Saturday, May 26, 2012

#16 TCU

The TCU Horned Frogs have made a big name for themselves by appearing in 2 BCS games and winning the Rose Bowl in 2011. Head Coach Gary Patterson who took over the Frogs in 2001, has helped guide them through 4 conference changes,(5 if you count them joining the Big East for a second then going to the Big XII) yet maintained a level of high expectations through each conference. They have won 5 conference titles under Patterson including 3 straight in the Mountain West. But this offseason has been one of the most tumultuous ones in the history of TCU. Four players were arrested including defensive leader Tanner Brock in a drug ring sting on campus. Three of the four players arrested were defensive starters and were going to be leaned on heavily this year as the Frogs join the Big XII. Weaker coaches would have made excuses already for a bad season but Patterson believes they can compete for the Big XII title this year.

The Horned Frog defense returns 7 starters to the 32nd ranked Total Defense in the Nation last year. They will need to replace Tanner Brock at linebacker, Devin Johnson at corner, and D.J. Yendrey at defensive tackle. Brock and Johnson were the 2nd and 8th leading tacklers on the defense while Yendrey was a defensive presence in the middle. Kenny Cain will have to step up as the leader of the defense with Deryck Gildon sliding into the other linebacker role. The secondary will need to vastly improve in the pass happy Big XII if the defense wants to keep their offense in the game. The Horned Frogs' passing defense was ranked 60th in the nation and gave up an average of 220 yards of passing a game. The secondary will be very young with a lot of Sophomores and Freshmen playing there. Hopefully the growing pains of last year for the Frogs will lead to a better year this year. Defensive End Stansly Maponga was a great surprise for the TCU defense last year. Maponga registered 55 tackles, led the team with 9 sacks and had 13.5 tackles-for-loss. If Maponga continues to dominate the way he did last year, the defensive line won't miss Yendrey as much as expected.

The Horned Frogs are a run first oriented team and will be a shock to the Big XII defenses used to defending a spread offense. Returning quarterback Casey Pachall through for nearly 3,000 yards with only 7 interceptions. He is very much the game manager that Andy Dalton was for TCU and doesn't make many mistakes. A three headed running attack of Ed Wesley, Waymon James, and Mattew Tucker,  rushed for over 2,200 yards and 24 touchdowns. Tucker had 12 of the 24 touchdowns. Leading receiver Josh Boyce returns to the Frogs' offense and should help Pachall in tight situations. This offense may not have been a flashy group but they got the job done. The Frogs ranked 28th in Total Offense last year with  a rushing offense that finished 19th. The TCU passing game will need to continue to be a threat so the Big XII defenses won't stack the box against the skilled runners.

TCU's schedule is a moderate one. The two big non-conference challenges will be at SMU and home for Virginia. SMU upset the Frogs in Fort Worth last year so there will be revenge on the mind of the Frogs. The final 5 games of the year for the Frogs will determine where they finish in the Big XII. They face in order, at Oklahoma State, at West Virginia, home for Kansas State, at Texas, and home for Oklahoma. If the Frogs can go 3-2 during this stretch, they will finish at least with an 8-4 record. They have potential to do much better if the defense gels as a unit and the offense can play ball control against their pass happy foes. I really like this team as a dark horse for the Big XII Title and a possible BCS contender if they catch the right breaks. Keep your eyes on the Horned Frogs of TCU.

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