Head coach Gary Patterson downplayed the hype around the Horned Frogs this season; instead, his first press conference of the season was about keeping the team steady.

The Horned Frogs start the season ranked No. 13 in the nation. ESPN commentator Kirk Herbstreit made them his pick to win the Big 12. TCU opens against South Dakota State on at 7 p.m. Saturday.

But at Tuesday’s press conference, Patterson was cautious. Although a number of players are returning this season, he said that many of them are still figuring it out.

“We have a lot of experience coming back, but they’re in freshman and sophomore bodies,” Patterson said. “It’s different dealing with 18, 19-year-olds and then dealing with 20, 21-year-olds.”

Four starters are returning from injuries, but Patterson said most have recovered. Senior defensive end James McFarland, junior linebacker Sammy Douglas, junior quarterback Ranthony Texada, and senior safety Kenny Iloka, were all out for most of or the entire 2015 season. McFarland was TCU’s sacks leader in 2014.

All of the starters who missed significant playing time last year came together while fighting to return to the field, said wide receiver Deanté Gray, who was also injured last season. “Through rehab, we really got to bond and keep each other’s spirits up,” he said.

Senior defensive lineman Josh Carraway, TCU’s sacks leader in 2015, is excited to have McFarland back.

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