FORT WORTH, Texas — TCU coach Gary Patterson already had a hoarse voice after only one day of spring practice.
The message to this team was the same as each spring, work toward the goal of winning a conference championship — now in the Big 12 instead of the Mountain West, where the Horned Frogs won the last three — and the chance to one day play for a national championship.
"We'll move straight forward," Patterson said after practice ended early Friday night.
Unfortunately for the Frogs, the expanded crowd of nearly two dozen reporters and cameras wasn't because of the pending move to the Big 12.
TCU, coming off its fourth consecutive season with at least 11 wins, started spring practice only nine days after four players were among 15 current and four former TCU students were arrested on drug charges.
Those players, including three past starters on defense, are no longer on the team.
"The most disappointing thing for me is I kind of felt like everybody decided ... all of a sudden that we went from really good to everybody's bad," Patterson said, speaking publicly for the first time since the Feb. 15 arrests. "And that's not true."
The arrested players were linebacker Tanner Brock, defensive tackle D.J. Yendrey, cornerback Devin Johnson, and reserve offensive lineman Ty Horn.
Police said the players and other students were caught making "hand-to-hand" sales of marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy and prescription drugs to undercover officers. They said the bust followed an investigation prompted by complaints from students, parents and others.
In arrest affidavits, charged players indicated they felt many players could have failed a surprise drug test given to the team Feb. 1. Patterson publicly acknowledged that test Friday, but never said specifically what led to it.
"Any time I think there is a problem, I'm not saying there was, I'm going to find out and check it off," he said.
Patterson said sometimes kids think they "become invincible" and have to find out the hard way. He also said: "It's our job to protect all the good guys."
Brock allegedly told an undercover officer that he failed the surprise test "for sure," but it wouldn't be a problem because there "would be about 60 people screwed." When Johnson was asked about the test, he allegedly told an undercover officer, "What can they do, 82 people failed it."Comment on this story
The day after the arrests, a Fort Worth Star-Telegram report based on unnamed sources said only five players failed the test.
While not getting specific, Patterson said Friday that "the numbers that were thrown out early are not true. ... Reality is somewhere in between."
Brock was the team's leading tackler as a sophomore in the 2010 season when the Frogs finished 13-0 and won the Rose Bowl. He played the opener last year before season-ending foot surgery. Yendrey started 12 of 13 games last season and Johnson started the last eight while playing all 13. Horn started once.
"I still feel badly for those four," said Patterson, who hasn't yet spoken to them and is still thinking about what he will say when he does. "You wish you could have saved them, you wish you could have gotten to them before it happened."