FORT WORTH, Texas -- It didn't take long for Gary Patterson to figure out his 2012 freshman class he'd signed in 2012 was different from most he'd encountered as TCU's coach.
For one, it was the first class he'd ever signed with the promise that each player would play out his career in the Big 12 Conference. More than that, though, when Patterson was forced to play 17 of his true freshmen in 2012, he wasn't too surprised when the result wasn't a disaster.
Instead, stars like defensive end Devonte Fields emerged. He won the Big 12's Defensive Player of the Year award, and running back B.J. Catalon, place-kicker Jaden Oberkrom and offensive lineman Aviante Collins earned time as starters. Cornerback Deante' Gray played in the secondary and scored a touchdown on TCU's first touch of the season, a punt return in the season opener against Grambling.
"The freshman class, we knew they were a bit of a different class than what we’d had in the past anyway," Patterson told ESPN.com in a recent interview. "Just the way their mindset is, to the way they approached the summer time and the classwork they did and the offseason work they did with [strength and conditioning] Coach [Don] Sommer."
Before 2012, Patterson had never played more than six true freshmen as a head coach.
Twelve more redshirt freshmen like quarterback Trevone Boykin and receiver LaDarius Brown showed the ability to play immediately and contribute in a tougher conference than the Frogs were used to. Chris Hackett earned a starting safety job less than a third of the way through the season.
Now, it's time for those 28 first-year players to take the next step for the Frogs in one of the most highly anticipated seasons in school history.
"'I want to play and play well,' but playing, you already achieved that," Patterson said of his freshmen. "The biggest thing going forward now, it’s setting goals team-wise, winning championships and playing big and playing well in these kinds of ballgames."
Patterson saw inconsistency in games like losses to Oklahoma State, when the Frogs led 14-9 at halftime but were outscored 27-0 in the second half of the 36-14 loss. He wants consistency, but consistency at a high level.
"So, how do you do that? That comes with maturity and all the other things," Patterson said. "We spent a lot of time talking about the things we have to do to make sure that [inconsistency] doesn’t happen again."