Gunn gives TCU promise of bright future at QB

Updated: August 12, 2003, 6:37 PM ET

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Tye Gunn started just four games last season. That was enough of a preview for TCU to get excited about having him at quarterback for three more years.

Before torn ligaments in his right knee ended his freshman season, Gunn completed 52-of-79 passes (66 percent) for 608 yards and four touchdowns in his starts, all convincing wins in which TCU averaged 41 points.

"Tye Gunn has a chance maybe to be one of the best quarterbacks to ever play here," said third-year TCU coach Gary Patterson. "You don't hear me say that out loud very often just for the simple reason he's only started four games."

At the same time, Patterson wants to temper expectations. After all, TCU did go on to a second 10-win season in three years, the Conference USA title and a sixth straight bowl game without him. And Gunn has played in just six games and is coming off surgery that limited him to non-contact work last spring.

Fans, though, aren't containing their optimism. When speaking to alumni groups this summer, Patterson heard plenty of comparisons between Gunn and TCU stars of yesteryear: Slingin' Sammy Baugh and Davey O'Brien, the school's only Heisman Trophy winner.

"I hope I don't disappoint them," Gunn said. "But that's not a very fair comparison."

The Horned Frogs have another standout sophomore in running back Lonta Hobbs, who ran for a school freshman record 1,029 yards with 13 TDs in just eight games last season. He was the Conference USA freshman of the year.

As TCU looks forward to a long future of Gunn and Hobbs, fans may one day look back to the fifth game of last season as a memorable time. That's when Gunn made his first start and Hobbs played for the first time. Patterson sat him the first four games because he was planning to redshirt him.

"I'm not sure whether you can call me smart or stupid -- smart that we took his redshirt off or stupid because we put a redshirt on him at all," Patterson said.

Gunn and Hobbs aren't even considered among the four returning starters on offense. Those are a trio of offensive lineman and senior running back Ricky Madison (719 yards last season.)

The Horned Frogs have to replace four departed receivers, with junior Reggie Harrell (13 catches for 205 yards) the top returning pass-catcher. The fullback slot is also unsettled.

On defense, the Frogs are solid despite the departure of leading tackler LaMarcus McDonald (118 tackles, including 30 for losses) from a unit that led the country last season by allowing just 245 total yards and 65 rushing yards a game.

There are only six returning starters, but 18 letterman back for a defense that constantly is rotating players. That's become a trademark for the team ranked first nationally in total defense two of the last four seasons (fifth and 24th the other two).

As has become the norm for the Frogs in C-USA, they have another scattered schedule. The 12 games stretch from Sept. 1, a Labor Day Monday game at C-USA foe Tulane five days before their home opener, through Nov. 29. They play games on five different days of the week.

"We don't have off weeks anymore," Patterson said. "We have two-week preparation periods."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index