Gary Patterson has injected a winning pattern into the TCU football program.
Why are the Frogs so good? If you said TCU is fast, quick and has good athletes, you'd be right.
Patterson does a great job of recruiting athletes from the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, netting players from the rich well that is Texas football.
If you said TCU plays great defense, you'd also be correct. Patterson has found a formula to harness athleticism with formations, scheme and toughness.
But that barely scratches the surface.
Patterson's staff is composed of outstanding coaches. The Frogs have the best financial resources in the league. TCU's athletic budget has more than doubled in five years from $21.1 million to $43.4 million, and a chunk of that is spent on salaries.
That $43 million is significantly more money than is spent by any other league school, including BYU and Utah.
TCU's recruiting success — particularly its evaluation of talent missed by Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Baylor and out-of state raiders like Oklahoma — is part of it. Of TCU's 22 recruits in 2009, only one was from out-of-state.
But in Patterson, the league is seeing some of the best coaching in the country. The TCU brain trust could have moved to Minnesota over a year ago for twice the coin.
Patterson is the highest-paid coach in the Mountain West Conference. And it is for good reason.
He is demanding, intense and extremely competitive. He is innovative, meticulous in detail and his players have outstanding fundamentals. His background is on the defensive side, but he's well-traveled and educated.
Aside from the feared Frog defense, the TCU offense puts a lot of pressure on opposing defensive coordinators. It features "option" principles, like Air Force, that places great emphasis on gap control and assignments at the line of scrimmage. Yet it is part power runs and part finesse for isolating its superior speed. These kinds of sets inhibit a defense trying to blitz the Frogs' quarterback.
With a very good, intelligent QB like junior Andy Dalton, TCU's passing game is a big weapon. And when he makes great decisions, the Frogs are deadly. He's a big, strong runner who also takes off with the ball at the correct times, so defenders have to account for him on every play.
Another feature of Patterson's offense is the impressive number of different plays executed. Defenders have to study and prepare for so many. It is a daunting task.
A week ago, Colorado State abandoned gap control trying to get to Dalton, and TCU's offense gashed the Rams over and over again en route to a 44-6 blowout.
Defensively, contrary to popular perception, TCU doesn't run a ton of man coverage but deploys a lot of zone concepts like BYU. But all zone coverages turn into man seconds into a play, and TCU has solid safeties and corners. But the multiple looks by the front are deceptive and confusing.
The pressure attack angles are mixed and their recovery quickness is terrific.
And in defensive end Jerry Hughes, Patterson has a football assassin.
The brilliance of TCU's defense is its ability to create a lot of third-and-long situations, control field position and give its offense short fields to work with. This is done by limiting how successful a team is on first-down plays. Once in long-yardage sets, TCU's defense plays its ace card: quick effective pressure.
Patterson recruits running backs, quarterbacks and safeties and turns them into pass rushers. It's worked like a Swiss timepiece. Hughes is a former high school running back.
Their special teams play is also outstanding. Most experts say you can tell how good a football team is by how its special teams' coverage and return games work.
TCU deploys five starters on its kick-return team, including star game-breaker Jeremy Kerley, who routinely gives Dalton great field position.
Another TCU feature? Causing havoc in the third and fourth quarters. TCU has outscored its opponents 54-17 in the third period and 57-21 in the fourth. That signifies superb conditioning and motivation. Also, Patterson must do a good job of reprogramming players and making adjustments.
All that aside, it amounts to very good coaching on the part of Patterson.
Folks can talk about TCU's speed all they want, but undisciplined quickness does not equal 6-0.
And Patterson is a whistle-around-the-neck guy who has a five-star general's insignia on his coaching cap.
That's why it's even more impressive to note that while Patterson is so excellent — a 79-27 overall record at TCU — BYU and Utah stand a combined 5-1 against him since TCU won its league title in 2005.
In his 47-10 overall record during that span, half the losses are to the Utah schools.