After College Football Playoff hangover, TCU looks to reconnect in 2024

Sonny Dykes takes the blame for TCU’s turnaround from reaching the national championship game in 2022 to failing to achieve bowl eligibility in 2023.

“We didn’t really get the little things right that it takes to win football games, and that really comes down to coaching,” he said at Big 12 media day Tuesday. “We’ve got to do a better job coaching this year. We certainly didn’t get the continuity of the national championship run from 2022 to 2023 that we wanted.”

“We had an incredible run in 2022. It was a fun year where everything went our way. We had tremendous leadership. A lot of experience on that team and we lost a lot of it last year,” he said. “Now we’re ready to get back to playing TCU football.”

Commissioner Brett Yormark says the Big 12 has established itself as one of the top three conferences in the country.

Replacing that leadership and experience has been an uphill battle, but Dykes said TCU is making progress. He said teams are able to turn over half their roster year to year and that after 2022, they lost many of the juniors to the NFL draft that they would normally rely on to develop into senior leaders. This year, TCU made sure most of the transfers were able to join spring training to help fill the gaps, and the coaching staff is determined to take a more proactive approach to team-building.

“We have to make sure that we’re not relying on our players to teach (leadership skills) and pass on that tradition. That’s something that we have to teach as coaches,” Dykes said. “So we’ve taken a much more active approach in trying to, first of all, build relationships with our players to be very intentional about just getting together, spending time together doing things outside of football to gain each other’s trust and get the guys, first of all, to get to know each other.”

The result? A “team-oriented team.”

“The guys care about each other. There’s not a lot of talk about individual accolades or making the league or anything like that. And the guys want to win, and they want to put their lives on the line for each other and for TCU,” he said. “So it’s a great-feeling team. It has the hunger that successful teams have and the determination that successful teams tend to have.”

TCU’s key offseason issues: Implementing DC Andy Avalos’ new defense in 2024

New look of defense

The Horned Frogs’ defense will look quite a bit different next year thanks to new defensive coordinator Andy Avalos. TCU has used a three-man front in the past, which Dykes explained is counterintuitively difficult to recruit, because those three guys have to be so big. The four-man front Avalos is implementing, on the other hand, gives the Horned Frogs a lot of flexibility in regards to who they can play on the edge, with only two traditional defensive linemen on the interior. Dykes believes the new formation will help TCU with speed and pass rush.

“I think the biggest area of ​​improvement for us is going to be the pass rush. When you get pressure on the quarterback, that changes the game,” he said. “And we’re going to be able to put a lot of different body types out there and players that can run and that can be aggressive and we can create some good matchups on the edge and also resist the run on a four-down play.”

TCU finished last season in the middle of the Big 12 in sacks and rushing yards allowed per game, but is bringing in several three-star transfer and freshman defensive linemen to bolster the unit for next season. They will be crucial because the sport is changing and many quarterbacks can now “dissect you” if given the time, Dykes said. Dykes said rushing the quarterback is becoming one of the most important things to do.

“All you have to do is look at the NFL and the two highest-paid positions are quarterback and pass rusher,” he said. “There are so many effective and efficient offenses that people are running that I think there’s really a lot of emphasis on rushing quarterbacks.”

Press conference transcripts courtesy of ASAP Sports. Read the full transcript here.

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