TCU looking at Manor's Ochaun Mathis to take charge on defense during 2021 season
ARLINGTON — When Ochaun Mathis stepped up to a podium at AT&T Stadium on July 14, he did so as both a TCU football player and a moderator.
During most of the breakout sessions at the Big 12 media days, journalists would shout questions over one another and jostle for the attention of the player or coach being interviewed. But early in his 30-minute session, Mathis seemed to tire of this exercise.
So the 6-foot-5, 247-pound defensive end took control of his own press conference.
Mathis pointed to a journalist who was trying to ask about his hometown of Manor. He then called on someone who was curious about whether he had been vaccinated. He later turned his attention to a reporter wanting to know if TCU had an edge against Texas Tech in October now that former Horned Frog assistant Sonny Cumbie is the Red Raiders' offensive coordinator. The reporters surrounding Mathis quickly fell in line, began raising their hands and waited their turn.
When he was told this story, TCU coach Gary Patterson described Mathis as a "considerate kid" who wanted to accommodate anyone with a question. Mathis said that directing his press conference put him in a comfort zone.
"I think it's more of my personality and just taking charge makes me feel comfortable," he said.
TCU, picked to finish fifth in the Big 12's preseason poll, will need Mathis to use that take-change approach on the field this season. Joining defensive back Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, Mathis was one of two Horned Frogs who made the preseason all-conference team.
Mathis is coming off a 10-game season in which he totaled nine sacks and 14 tackles for a loss. Those nine sacks ranked fifth nationally, and only 11 Football Bowl Subdivision-level players averaged more quarterback takedowns per game. The sacks were also a top-10 mark in the TCU record books.
Eight of Mathis' sacks were recorded over the final five games of the season.
"Obviously such a talented player," TCU quarterback Max Duggan said. "We're lucky enough that we only have to go against him in practice, not in a game."
Of Mathis' 11½ career sacks, 9½ have come in conference play. The sight of Mathis running down Big 12 quarterbacks is likely a familiar one for anyone who ran a District 14-6A offense in 2017.
During his senior year at Manor High, Mathis recorded 16 sacks. He split the district's defensive MVP award, and he also earned All-Central Texas honors.
A three-star prospect in the 2018 recruiting cycle, Mathis committed to TCU in January 2017. Oklahoma offered a scholarship that spring, but Mathis stuck with his pledge.
"I feel like I owe Ochaun a lot because he came on his spring visit, he committed to us, and he never took another visit," Patterson said. "That's really uncommon in this day and age."
In the past, Patterson has asserted that Mathis could become one of the greatest defensive ends ever to play at TCU. Patterson, who has led the Horned Frogs since the 2000 GMAC Mobile Alabama Bowl, didn't back off when he was reminded of that statement at the Big 12 media days.
Now, Mathis isn't Jerry Hughes or Aaron Schobel just yet. He still has work to do if he wants to be included in the same sentence as L.J. Collier and Ben Banogu, who were both drafted the year after Mathis arrived on campus.
But he is working to get there. He told reporters he wants "to be an all-around player." Becoming as comfortable on the field as he was at the podium in Arlington is also something he'd like to achieve.
"Like a lot of things, I've learned just to basically be comfortable being uncomfortable in situations," Mathis said. "Being able to go out there and execute with whatever you're building" is a goal.