TCU football looks to spark offense with new co-coordinators
FORT WORTH, Texas -- TCU coach Gary Patterson typically has been set in his ways about how to build a football program.
The Horned Frogs under Patterson have featured defense, defense and more defense. Patterson's background as a walk-on college linebacker and his time as an assistant coach have heavily framed his perspective.
But a sputtering offense since joining the Big 12 convinced Patterson of the need for change. It has resulted in bringing offensive savants Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie into his program as co-offensive coordinators.
To put the transition in musical terms understandable to a picker like Patterson, it would be a little like asking legendary heavy-metal guitarists James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett of Metallica about joining the Eagles.
The culture change was so dramatic that Cumbie discussed significant modifications to TCU's practice schedule that would be necessary if he were going to take the job.
"I had some questions for him in regards to how serious he was about doing it," said Cumbie, a former Texas Tech quarterback who coached at his alma mater for the last four years. "Coach told me he was willing to change how we practice to make sure it happens. That let me know he was serious."
Because of Patterson's nature, Meacham was similarly astonished the TCU coach sought him out to implement the fast-paced Air Raid offense.
"To be honest with you, I was a little bit surprised," said Meacham, who came to TCU after a one-year stint as coordinator at Houston and spending the previous eight seasons on Mike Gundy's staff at Oklahoma State.
"But I'm very glad he did."
Realizing change was needed wasn't easy for Patterson, who said he agonized after the Horned Frogs' disappointing 4-8 season a year ago. TCU lost four games by three points or less. It was Patterson's second losing season during his 13-season tenure with TCU and his first without a bowl since 2004.
But changes in college football made him realize that his program needed to evolve in order to compete.
The wisdom of the move has been seen after the first several weeks of practice as the Horned Frogs prepare for their Aug. 30 opener against Samford.
"We go really fast," Cumbie said. "We talk fast, think fast, play fast. And hopefully we'll keep it as simple as we can."
But TCU doesn''t appear to be any closer to naming its starting quarterback by the opener. Patterson has said that Texas A&M transfer Matt Joeckel and Trevone Boykin each will receive snaps during the game.
Cumbie, 33, and Meacham, 49, have worked well together so far. They were friendly on the recruiting trail at other jobs before coming to TCU and established a fast rapport in the meeting room.
"They've been unbelievable so far as far as their chemistry is concerned and as far as blending and doing the things we need to do," Patterson said.
The transition should benefit the Horned Frogs in several ways. It will provide an offense better suited to utilize TCU's assortment of skill-position players.
The most notable could be Boykin, who said he lost 27 pounds from his freshman season and could end up as a slot receiver or running back if Joeckel wins the starting job.
Two weeks http://t.co/UrRax50raM— TCU Football (@TCUFootball) August 17, 2014
Changing the offensive philosophy also should benefit the Horned Frogs' defense as they will practice against the type of offense they will see regularly in the Big 12.
But perhaps most importantly, the offensive switch should benefit TCU in recruiting. In order to compete in attracting top skill-position players, the Horned Frogs had to evolve offensively.
The addition of the new coordinators is an obvious concession to the Horned Frogs' new conference. No matter how good they have been on defense -- they have ranked first and second in their first two years in the league -- a potent offense is needed to consistently pile up victories in the Big 12.
The offense has struggled since coming to the Big 12, ranking ninth last season in average total yards (344.8) and eighth in scoring (25.1 points per game). The coordinators' previous successes make them confident their ideas and philosophies can help change the culture at TCU.
"Coach Patterson has been open, not just in practice, but also in recruiting and adapting to different ideas and things that people are doing," Cumbie said. "Maybe one of us has done it differently at a previous place and he's been open to it.
"The biggest thing is at the end of the day, does it help us get better and win games? That's the kind of criteria of using anything new is that you have to be able to adapt."
• College football tickets