TCU Daily Skiff Tuesday, April 6, 2004
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Defense reigns in scrimmage
The football team concluded spring drills Saturday with confidence and high hopes for next season.


By Brent Yarina
Sports Editor


Jerome Braziel hasn’t quite achieved household name status as a defensive back in his first three seasons with the Horned Frogs, but he could be well on his way.

In Saturday’s Purple-White scrimmage that marked the end of spring drills, the senior cornerback set the tone with an over-the-shoulder interception on the scrimmage’s third play. The early pick paved the way for a 60-minute defensive-struggle, featuring a combined five turnovers and nine sacks, between the first and second-team defenses.
Braziel said the impressive interception was nothing more than instinct.

“Our defense is real fast,” he said. “When the ball is in the air, I go get it and that’s exactly what I did.”

In front of a couple thousand fans at Amon Carter Stadium, the first-team won 7-3, despite scoring the scrimmage’s lone touchdown on the second-to-last play of the contest.

Although Braziel didn’t have a role in that touchdown, he feels he’s made the most of all his opportunities this spring.

“I didn’t feel that I had to prove anything, just make the plays that coach Patterson and his staff think I can make,” he said. “They brought me in to make plays, and this was my time to shine.”

Braziel wasn’t the only Frog who shined in the secondary this spring.

And that is great news for the entire team because if there was one glaring weakness the Frogs needed to address this offseason, it was the secondary.

In fact, all the cornerbacks performed so well during spring drills that head coach Gary Patterson said this could be the best unit he’s ever had.

“They have made us a lot better because of the competition,” Patterson said. “We probably have a chance to be the best at the corner position since I’ve been here.”
Braziel attributes the secondary’s great team speed to the unit’s vast improvement since last season.

“We play real fast,” Braziel said. “We came out here just to make plays, and we pride ourselves on that. Our defense is real fast and flies to the ball and makes plays.”

As great as the defense played Saturday, the offense’s performance was the exact opposite, gaining just 201 yards on 79 plays.

Both offensive teams struggled to move the ball down the field and looked out of sync for most of the scrimmage.

Sophomore running back Robert Merrill led the scrimmage with 42 rushing yards and junior quarterback Tye Gunn, who completed 12-27 passes, led the way with 132 passing yards. Gunn also threw two interceptions.

But Patterson is not stressing over the poor offensive output.

“(Our defense) knew every play out of every formation,” he said. “It’s hard to tell how everything goes because we’ve played each other so much and are so familiar with it.”
For Gunn, who missed spring drills last season with a knee injury, the statistics aren’t as important as getting repetitions and being healthy.

“I still have a long way to go,” he said of his comeback from two injury-riddled seasons. “Overall, it’s just a learning process I have to go through. (Spring drills) keep you sharp enough, then I can build on it.”

Senior quarterback Brandon Hassell was left out of the scrimmage as a precautionary measure; he is recovering from a stress fracture in his foot.

Patterson still denies the Frogs have any sort of quarterback controversy brewing, however.

“I’d say Brandon and Tye are the guy,” he said. “It’s not a controversy. They both just haven’t been able to practice. They play a lot alike and manage the clock well. That’s what we want from our quarterback.”

Whether it is Hassell or Gunn, Patterson thinks the Frogs have a lot to look forward to next season.

“I’m excited with what we have in front of us,” Patterson said. “We’ve never had the best players here. We just try to put together the best teams.”
 
 
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