FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — TCU coach Gary Patterson had been thinking about spreading out his offense since the Horned Frogs got in the Big 12 two years ago.
After four conference losses by three points or less last year, including three losses the final month by a combined eight points to cap a 4-8 season, Patterson knew it was time for "truly a change of philosophy." He hired co-coordinators Doug Meacham from Houston and Sonny Cumbie from Texas Tech to give TCU its own version of a faster-paced spread offense so prevalent in the Big 12 and across the country.
"The point of this offense is to win," said Patterson, the longtime defensive coordinator coming off only his second losing record in 13 seasons as TCU's head coach.
While the Frogs have put up big offensive numbers in the past, and scored at least 27 points seven times last season, the changes come heading into their third Big 12 season after a dominating run in the Mountain West.
"I feel we get to better utilize the speed and the size and the talent that we have at receivers and running back," said David Porter, who had a team-high five touchdown catches last season. "I feel it was a great change, transitioning into this new offense."
Trevone Boykin last year became the first TCU player ever with to have a 200-yard passing game, 100-yard receiving game and 100-yard rushing game in the same season, and the multi-faceted quarterback could do any number of things this season. Quarterback Matt Joeckel has joined the Frogs for his final season after backing up Johnny Manziel in a similar spread offense at Texas A&M.
"As long as I'm on the field making plays ... that's all that matters," Boykin said.
Here are five things to watch for TCU this season:
DECISION TIME: With two Saturdays off the first five weeks of the season before conference play, TCU has some time to figure things out. "Your starting quarterback the first game might not be the starting quarterback five weeks from then going into the Oklahoma game, which is the first weekend in October," Patterson said. "Two off weeks to develop players. We're going to find out what that is and how we do it." TCU opens Aug. 30 against Samford, then has open weeks before and after playing Minnesota on Sept. 13.
FAST MOVING: Cumbie said the new offensive system is not complicated, "but we go really fast." He said the biggest thing is the communication from the quarterback to everybody else. "Talk fast, think fast, play fast," Cumbie said. "And hopefully keep it as simple as we can."
NO FIELDS: Devonte Fields, the Big 12's top defensive player as a freshman in 2012 with 10 sacks, was selected as the preseason Big 12 defensive player of the year even though he played only three games last year because of a suspension and a season-ending foot injury. But after an alleged assault against his ex-girlfriend this summer, Fields was "separated" from the university for an alleged violation of the student conduct code. Without Fields for most of last season, the Frogs were second in the Big 12 allowing 356 total yards a game. They still return nine defensive starters this year.
CAT-LIKE: B.J. Catalon has started only five games the last two seasons, but led TCU in rushing each time. He also had a receiving TD and ran a kickoff back for a score. The Frogs expect that Catalon can touch the ball at least 20 times a game, whether that means 15 carries and five catches — or 10 and 10.
CLOSE TO HOME: TCU doesn't have to leave the state of Texas until its Nov. 1 game at West Virginia. That is two weeks before going to Kansas in the Horned Frogs' only other regular-season trip outside the Lone Star State.
AP college football site: http://collegefootball.ap.org/ .