Patterson: People taking notice of TCU

FORT WORTH, Texas -- TCU football coach Gary Patterson, who led the Horned Frogs to their first undefeated regular season since 1938 and has nine national coach of the year awards to show for his 12-1 campaign, sat down with ESPN Dallas to discuss the 2009 season, the Fiesta Bowl loss to Boise State and his outlook for 2010:

Q: You used a loss to Utah in 2008 as a big motivator for 2009. Can you do the same with the Fiesta Bowl loss?

A: We have a team meeting coming up and we'll start talking about those things. It will be on everyone's minds. We're going to try to be like we were a year ago and go back to the basics of our pyramid and start building again. That starts with chemistry, family, accountability, things you need as an entire team to get going. If you don't build that, you won't go forward.

Q: How do you think Andy Dalton will handle the Fiesta Bowl loss? Are you worried about his psyche?

A: He'll just work harder. I think he'll be fine. I think he's matured. It might have bothered him differently two years ago as a freshman or sophomore, but he's going to be a senior. If it bothers him too much, he's not the player I think he is. He'll be fine. We make a mistake if we let one mistake turn into two. I don't see that happening.

Q: What did you learn from the loss? Anything you might have done differently?

A: I probably would have taken the travel group to a smaller hotel to get them more focused. We practiced well. We felt like we tried to do like we've done for every other bowl game. You have to look at the competition. They are a top team. They probably had an advantage of us winning a year ago. They had something to prove. I thought it was a great ballgame and they deserve a lot of credit.

Q: Where did you vote TCU in your final [coaches'] poll?

A: I voted us No. 4. Even though we lost, I thought it was one of the two top 5 or 6 teams playing each other. It was a close game. We lost, but I didn't think we played our best ballgame, especially on offense. You have to give Boise a lot of credit for that.

Q: Were you pleased with the final ranking?

A: If you figure that you lose a bowl game, it shows the credibility they give us. To lose a game and only fall from third to sixth is quite a statement. We won our bowl game last year with two losses and ended seventh. This year we lose and finish sixth.

Q: Where do you think TCU should start in the 2010 preseason poll?

A: I don't know. I'll wait until I see how our team develops. I want to see what kind of football team I have out of spring. I don't have to vote until two-a-days. I don't think I have a team like, that, I won't vote them very high. I think I put us close to No. 15 last year before the season.

Q: How important is it to be high in that poll in this current BCS system?

A: I think it helps, but you've got to win. People recognized that we had a good football team. You have to play at a high level. You have to have some wins against some people that people look and say are good, like Clemson and BYU and having the game we did in playing Utah. People take notice of those games.

Q: You've got plenty of running back depth. Will you move someone to defense to get more athletes on the field?

A: We've moved Aundre Dean to safety. We like his size and tried him there in December and had great results. It's not that he's not a good tailback. But with the rotation, instead of 12 plays a game, he can play 60. It's like Jason Phillips. He would have played 14 as a fullback or 60 as a linebacker. You want your best player on the field to play the longest.

Aundre's excited. He's got a lot to learn. We're pretty excited about the possibility. He has to learn to play the run, pass, blitz, what kind of coverages we're in. I like those challenges. It's like a good piece of clay. You know you have an opportunity to mold something that will be strong with great possibilities. If you didn't have a good piece, no matter what you did, it would come up short. We like a 6-2, 215-pound frame.

Q: Could you use Ed Wesley in the slot like you did with Ryan Christian?

A: We did that some already. Our tailbacks do line up as wide receivers at times. We have some younger wideouts that could come in. Skye Dawson and two or three wide receivers fit that category.

Q: Who will replace Marshall Newhouse at left tackle (the only senior starter on the offensive line from 2009)?

A: We don't know yet. Zach Roth is a guy that could. We operated on the shoulder early so he could be back by spring ball. Then we have an assortment of other tackles.

Q: What is the update on the 2010 schedule? Do you still have a nonconference game to fill?

A: Yes. It's probably a I-AA opponent. We have two stretch games in Baylor and Oregon State, if that works out.

Q: Do you think 2010 is the year, and was 2009 a little ahead of schedule?

A: If you looked at things, you thought 2010 would be with everyone growing up. But you get surprised. You have a big picture plan, but you can't say "by Year 10" because you won't make it to Year 10. You have to be the best you can be every season. But by who we have on the team, how can we put that together and make it great? Nobody is looking for a good, solid season. They are looking for great seasons.

That's where we set the bar, and that's what we want. The only way to do that is to be our own worst enemy. We have to go back and be the best football team. Not what people talk about or think we are, but what we can be. We have to earn it.

Q: Anything else TCU fans should know?

A: The key is for us to be a great program, it doesn't just take us, it takes them. We learned this season that they can truly make a difference. When you truly have a home-field advantage, you play at an even higher level because of the whole package. The fan support and the university support were great. The student section was exceptional this year.

Richard Durrett covers colleges for ESPN Dallas. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.