FORT WORTH, Texas — TCU is going into the Big 12 after adding some bulk and depth to the front lines.
The Horned Frogs' signing class of 23 players before moving into their new conference next season includes three offensive tackles — all at least 6-foot-5 and 265 pounds. There are also four defensive linemen and a linebacker who could be a defensive end.
"You always have to fill needs," coach Gary Patterson said Wednesday. "One of the biggest things changing conferences and all the kids we lost, we felt we had to be successful up front."
The Frogs had three senior starting offensive linemen last season, when they won their third consecutive Mountain West Conference title before leaving for the Big 12. There were no seniors on the defensive front, but Patterson wanted to add depth on that side.
"All are high-level kids, all of them can run," Patterson said of those big defenders.
Linebacker James McFarland (6-3, 240 pounds) and defensive end Terrell Lathan (6-5, 260) were teammates while leading West Monroe to a Louisiana state championship last year.
While the Frogs signed 18 players from Texas, two of other out-of-state additions were a pair of safeties from Georgia — Jordan Moore and Zach Johnson. Moore, a speedster who was also a receiver in high school, made his decision public Monday night when he chose TCU over the likes of Auburn, USC, Florida and Ohio State.
After four consecutive 10-win seasons, which included undefeated regular seasons in 2009 and 2010, the Frogs had been set to move to the Big East Conference before getting an invitation to the Texas-based Big 12 and rejoin former SWC rivals Baylor, Texas and Texas Tech.
"I think it helped us hold on to a lot of our class," Patterson said of the pending move. "There were a lot of changes in college football and change in commitments, and I think the thing about going to the Big 12 really solidified a lot of our class and held them in place. ... Kids got to stay close to home, play in their backyard and get an opportunity to play and not having to go very far to do the things they need to do."
Regardless of conference affiliation, Patterson said the biggest thing the Frogs have to do is keep winning.
Aviante Collins, a 6-6, 310-pound tackle from Willowridge High in Houston was the biggest of the three offensive linemen signed. The others were Chad Childs (6-5, 280) from La Grange, Texas; and Halapoulivaati Vaitai (6-6, 265) from Haltom High, who Patterson aptly referred to as "Big V."
Three of the offensive signees already enrolled at classes at TCU and set to go through spring drills are quarterback Tyler Matthews from McPherson, Kansas; speedy tailback B.J. Catalon from Houston Westside and Kolby Listenbee from Arlington Bowie, only a few miles from the TCU campus.
Matthews, one of the top pro-style quarterback recruits in the nation, threw for 6,541 yards with 62 touchdowns and only eight interceptions during his high school career. He chose the Frogs over staying home to play at Kansas or Kansas State.
TCU also signed two tight ends (6-6 Gerren Ballard and 6-5 Griffin Gilbert), and another quarterback, Austin Aune, who passed for 3,411 yards and accounted for 42 touchdowns (33 passing, nine rushing) last season for Argyle, Texas.