Q&A with Sonny Dykes as TCU football gears up for the 2024 season

By Rebecca ChristophersonJune 19, 2024July 5th, 2024No Comments

Q&A with Sonny Dykes as TCU football gears up for the 2024 season

By Tori Couch
Photo courtesy of TCU Football

The TCU football team will open the 2024 season Friday, Aug. 30, at Stanford under third-year head coach Sonny Dykes. Dykes, whose team made the national title game his first year and slipped to 5-7 last year, spoke with 360West about the Horned Frogs and the progress they made during spring practice, which wrapped up in late April. The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. 

360West: What are your overall thoughts on spring practice?

Dykes: It’s been good. I like the personality of this team. I think a big part of having a successful football team in today’s college football world is just how all the guys gel together. And because there’s so much movement now, there’s so many players changing teams, and a big part [is] just getting as many guys as you can early to get here and embrace the culture. They like each other. They have a great mentality, a great work ethic. So all those things are really, really important. I think we’re ahead, way ahead of where we’ve been in the past, and so just excited to finish spring ball, to give these guys a little bit of a break and then come back and get to work because it’s gonna be a fun group to work with.

360West: Going into spring practice, the news came out that quarterback Josh Hoover would sit out with an injury. How have you seen him handle that situation, especially because it felt like he emerged as a leader last fall?

Sonny Dykes and the TCU football team wrapped up spring practice at the end of April. Dykes is entering his third season as TCU’s head coach this fall. The Horned Frogs will open the 2024 season at Stanford.

Dykes: Yeah, he did, for sure. He’s got a ton of emotional intelligence, and he has an ability to decipher what is too much and what’s not enough. As a young person, most young people don’t really have that gift, and he wants to let those other quarterbacks kind of have their space and do their thing and lead the team, but he’s also got just a quiet leadership and confidence about him where those guys come to him. Everybody has a tremendous amount of respect for him, and it allows him to have a big influence on people. Even when he’s not practicing, he’s there, and has a calming effect on the players. Those guys just really believe in him. It’s disappointing that he couldn’t go through spring ball, but at the same time, it gave Hauss [Hejny] and [Vanderbilt transfer] Ken [Seals] an opportunity to get a lot more reps than they would have. I’m looking forward to getting him back and watching those guys compete against each other and kind of seeing how it plays out over the summer.

360West: What growth have you seen with Hauss and Ken? 

Dykes: We have two guys that are new to the program, and they both got off to really fast starts during spring ball. Especially Hauss, who was playing high school football a month before, really picked things up fast and got off to a great start. What always happens is you kind of get past your comfort level and then it starts to get a little bit harder. Both Hauss and Ken went through that, and they’re starting to kind of come out on the other end of it. They’re significantly further along than I thought they would be at this stage.

360West: A new person on the coaching staff this season is defensive coordinator Andy Avalos. What has he brought and how has he fit in with the team? 

Dykes: The big thing that he’s done is created a lot of confidence with that [defensive] group. Those guys were a little shell-shocked that the season didn’t end the way that we thought it would, and we didn’t make that step defensively like we thought we would. Our guys needed something to hang their hat on and some confidence. Andy’s done a tremendous job of coming in and working incredibly hard, earning the players’ trust. Those guys have been impressed by his knowledge and the way he coaches and how organized he is and the process that he understands well. Our players are very excited. They’re excited about the scheme, they’re excited about the way they’re being coached, they’re excited about the potential of the defense. You can see the confidence grow every single day and you can see players start to emerge and get comfortable in their role.

360West: Defensively, who has stood out during spring practice?

Dykes: Namdi [Obiazor] is a guy that really, I think, is comfortable in his own role, and he’s made the transition kind of from nickel [defensive back] to linebacker. I think it’s a perfect position for him to play, really fits his skill set. He’s very comfortable in what he’s doing and how he’s doing it. That confidence again carries over to everybody. He’s been a player that’s performed really well in the spring and is in a really good place. Abe Camara is another one that’s made the move from safety down to nickel and I think it fits his skill set very well. Paul Oyewale, as defensive end, has really started to emerge. Then two transfers — Nana Osafo-Mensah, who’s a defensive end from Notre Dame, and Kaleb Elarms-Orr, who’s a linebacker that came from Cal — are two guys I think are going to have a huge impact on us defensively. I love the front seven. I think we have a lot of different pieces that we can utilize. [Linebacker] Marcel Brooks seems to have a new lease on life as well. Then [we have] tons of competition on the back end, which is what we needed. I think we’ve got more depth at cornerback than any place we’ve ever been in the past and that’s good. A lot of guys that can do different things.

360West: What about on offense? 

Dykes: [Wide receiver] Jack Bech had a really good spring. He’s gotten comfortable in what we’re doing. I’ve been really impressed with him. Cam Cook, a young running back, has really emerged and started to get a ton of confidence. Then we’ve got a bunch of new faces up front that have really played well. I’ve been impressed with that group overall. There’s tons of competition in the offensive line. Coltin Deery’s coming back for his second year and he’s been good. Remington Strickland’s a transfer from Texas A&M that I’ve been really impressed with how he’s performed. Carson Bruno from Louisiana Tech has really done some great things. Bless Harris, the tackle from Florida State, has really impressed as well and is probably a little further along right now than I thought he would be. There’s a toughness in this group that you have to have as an offensive line to be good. They have that edge up front and something that for, whatever reason, we kind of lost last year, and I think we’re getting it back.

360West: Your first year at TCU, the team makes the national title game and then last year didn’t end the way that you had hoped and the team missed a bowl game. What did you, as a coach, learn between those two seasons?

Dykes: The big thing is that every team’s different. We just assumed we had that success in ’22 and you think [their successors] are going to learn from this group. There was just no carryover from that perspective. So, I think, which is a great lesson for us, we have to provide that. That’s one thing that I didn’t do well as a head coach is we didn’t force guys to become leaders and we didn’t provide enough leadership opportunities for them. We didn’t educate them well enough about what is good leadership and what does it look like. We were kind of piecing the team together late into the summer. We had a bunch of additions in August and new people coming in and new faces, and I just don’t know that that group ever really got comfortable with each other. We’ve learned how important that is for the players to have a bond and to have shared investment, and I think that this team just feels way different that way. We have to make conscious decisions all the time on what we do. We’ve implemented a lot of things within the program — opportunities for guys to spend time together.

360West: There’s been a lot of changes in college football with conference realignment, and as part of that, the Big 12 is getting four new teams (Colorado, Utah, Arizona and Arizona State) in July. What do those teams bring to the conference?

Dykes: There’s a lot of excitement with all the teams. Colorado and Arizona State both have relatively new coaches and kind of a new beginning. Then you’ve got Utah where [coach] Kyle [Whittingham]’s been there forever and [maintained] the consistency of that program. And then Arizona had the best year they’ve had in a long time last year with a new coach coming over as well. So, a lot of unknown. But all good programs, lots of resources, all at times have had a lot of success. It is going to be different just because you lose Texas and Oklahoma that have obviously been an important part of the Big 12 for a long time, but you gain a lot of opportunity with those teams out west.

360West: I would imagine these changes bring a different feel to the conference. What has commissioner Brett Yormark done for the conference since he started the role in August 2022?

Dykes: The Big 12 has kind of wanted to be young and hip and cool, and I think the league needed that. I think it needed some new direction, a new way of thinking and leadership that saw opportunity and was not afraid to try something different. I love Brett because he’s not scared to try something. He’s very innovative, he’s very creative, thinks outside the box, and he’s got really talented people in the league and they have done a really good job.