Cornerback Julius Lewis and offensive tackle Trey Elliott, expected to be sidelined in 2016, have returned to practice, and center Austin Schlottmann and receiver KaVontae Turpin are close to returning, TCU coach Gary Patterson said Tuesday.
Lewis was projected to be a starter, but he suffered a non-contact injury shortly before spring training.
Patterson announced the day before the start of fall camp that Elliott and Bryson Henderson, both backup tackles, would sit out the year.
Schlottmann suffered a foot injury at SMU, and Turpin hurt his knee against Iowa State. He was the Big 12 all-purpose yardage leader when he was injured. Both players have started to run but have not practiced, Patterson said.
The return of Lewis could mean competition for Jeff Gladney, who took his spot in spring training. But Gladney missed a game with a foot injury and has been spotty since his return. Tuesday, Patterson said Gladney worked with the scout team.
“We’ve got to get Jeff to play better,” Patterson said. “We’re going to find somebody who wants to practice. You can’t play well on Saturday if you don’t practice well.”
Asked if the injury affected Gladney, Patterson said, “No. It’s because he’s a freshman. He needs to grow up. He’s got a chance to be a really good player.”
But it’s no sure thing that Lewis will play. Patterson said he’s weighing whether to use Lewis, who started four games last season as a freshman and made seven tackles in the Alamo Bowl.
“I don’t know if six games would be the right thing to break his redshirt,” Patterson said. “But we’ll see. He’s got two weeks to get himself back up to speed.”
Elliott’s return potentially means depth for an offensive line that struggled against Kansas, particularly at right tackle. Aviante Collins gave up two speed rush sacks.
Brandon Hatfield, who hit a 34-yard field goal to give TCU the winning points with 1:51 left Saturday at Kansas, appears to be TCU’s kicker going forward. He is 5-for-6 on field goals, with only a miss from 37 yards last week, and 9-for-9 on extra points.
“It’s going to be hard for him to be beat out, to be honest with you,” Patterson said.
Ryan Graf is also 5-for-6 on field goals, but his 28-yard attempt to win the Arkansas game was blocked. He has not kicked since the first half of the SMU game. Jonathan Song has been out all season with a quadriceps injury.
Patterson said defensive end Isaiah Chambers practiced at tackle alongside Ross Blacklock with the second team.
“We’re trying to do everything we can to push and become a better football team,” Patterson said.
TCU at West Virginia
2:30 p.m. Oct. 22, WFAA/8 or ESPN2