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24 TCU

Aug. 16, 2004
Aug. 16, 2004

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Aug. 16, 2004

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24 TCU

With a strong line fronting a potent and balanced offense, the Horned Frogs will again be bowl-bound

In Anthony Alabi, TCU has a left tackle who spends hours reading for pleasure at Barnes & Noble and admits to watching A Wedding Story on TLC. “But only every now and then,” says Alabi, 23, who’s engaged to be married. Naturally, coach Gary Patterson would prefer a nails-eating tough guy at Alabi’s position. “An offensive lineman really needs to have a grab-you-by-the-throat attitude,” Patterson says. “For him to be the player he wants to be, his temperament has to pick up.”

This is an article from the Aug. 16, 2004 issue Original Layout

Considering the progress Alabi has made the last three years, that’s not out of the question. He enrolled at Navy in 1999, intending to play defensive tackle as a walk-on, but his coaches, seeing that Alabi had the 6'6" frame, long arms and thick legs ideally suited for left tackle, wanted him to play offense. Instead, Alabi switched schools. In January 2000 the Texas native transferred to TCU, and called director of football operations Charley North to ask about walking on there. “He was about to hang up on me, and then he asked, ‘How big are you?’” Alabi recalls. “I told him I was 6'6", 280, even though I was only 250 at the time. He told me, ‘Get up here as soon as you can.’”

After redshirting in 2000, Alabi was offered a scholarship by then coach Dennis Franchione--if he would make the switch to offense. Alabi finally consented, and last season, as a junior at TCU, he anchored the line that helped the Horned Frogs average more than 200 yards rushing and 200 yards passing per game. “When I moved to tackle, the position just fit like a glove,” says Alabi, who’s up to 320 pounds. “I think it goes back to grade school: I was never the bully, I was the guy who protected all the kids from the bully.”

TCU played the bully for much of 2003, winning its first 10 games and flirting with a BCS bid before losing at Southern Miss and finishing 11–2. This season they’ll have another potent ground game, with junior Lonta Hobbs (nine rushing TDs despite an ankle injury) and sophomore Robert Merrill (five 100-yard games) and two proven winners at quarterback: likely starter Brandon Hassell (7–2 as a starter) and Tye Gunn (8–0). “We won 11 games last year, and we’re still not satisfied,” Alabi says. “That says a lot about how far we’ve come.” --G.M.

FAST FACTS

2003 RECORD 11–2 (7–1, 2nd in C-USA)

FINAL AP RANK 25 RETURNING STARTERS 14

KEY RETURNEES (2003 stats)

T Anthony Alabi (Sr.)

First-team All–Conference USA selection

WR Reggie Harrell (Sr.)

Had TCU’s first 1,000-yard-receiving season

LB Martin Patterson (Sr.)

17 of team-leading 103 tackles were for loss

CB Mark Walker (Sr.)

Led conference with 19 passes defended

S Marvin Godbolt (Sr.)

Four INTs in three games before knee injury

TELLING NUMBER

2

Teams--TCU and New Mexico--that rushed for more than 200 yards per game in 2003 while giving up less than 100 rushing yards per game.

BREAKOUT PLAYER

The No. 3 tailback at the start of last season, Robert Merrill replaced the injured Lonta Hobbs in the third game and went on to rush for a TCU freshman record 1,107 yards (breaking Hobbs’s mark of 1,029 set in 2002). A healthy Hobbs and the 5'10", 203-pound Merrill form one of the best rushing duos in the nation.

SCHEDULE

Sept. 2 NORTHWESTERN

11 SMU

18 at Texas Tech

25 SOUTH FLORIDA

Oct. 2 at Army

16 at UAB 23 HOUSTON 30 at Cincinnati

Nov. 9 at Louisville

20 SOUTHERN MISS 27 TULANE

COLOR PHOTOBILL FRAKESFROG LEGSHobbs (30) and Merrill, TCU’s tandem tailbacks, have both rushed for more than 1,000 yards in a season.