Elissa Walker Campbell: Beyond the X’s and O’s with TCU Head Coach Gary Patterson
The Cleburne Times-Review Wed Apr 13, 2011, 12:24 PM CDT
Gary Patterson has brought class and pride to Texas Christian University football program and as a result it has changed the national perception of the university itself.
The Frogs are coming off their most successful season in decades, posting a 13-0 record and Rose Bowl win over the Big Ten’s Wisconsin Badgers. Now entering the 2011 season the Frogs look to regroup after senior departures, led by the graduation of their standout quarterback Andy Dalton. However, there is ample reason for optimism at TCU as the Frogs have found nuggets on both sides of the football. I had the recent pleasure of interviewing Patterson on my regional radio show and we discussed the Frogs’ incredible finish and previewed the upcoming year.
EWC: 2010 was undeniably a historic year for the Frogs. Have you had a chance to truly digest the success and the long-term impact it will have with your program?
GP: You can put it all into perspective on a national landscape in history, as we’re only the fifth team to ever play in the Rose Bowl outside the Pac 10 and Big Ten Conference and win it.
And so, for us, it was an honor and we were excited about the opportunity the Rose Bowl gave us to be a part of that ball game — and the way our kids played. And now, just looking at the landscape on a national level, the way people think about TCU is different. However, I always share that you have to back it up, as you don’t want to be one good team, but a great program and that’s what we’ve been trying to accomplish over the last ten years.
EWC: There were a number of highlights from the Rose Bowl victory in the 21-19 win over fourth-ranked Wisconsin Badgers.
The highlight in that particular game was when your linebacker Tank Carder swatted down a two-point conversion pass attempt with two minutes to play.
The Frogs executed down the stretch and really came together as a team.
GP: Well, I have a saying, “Thanks for the Football Gods,” the guy was open and you just have to make plays. You don’t know why it happened, but it did, and it worked in our favor. I will share that we’ve been a part of those games with the Fiesta Bowl where the fake punt got the best of us. You take it when you can get it. We’re glad that Tank Carder was a part of the TCU football team because he made a great play.
EWC: How difficult is it as a coach to turn the page and move forward after having such a record-breaking year and such an outstanding senior class led by your quarterback Andy Dalton?
GP: We’ve done it many times and had a lot of players and teams that won a lot of football games. Yes, it’s hard, but you have to understand that if you want to be a good program, you’ve always got to be able to remember those guys and all the memories. However, you also have to understand that nobody else cares about that right now. We’re back to being 0-0. Our focus now is growing up the next group, so they will have the same feeling and win as many ball games as they can.
EWC: Share with us about spring practice and what you’ve been impressed with the most?
GP: The thing I’ve been excited about in spring ball is how hungry they are. Yes, we’ve got a long way to go, and you can’t just replace guys that have been with us and a part of our system, and then expect a quarterback like a Casey Pachall or a Matt Brown to pick up where Andy Dalton left off. But, that doesn’t mean they don’t have their own strengths and positives. Maybe in some ways it will make us better. Every day is a new day. I know this much, I won’t have to go on a diet or do some extra running because with all the young players out here, my staff and I are coaching harder than we have in the past couple of years. This is what makes this job fun. To do things people don’t believe that you can do. We’ll see how it all turns out.
EWC: How have you maintained such a high level of consistency within the program over the past 10 years?
GP: You have to credit a great coaching staff. Head coaches get far too much credit for all that stuff. The biggest thing is that our staff has been consistent. We’ve not had a lot of turnover. We have great guys that know how to coach and evaluate. I’ve been very fortunate that they’ve stuck around. Many have been offered to go other places. In addition, we have strong ties in the state of Texas with our high school coaches. We value their opinions about the players and how they do things. So, when you have such a great nucleus and pool of players that you can recruit from, it certainly makes your job easier. In fact, I think that 325-350 Division I signees every year come from our state. And, that always make your job a little easier.
EWC: Thoughts about the upcoming season?
GP: We’re at our evaluation stage. In our first five to six practices, we teach and have installed our offense and defense. We’re working hard to improve and get better every single day. I would evaluate this group as a hungry team that is eager to learn. We still have a long ways to go, but the only way you can get better is to get a lot of reps in and put them in positions that they can learn. It is necessary in order for them to be successful.
EWC: How long will it take to determine what this team will be able to accomplish in the months to come?
GP: Usually by now, I’ve come up with a saying that fits this particular group and its personality. At this point, I’ve not come up with one yet. I’m still getting a feel for these guys. This team changes drastically every day because of our youth. Sure we will eventually determine a motto, but in the meantime, it will be interesting to see how it all turns out.
EWC: Let’s hit on the schedule and the Frogs’ first game in Waco with the Baylor Bears on Sept. 3rd. Your thoughts on this particular matchup?
GP: Baylor has done a great job of building this program. Coach Art Briles has brought in a new and good defensive coordinator, Phil Bennett, to show them and help out on that side of the ball. We always know that going down to Waco is going to be tough.
But for us, it’s a chance to try and start the season off with a win. And we know that we have great challenges ahead of us, but we’ve got to find a way to win by one point.
Elissa Walker-Campbell is the host of the The Big E Sports Radio Show