Managing the Transfer Portal Was Key to TCU Football’s Dream Season


Sonny Dykes was just a few weeks head football coach at Texas Christian University last winter when he and wife Kate made the 122-mile drive south from Fort Worth to Temple. His to-do list was already full, but nothing was more important than visiting starwide receiver Quentin Johnston and convincing him to stay at TCU next season.

Gary Patterson has coached Johnston for the past two years with the Horned Frogs, but now, with TCU sidelining Patterson for eight games into the 2021 season, Johnston says the NCAA transfer portal is giving him a chance. I knew I was giving

Coaching changes could prompt a massive outflow of talent to the transfer portal, and Dykes did everything he could to prevent players from leaving during his first few days at TCU. Having spent the season as head coach at Southern Methodist University, he had a keen understanding of how a transfer could ruin a team, or improve one if pursued skillfully. “There are different points of view,” Dykes told me last fall. “I decided to see the roster as an opportunity to improve. And I see it as an opportunity to correct young people if they make a mistake. [at TCU] We have started recruiting current players. More than ever, we have to face things head-on. But not now. ”

To illustrate how the 12-1 Horned Frogs, a preseason pick who finished 7th in the Big 12, are having one of their best seasons yet and will take on Michigan in Saturday’s national semifinals. A good place to start the drive Sonny and Kate Dykes took to Temple. After accepting the TCU job, Dykes vowed to do everything he could to keep the team’s roster intact. However, the first issue on the agenda was to retain the veteran talent, star wide receiver Verston.

When Dykes and Kate hopped in the car to visit Johnston’s family home in Temple, they thought it would be the first of about 20 offseason home visits to meet TCU players across Texas. . The COVID-19 outbreak nearly halved that number, but the messages Dykes delivered to Johnston and other Horned Frogs players he managed to visit were still going through the program. . “One of the first things I said to my players was, ‘Like everybody’s on the same page, you that is my guys,” Dykes said athletic“I didn’t bring you, but I’m not going to sit there after losing and say, ‘Wait till I get it.’ my they. ‘Because I don’t believe it. ”

Quentin’s parents, Shelley and Karl Johnston, welcomed Dyxes into their home, fed him, and exchanged phone numbers during the two-hour visit. “Coach Dykes, he’s just warm,” Karl said. athletic“He’s easy to talk to. The way he is, I like his temperament.”

Quentin Johnston recalled that weeks after Dykes sat in the living room, the new coach announced that any player who had no appointments on Easter Sunday would be welcomed into Dykes’ house. “They basically opened up their homes to people who had nowhere to go,” Johnston said. athletic“That alone woke everyone up to the fact that he really cared about us. This is the man I want to go and fight every day.”

Johnston’s decision to stay at TCU paid off. Adding to the team’s success this season, he has caught his 53 passes for 903 yards and is projected to be a top 15 pick in his NFL Draft next spring.

Few NCAA football programs managed their final offseason as effectively as TCU. Horned Frogs have lost 12 of his players, including a good player. However, Dykes retained key contributors, including Johnston, and in the 247Sports he was ranked 13th in a class where he earned 14 transfers.

“We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t add them.” [transfer] Player,” Dykes said. houston chronicle“It’s a quick way to fix the program.” TCU’s starting defense included several transfers, including first-team All-Big 12 cornerback Josh Newton and second-team All-Conference linebacker Johnny Hodges. Hodges is a former lacrosse player and part-time starter in the Navy. Only TCU showed interest when he entered the transfer portal. He led the Horned Frogs with his 76 tackles and the Big 12 Defensive He was named Newcomer of the Year. Newton earned All-Big 12 honors as the starting cornerback against senior mainstay Trevius-Hodges-Tomlinson, who won a Jim Thorpe Award earlier this month.

Dykes’ management in and out of the transfer portal was impressive, but it wouldn’t have made sense if the coach couldn’t build a cohesive team amidst all that change. The Horned Frogs also won consistently in close quarters, including six come-from-behind victories.

The Frogs scored 28 straight points to overcome an 18-point deficit in October’s victory over Kansas State. Heisman Trophy runner-up quarterback Max Duggan threw his pass for his 24-yard touchdown to Johnston to beat Kansas with 96 ticks left. TCU defeated Baylor with nine points in the last two minutes and seven seconds. In one, they pushed their field goal unit onto the field with no timeouts and lined Griffinkel into a 40-yard kick at the buzzer.

Among those close games was Oklahoma’s 31-point beatdown and Iowa State’s 48-point loss. The TCU defense allowed Texas only 199 total yards in the 17–10 win over Austin. TCU’s magic finally ran out with a 31-28 overtime loss to Kansas State in the Big 12 Championship Game.

“I think we have a very gritted, competitive team with a lot of confidence,” Dykes said at a press conference ahead of this week’s college football playoffs. “That’s the key. When we have a team that can overcome deficits, it comes down to trust and trust in each other. , comes from the understanding that you have accomplished what is necessary.

“So if things go wrong early in the ball game, don’t panic,” he continued. “Keep polishing guys, keep working…we’re the team that never paid much attention to the scoreboard. We just keep playing.”

In a season in which the Horned Frogs were forced to rally behind again and again, in a season when little anyone outside the program knew what to expect of them, they made the college football playoffs for the first time. Became a Texas team.The team achieves it after starting the season unranked.

Guard Wes Harris said this week, “We’re excited to get out there and show what we can do.” I don’t think it’s ever been on a scale like this before.”


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