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Gary Patterson: "You've got to reinvent yourself."

Dallas Morning News

Dallas Morning News

Why does Gary Patterson spend two hours a night watching his Twitter feed? Why did he ditch 14 years, most of them wildly successful, of head coaching experience to send his offense in an entirely different direction? Why can't I stop asking questions?

Those entirely unrelated queries arrive at the exact same point: after 30-plus years in coaching, Patterson had to reinvent himself.

First, the part you know. After a better-than-it-looks-on-paper 4-8 season in which his Frogs ranked 88th nationally in scoring offense and 105th in yards per play, Patterson knew he had to change the direction of TCU's offense.

In pulling Doug Meacham away from Houston and Sonny Cumbie away from Texas Tech, Patterson said he wanted to hire coaches experienced in doing more with less. He also wanted guys that got along with the existing offensive staff. Fortunate enough to have co-offensive coordinators Jarrett Anderson and Rusty Burns stay on in reduced roles, Patterson stuck Meacham and Cumbie in the staff room and waited to see if they gelled. "Those guys have got to like them," Patterson said, speaking to a crowd of close to 4,000 coaches at the AFCA Convention last week in Lousiville. "It's not that I like them."

Though scoring more points was the chief reason Patterson changed offenses, it wasn't the only one. TCU had to start recruiting better. Patterson's number one priority was getting back into East Texas; he also wanted to stop watching capable skill players leave the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

On top of all that, Patterson thought it was just time to change. "You get to a point where you're set in your ways. The reality is, you've got to change," he said. "It made practice more fun. Some of the changes we made made our defense better."

The Frogs' yards per play numbers stayed excellent (4.83 in 2013, 13th nationally; 4.66 in 2014, sixth nationally) but their scoring defense average by a touchdown (25.3 vs. 19.0) thanks to a turnover margin that spiked by a takeaway a game, from 28 a year ago to 40 this fall - an FBS best 3.08 a game.

Now for the part you might not know: Patterson follows more than 11,000 people on Twitter. As a point of reference, Kevin Sumlin follows 445, Kliff Kingsbury follows 647, and Bob Stoops follows 377. Art Briles follows 65. In addition to recruits, national media and the rest of the usual suspects, Patterson wants to know what the sophomore studying for her anthropology exam has to say. The 54-year-old coach wants to know what the 17-to-25 year-old crowd is thinking. Patterson said he logs on Twitter from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. to see what his own personal field study is saying, "and it scares the hell out of me."

But there is no better way to stay on the cutting edge when your life's work is developing 18-to-22 year olds. "You've got to be able to reinvent yourself," said Patterson.