Continuing our series checking in with the beat writers who cover Oklahoma State’s conference opponents as we march closer to the start of football season.
TCU with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Stefan Stevenson.
Here’s our exchange:
Gina Mizell: What’s the vibe around Fort Worth, now that we’re days away from TCU really becoming a member of the Big 12? Can TCU challenge for the Big 12 title in Year 1? What are the biggest keys to being in contention come November?
Stefan Stevenson: It’s certainly possible, but everything would have to go perfect for TCU. Meaning no significant injuries, young players filling big holes with little experience, and the brakes from week to week will have to fall the Frogs’ way. Having said that, another reason why TCU could contend in 2012 is the league’s apparent parity. Oklahoma has issues and they’re the consensus favorite. West Virginia could be overrated. Texas could still be a year away from really turning it around. So nothing would shock me. I think it’s going to be a jumbled standings mess in November. The biggest keys for TCU besides staying healthy are the play of QB Casey Pachall. If he improves on his outstanding 2011 season, the offense could be deadly. The offensive line has depth issues but it may be less of a liability than I once thought. Defensively TCU should be better but the linebacker spot is very thin and the Frogs will have to rely on a slew of young players to start along with senior Kenny Cain.
GM: Give me the rundown on Casey Pachall. Obviously, a talented quarerback. Obviously, a bit of a different cat with the tattoos and the mohawk. But where does he rank in this group of Big 12 signal-callers? And for someone who has never seen him play in person, what makes him effective?
SS: Casey is a laidback, country-sounding guy, which really doesn’t fit his appearance. He’s soft spoken and respectful to the media. I’d rank him, just on physical talent, up there with Landry Jones and Geno Smith. He’s big (6-foot-5) and throws a very accurate pass with velocity, but also touch, when necessary. As a first-year starter in 2011, he did a great job of not trying to force too many passes. He could show improvement running the ball, which was the lone negative part of his game last year.
GM: TCU has been known for great defenses. With Stansly Maponga anchoring the front line, how good can this unit be this season? Especially in facing so many high-powered offenses in the Big 12?
SS: That’s the biggest question facing TCU. But it’s also the same question most of the Big 12 teams are asking themselves. Can anyone stop anyone else? I think TCU’s defense will be better than last year because the secondary is much improved. Trouble is, you may not be able to detect all that much improvement because the Frogs will be playing, as you pointed out, much better offenses.
GM: How has the move to the Big 12 impacted recruiting? TCU is already in a hotbed of talent. Are more athletes in the metroplex even more interested in the Frogs, now that they’d get a chance to play in the Big 12?
SS: That’s tough to know at this point. Gary Patterson says it has helped already, but he also points out that he was already competing with other Big 12 schools for the top talent in the state. Now that TCU is in the league, it should help persuade recruits on the fence. Those that were leaning towards TCU but didn’t want to play in the Mountain West don’t have that problem anymore.
GM: What can the move to the Big 12 do for Gary Patterson’s status as one of the nation’s elite coaches? He’s already been to two BCS games and won the Rose Bowl. But will this allow him to break away from being compared to the Chris Petersons and Utah Urban Meyers of the world and prove he’s on par with Bob Stoops, Mack Brown, Les Miles, etc.?
SS: Well, obviously, if Patterson helps TCU win the the Big 12 in the near future he’d have to be put up there with the best coaches in the country. He’s already respected for building TCU into one of the most consistent winners of the last 10 years. The only question remains is whether he can win in one of the nation’s toughest leagues.