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How Sonny Dykes Established Winning Culture at TCU


TCU head coach Sonny Dykes | Image by TCU Athletics

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When Texas Christian University laid a smackdown on Oklahoma in Week 4, the Horned Frogs started to get serious media attention in college football circles.

The following week, TCU traveled to Lawrence, Kansas, to face a Jayhawks team off to a 5-0 start with ESPN’s GameDay broadcasting live and came away with a strong 38-31 victory. The 5-0 start for the Frogs is a total turnaround fueled by new head coach Sonny Dykes.

Dykes was hired from SMU after former head coach Gary Patterson was fired. Dykes set about rebuilding the program, using the transfer portal and recruitment to bolster a roster that had shown flashes of potential in recent seasons. Fifty-seven of the players on the 2022 team are juniors or seniors, a few of whom have already earned degrees.

Dykes allegedly changed the culture at TCU, challenging his players to be great on and off the field, in their studies, and in the community. As a result, the team bought into the goals and game plans Dykes brought in. What he has begun to build is one of the most electrifying all-around teams with big-play potential at any moment.

The latest Associated Press College Football Top 25 rankings put TCU at 13th overall, the highest the team has ranked since December 2017 when they were 10th. TCU currently sits at third in Big 12 competition behind Oklahoma State University, whom they face this weekend.

The Frogs’ yards per game is currently the third-highest in the nation at 530, fueled by quarterback Max Duggan and the nation’s third-highest per-game scoring offense. Duggan is sixth in the nation in completion percentage (73.2%) and second in passer rating (194.4).

Duggan was called into action in Week 1 after recent transfer Chandler Morris was lost for the season with a knee injury. Duggan has 14 passing touchdowns against only one interception and has already amassed 1,305 yards in completions this season. In 2021, Duggan had only 16 passing TDs all season. He has added 194 yards on the ground and three rushing touchdowns.

It isn’t just the “Air Raid” offense that Dykes has working like a machine for TCU. The defense has been solid, holding teams to under 24 points per game while setting the offense up in a position to score an average of 46.4 points per game.

Safety Mark Perry leads the defense with 20 solo tackles, and linebacker Dee Winters has recorded 3.5 sacks — already a career record — to lead the team. Overall, the defense has five interceptions and two forced fumbles, both of which they recovered.

To put things into context, under Patterson last season, the TCU defense gave up 34.9 points per game (118th of 130), while the offense registered a meager 28.7 points per game with many of the same players on the roster. A change in culture and a winning mindset brought on by Dykes and his approach to coaching has made all the difference for TCU, transforming the team from being one of those not-worth-mentioning to becoming a headliner in national conversations after only five games.

On Sunday, Dykes and the TCU Horned Frogs will face yet another mountain to climb in the 5-0 Oklahoma State University Cowboys, who are just shy of first-place Kansas State who will play TCU the following week in another test of the winning culture that Dykes has instilled in the once-again-proud tradition of football in Fort Worth.

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