TCU defensive end Ochaun Mathis has something to say to those people that think the Big 12 Conference can’t play defense. Unfortunately, he can’t ACTUALLY say it.
“I would say, but I’m on camera,” Mathis said with a smile during Big 12 Media Days on Wednesday.
Mathis knows the rep, and he knows that everyone has their opinions. Does he care? Honestly, no.
“I shove that to the side, because I know what it’s like to be in the Big 12,” Mathis said. “I know how good these guys are (on offense). So just hearing that from other people, yeah, people have their own opinions and I’ll just put it to the side.”
The Horned Frogs probably have the best defensive reputation in the Big 12, but there in the middle of the pack in the major statistical categories last season. It was West Virginia that, pound for pound, probably had the best defense in the Big 12, as it was No. 1 in the league in scoring defense, passing defense and total defense.
Mathis can help nudge the Horned Frogs up the defensive rankings in the Big 12 in 2021, after a season in which they were fifth in scoring defense at 24.2 points per game, a number that was No. 35 overall.
Mathis helped the Horned Frogs to a 6-4 record in 2020. He also had a breakthrough season individually, as he finished the season with nine sacks, including three against Texas Tech. He also finished strong, registering 22 tackles in his final six games. That helped Mathis to All-Big 12 Second Team honors from both the Big 12’s coaches and the writers that cover the conference.
Mathis (6-foot-5, 247 pounds) is coming off last season’s campaign gathering up plenty of All-Big 12 Preseason honors, too. Along with that, there are potential NFL aspirations for the junior. TCU head coach Gary Patterson said the Horned Frogs are better when they have players that are “ready for the NFL.” Mathis looks to be one of those players.
Mathis surged at the end of the season, sacking the quarterback three times against Texas Tech and registering 22 tackles in the final six games. His nine sacks were second in the Big 12 and fifth nationally. He isn’t on the lips of national college football fans yet, but he could change that with a great 2021.
TCU is coming off a 2020 in which it went 6-4 overall and 5-4 in Big 12 action. The Horned Frogs earned a bowl bid to the Texas Bowl, but the game was canceled due to COVID-19 protocols. Among Big 12 teams last year, the Horned Frogs were the No. 1 rushing team in the conference, averaging 214.7 yards per game. But one of those top producers, Darwin Barlow, transferred to USC in June.
The Horned Frogs do return quarterback Max Duggan, who threw for 1,795 yards last season and rushed for another 526 yards to lead all Horned Frogs. He is one of six returning starters on offense, a unit bolstered by the transfer of former Memphis offensive lineman Obinna Eze. Defensively, the Horned Frogs return seven starters, including potential All-Big 12 performers like Mathis, cornerback Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson and safety La’Kendrick Van Zandt. Additionally, the defense welcomes a Memphis transfer, T.J. Carter, to the secondary, and can count defensive tackle Corey Bethley back after he opted to return to school and not go pro.
Patterson is entering his 21st full season as head coach at TCU, where he has gone 178-74. But, in the past three seasons the Horned Frogs have gone just 18-17, after going 40-13 and sharing a Big 12 title in the four seasons prior to that. The Horned Frogs have earned bowl berths in seven of the program’s nine seasons in the Big 12 since joining in 2012.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.
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