Nearly two decades into his tenure at TCU, Gary Patterson has built the Horned Frogs into a nationally prominent program. An impressive feat, to be sure, but far more notable is that he and his staffs have largely done so by digging up diamonds in the rough and not only surviving but thriving on what’s oftentimes the scraps left behind from regional recruiting powers and college football’s blue bloods.
Since the recruiting services began tracking rankings at the tail end of the 20th Century, TCU has never once capped a cycle with a class ranked within the top 20 nationally. That seemingly shouldn’t be the case — far from it — given that TCU is not only rooted in the fertile recruiting region that is the DFW Metroplex, but the Horned Frogs win... a lot. Since 2000 when Patterson took over for Dennis Franchione, TCU has amassed 12 10-plus win seasons, including an unblemished 13-0 effort in 2010. The program has enjoyed the heightened spotlight that came with its inclusion in the Big 12 in 2012, and with some help of former TCU and current Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte, the Horned Frogs funded multiple renovation projects.
Simply put, there’s a lot to like about the football program Patterson has built, yet when the playing field is shifted from the football field to the recruiting trail, TCU typically becomes somewhat of an afterthought, at least as far as in-state efforts are concerned.
This often indescribable reality was evident last cycle as Patterson had to venture north and sign four-star quarterback and Iowa Gatorade Player of the Year, Max Duggan, as the headliner of his 2019 class. Furthermore, not only is an Iowa native the headliner of TCU’s class, but the top-ranked in-state signee, Wichita Falls Hirschi running back Daimarqua Foster, ranked outside of the top 35 in the state.
Meanwhile, Texas signed six of the state’s top talents in 2019, while nine others inked their future with Texas A&M, which, of course, makes in-state recruiting a bit more daunting, as Patterson described during Big 12 Media Days.
“Well, you know, I tell you. We’re gaining — I tell you what we found. We always lose the arms race in the state of Texas because for every one person that yells TCU, you have 50 people that yell [Texas] A&M or Texas or Texas Tech or whoever, because we’re a smaller school,” Patterson said when asked of recruiting Duggan. “So I think we have a better reputation even outside of the state if you look at the admissions. I think somewhere around in the 50s is non-Texan. So we started riding our circles.”
Patterson’s sentiments are becoming evident once again halfway through the 2020 cycle.
Thus far, half of TCU’s No. 46-ranked class hail from elsewhere, including three of the top five talents, and none of the entire bunch rank within the top 230 nationally, per the 247Sports Composite.
But, as Patterson noted, TCU often finds itself losing the arms race because “for every one person that yells TCU, you have 50” yelling Texas or Texas A&M.
That’s evident once again, as each of Texas’ eight pledges thus far are home-grown products, and all but one rank within the top 230 nationally, while nine of Texas A&M’s 15 commits are Texas natives, including three of the state’s top 15 prospects.
What can TCU do to address this reality? That much somehow still remains to be seen.
In cities such as Austin and College Station, the answer is often as simple as win and they will come — recruits typically still sign up even when the state’s two recruiting powers aren’t winning. But, a winning record obviously doesn’t reap recruiting rewards in Fort Worth.
Until it does, if it ever does, it appears Patterson and the Horned Frogs will simply continue to riding the out-of-state roots they’ve established.