins, wearing a boot Saturday — have been sidelined at some point in the last week.
Defensive end transfers Parker Workman and Shameik Blackshear, offensive tackle Lucas Niang, and safety Innis Gaines were all among others whom Patterson said have missed some amount of time in practice. Players returning from significant injuries last fall — namely defensive tackle Ross Blacklock — are also still being eased back into the swing of things.
More significantly, cornerback Noah Daniels was likely lost for the season after undergoing an undisclosed surgery Friday.
Add it all up, and the only silver lining is the chance for new faces to prove their potential – mainly on the defensive side of the ball, as Patterson pointed out.
“Our No. 2 guys out here (on defense) today were nine redshirt freshmen and a junior and a senior,” Patterson said of the group. “You move forward.”
Several have responded to well to the call. Freshman defensive backs Keeyon Stewart and Josh Foster – both of whom captured Texas high school state championships last fall – were among the newcomers praised by Patterson Saturday. Linebacker Dee Winters has also impressed at a position where TCU graduated four regularly-contributing seniors this offseason, much to Patterson’s delight.
“He is who I thought he was,” Patterson said of Winters. “Every individual is different. Dee is football smart.”
With the “learning period” of fall camp now over, expectations won’t be lowered anytime soon – certainly not before the seasoned veterans get back to full strength. Patterson said the coming week will be the most telling yet in terms of shaping the depth chart.
“The next week is our evaluation period,” Patterson said. “We had scrimmage today, we’ve got one Wednesday and then one next Saturday. Then we’ve got decisions to make.”
Given the nature of football, things can rapidly change in seven days. But based on the early outlook, that decision-time may feature at least a few newcomers continuing to take considerable reps, whether it be by necessity or by choice.
“Our freshmen have really progressed,” Patterson said. “We did a nice job in the summertime, and I think really the last three days they’ve really come on.
“Like all of them when they step out on this field and scrimmage, you get to see who acts differently. They get to see the forest, not just the trees.”
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