Big pond will allow little fish TCU to grow

TCU built its program under Gary Patterson on home-grown talent.

Assuming the members of year's verbally-committed class all sign with the Frogs next month, TCU has signed just 17 players from outside Texas since 2009. The Frogs, meanwhile, have made a big dent in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Over that same time period, 30 of TCU's 108 signees hailed from the metroplex.

That number looks to be growing, too. TCU has 10 of its 19 commits in this year's class coming to Fort Worth from the metroplex and have had 23 in the past three years alone, thanks to two BCS bowl bids -- including a win over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl -- and a ticket to join the Big 12, where TCU had longed to be since being exiled to college football's minor leagues after the breakup of the Southwest Conference.

The best of the bunch might have already arrived in defensive end Devonte Fields, who was the nation's No. 73 player a year ago and TCU's highest-ranked recruit. Patterson helped turn him into the Big 12's Defensive Player of the Year as a true freshman.

Mining a rich recruiting base in the metroplex has never been easy for TCU, with bigger programs like Texas and Oklahoma constantly skimming off the recruiting cream of the crop. TCU didn't have the winning tradition of either school.

Then the Frogs started winning.

"Well, TCU might be winning, but it'll never play in a BCS game."

Then it played in a BCS game. Then it won one.

"Yeah, but TCU can't ever be in the Big 12. If you want to play in a BCS game, you better go undefeated. And you've got no shot to win a national title."

Well, now TCU is in the Big 12, and becoming a major player in the metroplex is a real possibility as long as it establishes early on in its membership that it can clear that final hurdle.

"Sure, TCU's in the Big 12, but it can't win consistently or compete for titles there."

Well, TCU will have a big shot in 2013, and Patterson already knows the bar he wants to clear.

"The metroplex has never had a Big 12 school," Patterson said last February when he signed his first class that would play their entire careers in the Big 12. "What we should become to the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex is the same thing that Texas A&M is to Houston and Texas is to Austin."

TCU has always recruited hard in the area, but Big 12 membership gets the area's best players to listen. If TCU starts winning, it'll be a whole lot easier to get them to sign, too. In the process, they could shake up the entire Big 12 landscape, chipping away at Texas and Oklahoma's stranglehold on wins across the league -- on the field and on the recruiting trail.

"We've been recruiting against the Big 12 for the last seven or eight years," Patterson said at Big 12 Media Days this year. "And we always felt like if we could get a few of those guys that could play at that level that we could win the Mountain West or whatever conference we were part of. And we've won more of those battles here in the three or four years. So we know a lot about the players. Most of those teams we're talking about have Texas players. We recruited them. We had them in camp. We understand the kind of players they have. It's no different. That's the one great thing about coming back in the Big 12 for us is that when you do step on the field, you're stepping on the field that you knew all kids, they're going to know guys they played against in high school."

The biggest difference now? More and more of those better players might be wearing TCU colors.