The Second Shot Curse

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I  have mentioned on this site from time to time that I play golf and over time I have gotten to the point that when I am play with some regularity I can play on most courses and score in the mid 80’s to lower 90’s. Nothing spectacular, but solid and if you asked me what was the one part of my game that is holding me back from consistently scoring lower I can give you an immediate answer.  The second shot.

Now that might sound confusing so let me explain.  When playing regularly I am fairly consistent off the team and at times can be very good.  Putting the ball right where I want it to set myself to score well on the hole to only unravel far, far, far too many times on that next shot. The curse of the second shot.

All sincerity when I say I have  screwed up more great drives and tee shots with second shots and putts that are as utterly horrific as they are inexplicable to me.  The curse has covered the gambit from terribly read putts that left me farther from the hole than my first putt to line drive wedge shots that scream past the green and down an embankment leaving me to hack around in my knee high weeds looking for my ball and my personal favorite the  skulled approach shot that combined with my drive has me less than 350 yards from the tee box and still out.

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The funny thing is I can visualize what I want to do with that second shot, try to go through the same routines, same setup, approach, etc…. and yet the result is darn near 180 from a shot less than 5 minutes before.  Maybe that is where golf mirrors live in that we get some of our greatest joy from the opportunity we save from what looked to be sure disaster and our biggest hurts is blowing what looks to be set up perfectly for us.

Last Saturday did not execute perfectly on any side of the ball in their win over OU.  It does not take too much effort to compile a quick list of chances missed (penalties, blown coverage, dropped interceptions, fumbles, missed field goals, blocked extra point, etc…..), but to do that misses the great job this team (staff and players) did in coming out aggressively, playing with confidence, and taking control of this game when it mattered.  I have found it interesting to hear fans and media talk about how OU just had a bad day, how they failed to execute at times, and paint a picture of TCU almost playing a flawless game.  Beautiful yes, passionate yes, flawless though? Not even close as the Frogs left points on the field and let OU hang around in that game.

Yes, the Catalon touchdown was called back by a phantom holding call and both fumbles lost  where as much byproducts of the OU defense as Boykin and Catalon failing to secure the ball.    My point was that after the Sooners scored on the opening drive of the third quarter TCU took control of the second half of the game and the Frog defense especially imposed their will when it mattered most.  The result was the Frogs win of their highest ranked opponent ever in Ft. Worth and the game they have been looking for since they joined the B12.

As great as the game was it was how the game unfolded to me that was better and bodes well for the Frogs.  Boykin continued to be solid throwing the ball, he did make a back footed throw on the interception, but he is getting better and better with a couple of throws that were textbook.  OU basically dared him to beat them and he did a great job especially throwing the ball on 2nd and 3rd downs.  Trevone was 14 of 23 on 2nd and 3rd down for 232 yards and the Frogs converted 10 of 18 3rd down conversion possibilities.  The receivers also continued to improve as Kolby Listenbee had his best day as a Frog with 5 catches for over 100 yards.   Both Boykin’s big game of almost 400 total yards, Kolby’s career day as well as the others was only made possible by the effort of the Frog offensive line.

From the start of that game they showed cohesion and early I saw one play that caught my eye as it was the type of aggressive play we have not seen from the o-line since the Rose Bowl group. On the play in which Josh Doctson catches the tipped ball OU had blitzed and it was a jumping Sooner defender who tipped the pass. If you watch the play from the shot behind Trevone you will notice that Brady Foltz locks onto the Sooner defender and drives him into the ground. That immediately told me the line that had looked so passive at times against SMU came into the OU game with a completely different mindset.

Defensively the Frogs did struggle in the first half with Kindred getting isolated on Sheppard.  I won’t try to say what happen, but it is something we have seen in the past  with Derrick and something teams will try to exploit going forward. What is important though is the defense adapted to the Sooner offense. The front six was able to control the run in the second half, the Frogs got pressure from their front, and this allowed the linebackers and secondary to cut off the Sooner passing game.  Patterson had talked about the need for depth and you could see it in this game especially in the defensive line. The Frogs played 8-10 defensive linemen once again and in the second half were able to cut off the running lanes and pressure Knight.

It continually amazes me how Patterson and his staff always seem to have one or two freshmen who no one knew about contribute early and in big situations on defense. Two years ago it was Derrick Kindred in a 10+ tackle game at WVU. Last Saturday it was Chris Bradley.  Chris was a late recruit out of Shreveport who got hardly any notice from the recruiting experts. Last Saturday on the big 4th and 1 play you will notice that after Pierson got hurt the Frogs had Chris lining up next to Chucky Hunter at defensive tackle for easily the biggest defensive play Patterson’s team has ever had in that stadium. All I can say is that all the overlooked, under the radar defensive line recruits from Louisiana are more than welcome to make their way to Ft. Worth and play for the Frogs.

One catch about last weekend. It was just one game in a season composed of many.  Granted, it validated a few things, should give some people some confidence, and provides a great opportunity, but it guarantees absolutely nothing.  The Frogs now find themselves standing over that second shot that has bedeviled me for so long in my golf game. They crushed the drive and with another great shot can be on the green in two with a good chance at birdie and possibly eagle. Simple enough, just follow the first great shot with a second great shot.  Sounds simple, but winning at Baylor will require nothing less. This is a very good Baylor team and the Frogs are not sneaking up on them in any shape, fashion, or form.

TCU must re-gain the same type of focus they had for the OU game, but also do so while dealing with a new form of distractions this team really has not had to deal with in some time.  Talk about where the season could potentially go, rankings, praise, and all the things that can make continued success tough for a team that has been struggling for so long to find traction.

Baylor will be aggressive on both sides of the ball. Offensively they have great speed, a scheme that looks to score every play, a big offensive line, and a very good quarterback. Defensively they play fast and look to intimidate. They will try to rough up the Frog receivers and Boykin to throw him off his game.  It will not be a matter of physical execution, but composure and focus.

I do think though this is a very winnable game for the Frogs and felt better about this one than the OU game.  First, the Frogs have been a very good road team under Patterson especially in the last five years.  They are 5-2 versus ranked opponents  on the road, 5-5 on the road in the B12 ( w wins in Austin, Morgantown, and Waco), and are won 17 of their last 22 conference road games.  Second, Patterson and his staff are 2-2 versus Briles at Baylor and have won in Waco.

Third, the offensive has played with continued confidence and I really think we saw it take big strides in the OU game. TCU went after the OU defense from the start and was aggressive in the passing game.   More importantly we continue to see multiple players have a positive impact on the offensive side of the ball.  Five Frog receivers (Doctson, Gray, Listenbee, Porter, and Slanina) have over 13 or more catches this year with the team leader being Doctson with 19. Four of those five have over 150 yards receiving and all five have already passed their career totals as a Frog or on track to exceed them by season’s end.  We have seen Catalon develop as a threat running the ball and catching it out of the backfield and the Frogs have real depth at running back.  If the improvement we saw in the offensive line continues (Baylor will not lay back like OU, but will attack Boykin) I think the Bear defense is going to be in for a big surprise come Saturday.

Defensively, the Frogs have never backed off when they have played Baylor and at times the schematic arrogance has hurt TCU.  They must once again stop the run with their front -6, pressure with four, and make plays with their safeties and linebackers.  Paul Dawson had a big game last year against Baylor and he and Mallet had big games last week. Dawson has started for basically a year’s worth of games and leads this defense in career total tackles. Think of the number of 2 and 3-year letterman on this defense and consider that stat.  He and the other linebackers have to help cut of the Baylor running game to make the Bears’ offense dependent on the passing game. When that happens TCU must get pressure from their defensive front. This is a game I thought the loss of Fields would hurt and it would be great if one of the young defensive ends could make that leap forward and provide the consistent pressure from the outside.

I am confident TCU is very capable of winning this game and I hope last week’s game is the template. The biggest lesson I learned that helped my golf game was stop trying to make picture perfect swings and make sure you get the clubface square on impact each and every time. Last week was not a perfectly played game, but it was a perfect result.  In the end how you got the win is not as important as did you get the win.  Saturday I truly believe this TCU goes into Waco and finds a way to win this game. They find a way to beat the second shot curse.

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I apologize to each and every member of the TCU offensive line and the staff working with them.

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Fabuluje, Naff, Hunt, Foltz, Vaitai, Schlottman, Pryor, Noteboom, Thompson, and anyone else who played today.

There were alot of great plays today, but many different Frogs, but without the level of toughness, brains, ability, and heart you showed today the Frogs don’t win.

Enjoy your victory, be smart, and kick Baylor’s ass.

Hail to Thee…..

Staking a Claim or Fool’s Gold?

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It is funny how simply changing one letter in a word can completely change the context of a sentence or more specifically in this case a posed question. When it was announced that TCU would be joining the B12 instead of the Big East a common question I was asked was “Could TCU compete in the B12” which struck me as odd. Considering the history of the Baylor and Kansas State programs there was no evidence to indicate either program had a decided advantage over TCU and in my mind, there was then nor is now any legitimate reasons that TCU could not compete in the B12.
The better question would have been “Would TCU compete in the B12”. An immediate response by many TCU alums and fans is that the Rose Bowl team could have competed which I agree with, but that team was not the one stepping on the field when TCU started play in the B12. Yes, that group of seniors played in some big games against some very good opponents and won most of them. I truly believe had they been in the B12 with that group they could have held their own very well, but while I am playing the “what if” game hoping to make it true I think I will focus on what if DeVonte’ Fields was on the roster and lining up at defensive against OU.
When TCU took the field two years ago that roster in my thoughts was not ready to truly compete in the B12. It could have been had certain things not taken place, but the reality of it was that TCU’s losses while significant were not unique to their team in the B12 and that flaws in the program were exposed. Changes were needed not just on the roster, but the staff-scheme-recruiting process. Over time, those changes have been made and I do truly believe the program over all is in a much better place than where it was just two short years ago. The same elephant is still in the room. When the games start of real this year, will TCU be able to compete? Is this this moment the program stakes its claim among the B12 or is the improvement we have seen fool’s good?
One thing I want to make clear is that winning this game against OU will not immediately validate the program no more than a loss would indicate TCU simply could not compete at this level. That is something that can only be established over the course of the season. I think the efforts of the team over the next three weeks is far more important for the program than anyone game, but don’t think I believe this team doesn’t need a victory soon over one of the top B12 teams to help overcome the inertia this program has endured since the Frogs joined the B12 two years ago.
Furthermore, this team is loaded with underclassmen starters who are on the front end of their college careers. If you look at the career reception totals for the wide receivers, #5 on that list is the starting quarterback Trevone Boykin. No one receiver has more than 750 career-receiving yards nor more than 8 career touchdown receptions. Fifteen different Frogs though have had at least one reception this year and fourteen of those are projected to return next year. Three different Frogs have led the team in catches in their first three games and three different Frogs have had two touchdown catches in those same three games. All four of those players involved project to be back next year. Same story at running back and in the offensive line there is only one senior getting playing time.
Defensively the Frogs have five senior starters who are key players, but when you look at the two-deep and the roster they have more depth and talent than they ever have under Patterson. In short, the Frog seems to be in position to push into the top tier of the B12, but for that to happen this team at some point has to stop playing teams close and actually winning games Close losses do not buy many points in polls it does not garner bowl invitations, it does not get you media exposure, and it does not swing recruits. So is the OU game that game to break through the resistance this program has encountered the past two seasons?
No deference to Baylor, Cowboy, Kat, or Longhorn fans, but beating OU today is the biggest possible plumb on the Frogs B12 schedule. For that to happen however there must be some significant trends that have to be reversed from the past two games. If you go back and look at the stats from the last two games as well as re-watch them TCU have struggled put sustained drives against the OU defense. In 2012, the Frogs scoring drives were 1 play 6 yards for a TD, 1 play for 80 yards for a TD, and 4 plays for 6 yards for a FG. The two longest drives that year ended up in a missed field goal and the ball being turned over on downs at the end of the game. Last year’s first half was historically bad and while the second half was better the first two scoring drives only covered 80 yards combined. My point is that you cannot count on short fields to happen just as you cannot count on turnovers. You can play a style of defense that emphasizes forcing turnovers and you can try to create opportunities through special teams to flip the field, but you cannot depend upon them. Pull those turnovers out of the past two games and TCU is not close in either game and that is part of the challenge faced by the Frog’s offense.
TCU must establish some degree of success on first down against the OU defense. During the past two years, the Frogs have found themselves in a 2nd down and long situation 26 of the 38 offensive snaps they have taken against OU. Pull out Brandon Carter’s 80-yard touchdown catch against OU in the second half of the 2012 game and TCU has averaged less than 3 yards a 1st down play in 2012 and the first half of 2013. The immediate response by many TCU alums and supporters will immediate castigate the Frogs’ former OC duo as being too conservative and that might have been true for the first half of the 2012 game as TCU ran the ball 10 times for 19 yards on 1st down with only one passing attempt. That trend however, did not extend into the second half of that game ( 6 runs for 27 yards and 4-8 passing for 104 yards) nor the first half of last year ( 2 called runs for 7 yards and three pass plays with no completions and one sack for -3).
The TCU offense simply did not get the job done as OU controlled the line of scrimmage, pressured Boykin when TCU threw the ball, and did not allow big plays aside from the one Carter catch and run. Sorry folks, but one big play out of thirty first down snaps will not win this game. TCU must do a better job in their execution and they must be aggressive. I did not say stupid, but the OU defense has a similar strategy to the Frogs. They want to win first down and force the offense into second, third, and long. It is not an accident that TCU has been 6 of 29 against the OU defense the past two seasons and the reasons are not solely poor execution on third down. OU is very aggressive with their secondary like the Frogs in those early downs and that means there are opportunities for big plays. TCU hit with Carter, but did not do this consistently and they must not only take those shots, but Boykin has to hit these deep throws. OU is going to compress the field on first and second down until TCU shows they can threaten down the field and you do not do that by merely make a random, off target throw down the field on first or second down. The Frogs must be aggressive when they throw the ball on early downs and use the speed they have at receiver and backs.
Sounds simple, but for that to happen two big things must take place and I am not sure one can or will. First is that Boykin has to make those throws and not let the moment overwhelm him. He has struggled at times this year with accuracy on deep throws and in the past he has rushed his reads and missed open receivers deep (i.e. the Bowl game against MSU). Maybe it is just iron pyrite, but the second half of last year to me gives me hope that he can make the plays TCU needs to be in this game. TCU was 6-8 for 98 yards on first down in the second half of last year in a game they had nothing successful to build upon from the first half. OU had their way with the Frog offense for most of three halves and yet Boykin led TCU back into that game. My bigger concern is not him, but the offensive line. One point I made early was that TCU had to change some parts of the program and one area was the type of athlete they were recruiting in the offensive line. I think the profile they had in the MWC was big strong guys, which is great, but they did not have the lateral quickness needed to compete against many of the better defensive lines. If you look at the TCU roster at this time if you look at the offensive linemen they have recruited the past three years compared to those prior I think you will find the younger linemen are more athletic. You can see this especially inside with a player like Schlottman versus Naff and Foltz. Offensive tackle has been a struggle for the past two years and I think Big V has provided some stability at right tackle. Left tackle however has been a struggled and I do have big concerns about Tayo matching up against the Sooners speed off the edge on his side or the Frogs guards inside. If and that is a big if the offensive line can finally take that big step and work as cohesive unit and give Boykin time I think the Frogs have a chance, but it they can’t I just have a feeling things could once again be ugly for the TCU offense.
Defensively, TCU has not shut down OU, but they have slowed the Sooners attack. Especially when you consider the extreme situation they faced last year in Norman with the Frogs offense have 5 consecutive three and outs in the first half. Patterson has worked to build depth in the front and more speed in the back. It has looked great so far, but OU will stress the defense more than anyone to date and possibly anyone all season. They have a big, physical offensive line, bigger backs, speed at receiver, and an OC who understands the importance of being balanced on offense against a group like TCU. If you look at the Sooners first down snaps against TCU they have been fairly balanced with a shift to the running game in the second half.
Big keys will be the ability of TCU to defend the run with their front six and discretionarily using a safety as well as pressuring the passer with their front four. The strength of the TCU defense is being flexible on the field without changing personnel and that requires TCU dictating the situation versus reacting to their inability to stop a particular facet on an offense. If they have to continually move a safety down to stop the run that restricts their coverage options and stresses the rest of the secondary against an offense like OU. I am confident in the Frogs top three d-tackles holding up against the run, but they need big efforts from their defensive ends and it is imperative their linebackers stay disciplined against the run. It might sound harsh, but in this game, there is little room for the occasional mistake. Look no further than early in the fourth quarter last year where a TCU linebacker takes a false-step, does not get over to proper gap, and OU hits them for a 75-yard touchdown run. While I am not blaming the linebacker for the loss that run was the deciding score in the game.
The other big area to watch in the TCU defense is the play of the safeties. The trio of Carter, Kindred, and Hackett are very solid and each a very good story. Each however has weaknesses that have flashed at times in games the Frogs have lost in the B12. No one on the TCU roster has come farther than Derrick Kindred. He was a late recruit three years ago; played OLB and DE much of the time in high school, and in his first year at TCU had over ten tackles in the Frogs win at WVU. Derrick is physical against the run and gotten better against the pass. He is better though coming forward or playing the ball in front of him than going back. If you remember the 2012 game, he was caught looking in the Sooner backfield as the receiver got behind him on the wheel route just before half and he does struggle at times when he is isolated down the field. Chris Hackett had a great career at Tyler John Tyler ending up among the states leaders in interceptions, but the single biggest knock on him in recruiting was a lack of great speed. Three years later, he is the leader at the back of the TCU secondary and a multi-year starter. He has shown the great instincts he did in high school and he is physical at the point of contact. Some place him among TCU’s best safeties ever under Patterson, but the one issue that has shown up from time to time is that lack of speed specifically when he is trying to get over to cover an outside receiver against multi-receiver sets. Tech got him twice last year where he made the right read, but just did not get over as well as Baylor, K-State, and WVU. Granted, what I am talking about does require great speed and why Patterson has made an emphasis to recruit safety prospects with that great speed. I am curious if OU can exploit this or if Hackett is up to the task.
Finally, Sam Carter and this is guy who is a great story. Sam is a fifth-year senior who is already in graduate school. A team leader, tireless worker, and one of the best safeties in the B12. He however has the same flaw as Kindred in that he is stronger playing the ball in front of him and coming forward than covering crossing routes or at times when being isolated on deeper routes. I am not trying to nitpick on these three guys, because I do not see the Frogs winning without a great effort from this trio. No different than I think they need great play from their linebackers or d-line. Simply that this game to me comes done to which offense can exploit the weaknesses of the defense.
In the end, I do not think the TCU offensive line is ready for the OU defensive front. I hope they are, I hope the Frogs win, but I do not think they are ready. I do think though they can win two of the next three and feel certain they win one of three. The question though is this start their first step in staking a claim or fool’s gold?

A Work in Progress

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Sometimes when you are in the middle of something it gets tough to remember that the overall objective isn’t to excel at that immediate point and time, but instead to stay on task and achieve the ultimate goal when you started the process.

Last season TCU never seemed to play a game that was clean for them. Even in the games they should have won like SLU and SMU the team struggled and made what should have been easier wins far harder than most expected of the game.  Sure, there were reasons for that and I will not argue that losing Casey in the SLU game and the struggles of a young offensive line made it seem like every game last year was an uphill climb.

As I have pointed out earlier this year though other teams had injuries, other teams had to replace older players, and they still found ways to win games.  I have no doubt then that the experience of the 2013 season has tinted the optics cast by the first two games of 2014.

The Frogs easily won both games and I think even the most ardent doubter of the club would have to admit that at this point the 2014 team looks far, far different than the TCU team we saw in 2013.  It is important to consider two points about this team and where it stands going into the SMU game.

First, this team is not ready to beat the better teams in the Big 12.  I am not saying TCU cannot beat the better teams only where this team is after two games is not ready for those challenges. Some will automatically dismiss me as an idiot and point to the 23-point beating of a mid-tier Big 10 School in Minnesota as proof as the Frogs are more than ready for their impending three-game stretch of OU, @ Baylor, and OSU.

My contention is the Minnesota game and specifically the second half showed there is enough work to be done that the Frogs are not ready to open Big 12 play.  I will acknowledge that defensively TCU held up against the run and in regards to that side of the ball the issue is more we have not seen the defense challenged by an offense that can ran and throw as well as team with great speed on the offensive side of the ball.  We all would agree we do not know if Texada is ready to be a starting corner because he has not been challenged in the first two games.

Additionally, we really do not know just how good the depth is along the defensive line because to date neither Samford or Minnesota ran over 68 offensive plays. Yes, the defense has done a great job and they held those offenses done for the most part, but neither tried to push tempo like TCU will see in the Big 12 and the offensive lines they saw do not begin to compare with what the Frogs will see when OU comes to Ft. Worth.

The past two years in the Big 12 tell me Patterson, Bumpus, and the rest of the defensive staff will have the Frogs in position to compete with this group in two weeks.  I do agree that this might be Gary’s best defense ever at TCU and one that could be good enough to ensure a winning record for the season, but does anyone truly believe Patterson broke camp with a goal for this team to slide over .500 for the season?

Something tells that CGP, his Staff, and this Team are shooting for higher goals which means that this offense must make big strides from last year to compete in the conference. Immediately some will use the points scored and the yards gained as proof that change has taken place on the offensive side of the ball. Great, the Frogs kicked the crap out of two schools they should have which is nice after seeing the struggles of the past two seasons, but that is not enough. This team has not faced near the speed they will see in the secondary’s of the B12 nor in the defensive fronts as well as schemes designed to address the HUNH and the short passing game.

I am not trying to be contrarian just to argue, but did see some things in the Minnesota game that brought back a bad case of deja’ vu from last season. Things like the offense being 2 of 12 on third down and 10 of those 12 third down plays being third and  six yards or further to go for the conversion.  Lost yards or penalties early in the downs that put the Frogs in long yardage situations early in the series and they struggled in those situations.

They failed to capitalize on field position be it with stalled drives or failing to execute when they had a chance for big plays.  Silly penalties squashed drives and there seemed to be a sense the offense was fighting itself and not the Gopher defense in the second half.

Specifically, too many penalties from the offensive line and a poor second half throwing the ball from Boykin.  Yes, the TCU site will point to the fact that his completion percentage is the best he has ever had in two consecutive games at just under 60%, but consider this factor on that number. The Frogs averaged 9.6 yards per catch and 5.6 yards per throw against Minnesota which means most were near or behind the line of scrimmage. A quarterback’s completion percentage needs to be above 65% in that type of situation for there to be any offensive continuity. Furthermore Boykin has got to consistently put that ball in a place where receivers and backs can make a play after the catch.

For this offense to be effective against the better teams on the Frogs schedule they must get more out of the passing game in terms of yards after catch on the shorter throws and hitting the deep throws when the receiver is open. Perfect example is the deep seam route where Echols-Luper is wide open and a good pass is a score. Unfortunately, the ball is not even close enough for Cam to make a legitimate play on the ball and the chance at the touchdown is lost.

It might seem like picking nits, but the Frogs cannot miss those opportunities if they indeed want to finish in the top third of the conference and I think that is a legitimate target. Too many yards have been left on the field because of poor execution which is why I believe we saw Boykin stay so late in both of these games. The potential is there in the offense if the Frogs can get solid pass protection, a semblance of a running game, and consistent play at quarterback.

Which brings me to my second point and that this team still does not have to be ready, but there does need to be improvement which is why tomorrow’s game is important. I could care less about the Iron Skillet as I never even heard of it while I was in school at TCU and do not feel any type of hatred for SMU.  Instead I want the Frogs, specifically the offense to show continued progress from where they started this season because in one more week this all gets very, very real.

School Is In Session

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 During the past few months, there has been a great deal of speculation about exactly how effective the changes in the TCU offense actually would be this season. Whether the problems had been a matter of scheme, play calling, talent, or all of the above.
Gary Patterson probably spoke more in the off-season about the changes in the offense, gave more insight into the program than he had in years. You could tell the anticipation by Patterson, the staff, and his players as the opener neared, but we still could not see much behind the purple curtain.
That changed quickly in the game versus Samford. The uniforms were the same, many of the players were the same, but the performance was different. The pace was different, the execution, schemes, design, etc…and most importantly the result. Yes, TCU should have beaten Samford and the Frogs putting number of points and amount of yards on that defense is exactly what an average Big -5 Conference should do in that type of game.
In all honesty, during the past two seasons it was rare to call let alone consider the TCU offense an average unit. In many games they struggle to gain any yards and in the games in which the yards came so did the mistakes in a seemingly never ending supply of penalties, turnovers, dropped passes, etc….. The idea of simple, consistent execution was the most abstract of thought, which is why if there was one thing that stuck out to me it was the execution by the offense. Boykin had his best at quarterback since the game at Baylor two years ago. Kolby Listenbee almost equaled his career totals in catches, yards and touchdowns in three quarters of action and more importantly actually looked like he might be a receiver and not just another fast guy in a football uniform.
Was the performance perfect? No, there was plenty of room for improvement. More than enough areas for the staff and team to work during these first five critical weeks in the season. I mentioned in another piece that I thought the first five weeks of the season set up perfectly for a team wanting to rebuild its confidence on the offensive side of the ball. The first step would be opening night. Actual time against another team, film the coaches could use to teach, and the opportunity to do what we have seen the defensive staff do so often in Ft. Worth.
One thing that has stood out during Patterson’s time at TCU is that over the course of the season his defenses seemed to grow and get better over the course of each season. There were some years when it did not seem to happen and it always did not happen as quickly and thoroughly as we might have hoped, but Gary’s defense have historically gotten better. This is the biggest cause for my frustration with the offense over the past two years. We have seen defensive players such Jason Verrett, Kevin White, Paul Dawson, and Mike Tuaua get better over the season. Each year it has seemed freshmen could arrive on campus and in a matter of a few weeks would be not only seeing game time, but making plays. I am not talking about guys like Fields, but consider Derrick Kindred going from an unknown recruit to a player making double digit tackles against WVU in Morgantown.
Over the past two season though we have not seen that growth, that progress, that ability to get new talent on the field on the offensive side of the ball. We have seen the same mistakes made repeatedly and again. Blown assignments, stupid penalties, and the failure to execute the offense. The how and why of that happened is in the past. What is critical since Patterson decided to make the changes is what happens going forward. Whether we see the offensive players getting better, the execution sharper, and the progress this team will need if they truly want to be among the top tier of the B12.
Where to begin? The two key areas for the Frog offense are the line and quarterback. The first seems logical as it was a problem continually last year and there were some lapses against Samford. TCU struggled early in running the ball inside and missed some line calls that turned defenders free into the TCU backfield. My biggest concern coming into this season was the line and they must get much better over the next three weeks. They will be asked to go against some very good defensive fronts in the B12, far more talented and athletic than Samford and the type of units that they have struggled against the past two seasons. The Frogs offensive line does not have to be dominant, but they must be able to create enough running room to make defenses defend the run and pass as well as give the quarterbacks time to execute the offense. Speed is abundant in the offense and I am encouraged in the growth I saw in the young receivers. None of that matters though if the line does not get better.
To some I lost all credibility when I said that the Frogs must get better at quarterback. They will point to Boykin’s completion percentage, the yards, the lack of turnovers, or the fact I even said this was his best game since the game at Baylor his freshman year. All true, but that does not mean that he cannot improve and more importantly must get better for TCU to finish in the top half of the B12.
A 60-70% completion rate should not be viewed as an exception in this offense, but the norm. It is an offense built upon getting the ball into the hands of players in space and allowing them to create big plays. For that to happen the quarterback must take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves in the game and the key to this is accuracy. I know it sounds stupid to say a player who completed 70% of his attempts needs to become more accurate, but consider a few things. Boykin had a great game with over three hundred passing yards. It could and should have been more though as he twice has a wide-open Listenbee deep and he did not get the ball close enough to where Kolby could make a play on the ball let alone complete the run as it could have been with a long touchdown. He also had balls to Doctson, Storey, and Porter where the passes was complete, but had the ball been in a better place the receiver could have gained more yardage after the catch. It might sound like nitpicking, but these are the type of opportunities that must executed against OU, Baylor, OSU, etc.. if TCU truly is going to win those games. You cannot afford to leave yard and points on the table due to poor execution.
Yes, Green dropped a sure touchdown pass, Doctson dropped an easy catch, and Moore’s failure to get the proper depth on a route allowed for the Joeckel interception and a near interception on a ball thrown by Boykin. All valid and all points that need to be improved upon. I simply will defend my stance on the quarterback play by saying that Meachum let it known after the game Boykin stayed in the game because they were not happy with his accuracy on some routes. Key here is that if you watch the film you can see the same mechanical mistakes made by Boykin that led to missing the two deep balls and the three shorter throws being off target. Boykin has always had the slightly side armed delivery and there are more than a few successful quarterbacks who have had similar throwing motions. The breakdown though was on the five passes I mentioned he planted his feet and only used his upper body when he made the throws. This cost him velocity and accuracy on each throw and can be contrasted to the inside route he hit to Echols-Luper where he stepped through and made a strong throw.
During the broadcast it was mentioned how TCU’s defense spent the first 45 minutes focused upon the fundamentals of their position. In my mind this is the basis for the player development we have seen over the years, the reason why we see the defense execute at the level, which has become their trademark, and what I hope to see from the offense.
I understand I have spent a great deal of time focusing on two parts of a group that scored 40+ points and gained almost 500 yards. As I pointed out in the beginning it was a great start, but not good enough where this team hopes to go this year. Each part of this team has more than enough work to do in getting better before the Frogs play OU. They all must get better if TCU is going to have a legitimate chance not only in that OU game, but also have the success they feel they are capable of in the B12.
School is in session and I cannot wait to watch the Minnesota game and see what this team has learned about its self since the last game.

When Perception Collides with Reality

 

trainwreck

Between 2008-2011 TCU was in one of the best runs of success in the history of the program. The Frogs won three conference titles, went 30-1 in the Mountain West Conference, played in two BCS Bowl games, and its 47-5 record was among the best in the Country.
You commonly found two schools of thought concerning the program. One was that even though TCU was playing in a non-BCS conference the impressive wins against Utah in 2009 and 2010, BYU in 2008 and 2009, over UVA, at Clemson, against Boise, and winning the Rose Bowl were all indicative that the Frogs were one of the very best programs in the country. All the Frogs needed was a fair chance to prove they were on the same level of their BCS conference peers.
Others felt the success of the Frogs was built upon beating lesser and smaller programs and that the TCU program was not built to withstand the demands of playing in a BCS conference and if the Frogs ever played in one they would quickly be relegated back to the levels of success they experienced in the old SWC. Aside from the level of competition in the MWC the one benchmark game used against TCU was the 2008 game in Norman where OU beat TCU 35-10. It was not the outcome that to some showed TCU was not a top rate program, but the first quarter of the game where the OU offense ran 15 plays for 225 yards and 3 touchdowns. In roughly 10-12 minutes of play, the game was over for the Frogs.
As with most points of debate, truth is found in both sides of the debate. The 2008 TCU team was not an elite team and they were not ready for the OU team they ran into that day in Norman. TCU was very young on both sides of the ball, but the team that was blitzed that first quarter in Oklahoma improved over the year, beat Boise in the bowl game, went to Clemson and won in 2009, and went undefeated in 2010. That 2010 team was one of the very best in the country that year and I do believe could have played with any team in the country. I will admit there might be some bias in my perception of that team. None more than those who say the Frogs could not have held their own.
Frog fans pointed to the 2012 season as the opportunity for the Frogs to prove they truly belonged as they left the Mountain West Conference for a spot in the Big East. TCU would now be playing in a BCS conference and prove they truly belonged among the best programs of college football. It is funny how quickly things can head in a direction you never imagined. Real life repeatedly shows us it can turn in a direction we not only could not have thought, but also refused to accept the story line had it been written in a book or movie. First, Texas A&M and Missouri’s decision to leave the Big 12 for the SEC opened the door for TCU to get the chance so many of its supporters had wanted in 2010. The opportunity to go head to head with many of the schools that left it for dead when the SWC collapsed. Unfortunately, this was not the 2010 team that would be taking the field in 2012 and to make matters worse the program in 2012 was not in the same condition as it was in 2010.
The team had lost a number of players who had helped build the foundation for that four-year run. Depth and experience was lost in the offensive line in 2010 and 2011 and grade issues and injury drained the remaining talent further. The Frogs lost key playmakers at the safety position after the 2010 season and the upperclassmen who were recruited to follow just were not the same level of players. Many outside the program will point to the loss of the four players in the drug bust in early 2012 as the turning point for the Frogs, but in reality the decay had already started with the academic casualties, some players lost due to injury, and misses in the recruiting classes.
Many Frog supporters point to the loss of players due to suspension and injuries as reason for the Frogs struggles early in the Big 12, but they were not unique to the program. Consider that in 2012 OU played two different quarterbacks, lost their two best defensive players, and finished 11-2. OSU played 2 quarterbacks and Tech played 3 during their season. UT had injuries at quarterback, injuries at running back, injuries at wide receiver, injuries in the offensive line, fired their defensive coordinator during the year, and beat the crap out of the Frogs. Bottom line is that while there might be real reasons for what has happened during the Frogs first two seasons in the Big 12 the only thing that really matters in terms of how the program is perceived is the score of the games.
Since TCU joined the Big 12, they have gone 6-12 in conference and only have a winning record against KU. In those 12 losses, the average margin has been just under 10 points and six of losses have been by one score. The problem is that recruiting to a large part is sales, sales is perception, and the despite the number of close losses they have gone 0-8 against OU, OSU, Tech, and KSU.
It simply was not a matter of talent on the field, but leadership off coupled by an offense that was nothing short of horrific. There really is no need to go over the problems that have plagued the program over the past two years, but I will point to the comments Gary Patterson made in his Sports Illustrated interview in 2011 where he mentioned that he was struggling to get a handle on his team that year. He used the word sneaky when talking about a few of the players and there was a sense that unlike the group that was the foundation of the three prior teams there was something missing from the 2011 squad. That feeling seemed to linger through 2012 and into 2013 until players like Sam Carter and Chuck Hunter started to step forward as leaders of the program.
There are not enough words to capture the how’s and why’s of the ineptitude of the TCU offense in 2011 and 2012 so I will try to use numbers to show just how bad things were for the Frogs. First down snaps ended up with either zero yards, negative yards, or a turnover 33% of the time. Think about that for a minute. One out of every three first down snaps ended up with no gain, lost yards, or a lost ball. TCU would have had the same result or a better result on 1/3 of their first down snaps had the quarterback taken the snap under center and simply fallen to the ground. Over half the time, the Frogs found themselves with a second down needing 7 or more yards for a new set of downs. The average distance TCU has needed on 3rd down the past two seasons is 7 yards.
The offensive woes were compounded by the tendency to self-destruct. It started in the first game against LSU when the Frogs fumbled their first kick return of the season back to LSU, threw an interception on the first play of the second half, fought their way back to trail by 3, and then gave up a 75-yard kick-off return.
Against OSU the Frogs were intercepted that led to 7 points, were intercepted on the next series, lost a fumble on the series after that, drive to the OSU 11 were they drop a pass on 4th and 1, and throw an interception at the OSU 35 when they are down by 14 in the 3rd period.
The Frogs repeated the same pattern against WVU when they threw an interception at their 25 that resulted in 7 points, Boykin fumbles at the WVU 5 on first and goal that results in 3 points for the Mountaineers, next offensive player Casey is intercepted at WVU 44 that ends up being 7 more WVU points, and on the next series Pachall fumbles at the TCU 20 which turns into 7 more WVU points. People like to point to the penalty in overtime as why the Frogs lost this game, but 4 turnovers resulted in WVU scoring 24 points after the turnovers.
It played out the same way against KSU with the added pain of two long Wildcat touchdown passes and the special teams’ disaster and do we really need to talk about the turnover meltdown against Baylor.
So were those who felt TCU could not compete correct about the program? Partly, the program as it stood at the end of 2013 would not be able to compete in the Big 12. There was talent; the defense was among the best in the conference, but big changes needed to be made for the future of the program. Some steps were taken with the hiring of Cumbie and Meachum. Additionally, Patterson made some key staff hires, which will benefit the program in recruiting as well as continuing to tweak the defense.
The strength of the 2014 team should be the defense even with the late loss of Fields. The Frogs are experienced, talented, and are the deepest they have been since joining the Big 12. Chuck Hunter and Davon Pierson (40 combined starts and 61 games played) are as good a pair as any in the conference. A big key inside will be the development of sophomore Tevin Lawson with John Lewis quitting football. Lawson has been slowed a bit with injuries, but has the size and strength to compliment the two starters. It will not be a complete shock to see Lathan slide inside on third down and freshmen Bryson Henderson and Chris Bradley will need to provide rotational depth when the Frogs get to conference. One thing that has hurt the defense has been the struggle to provide a consistent pass rush against teams like Tech, Baylor, and WVU. They must get some relief from the young defensive tackles. There is no one single player for the Frogs at end with the raw pass rushing potential of Fields, but there is depth and there quality. James McFarland had gotten bigger and stronger over the past two years and at the end of last year started to provide consistent edge pressure. Terrell Lathan led the team in sacks last year and provides a physical presence at the opposite end. Interestingly, neither is set to start the first game as the pair of Tuaua and Carraway are named starters against Samford. The big key is not who starts, but as with tackle the number in the rotation. TCU has struggled for the past two seasons to field three healthy defensive ends and this year looks to have four solid experienced ends. Do not be surprised if freshman LJ Collier gets time in the rotation as well as the Frogs must be able to rotate defensive linemen when they get into conference play. You could see during the past two seasons how at times they struggled at the end of games and towards the end of the season and being able to rotate 8-10 players will be critical.
Paul Dawson became a different player in the last 7 games of the year. He tripled the total number of tackles he had in his first 18 games as a Frog. His ability to play the run and get out in coverage is critical for the Frogs defense and paired with senior Marcus Mallet give TCU the best set of linebackers they have had during their time in the B12. They do not get much attention, but they make the plays Patterson needs in the middle of his defense, Dawson flashed at times the ability to be a major playmaker for the team, and the emergence of freshman Ty Summers along with senior Jonathan Anderson gives them their deepest most athletic set of linebackers. Everyone wants to name the defensive line and secondary as the strength of the defense which they are, but do not take that to mean there are issues at linebacker. I really believe the Frogs’ linebackers are going to surprise some opponents this season.
The defensive line in the TCU system is set to control the line of scrimmage and create pressure. If they can do that, it frees the TCU safeties to be used in a variety of schemes against the run and the pass to create big plays. TCU is deep at safety with returning starters Sam Carter (26 starts, 36 games played, and a graduate student) and Chris Hackett (21 starts and 25 played) along with returner Derrick Kindred (24 games played). All three have shown that they can thrive in the TCU defense as well as emerging depth in JUCO safety Kenny Iloka and freshmen Steve Wesley, Travin Howard, and Ridwan Issahaku. Patterson has made it a priority to get faster and more athletic in their back seven to deal with the offenses of the B12 and you can see that in the new talent providing depth at this critical position.
TCU’s biggest question will not only be who replaces Jason Verrett, but who the third corner is. Kevin White is a very solid corner and is a bit overlooked by many coming into this season. He is experienced and a very good technician for the position. The other corner is Ranthony Texada who is inexperienced and smaller than White, but possess great speed, quickness, and instincts for the position. It remains to be seen though if he can handle bigger receivers. He does not need to be Jason, but if they can get consistent play from him this defense could shape up to be Patterson’s best since the 2010 season. There is a race behind White and Texada for the third and fourth corner positions with freshmen Nick Orr, Torrance Mosely, and JUCO Corry O’ Meally leading the way. One of the constant themes you here about the defense when word leaks from behind the purple curtain is the heightened level of competition for playing time and the number of young players accepting the challenge. I won’t try to spin that TCU has a player of similar skill in the defensive front to Fields or that a healthy Devonte wouldn’t make that big a difference, but he is gone and from talking to people I trust there is a the thought that there is a combination of unity and talent that hasn’t been seen in Ft. Worth since 2010. If that is the case, some teams are going to be surprised when they play the Frogs this season.
It isn’t farfetched that the 2014 TCU defense end up being the best defense Patterson has coached (head or coordinator) at TCU, but that won’t be enough if significant improvement doesn’t take place on the offensive side of the ball. It is not simply a matter of more yards and points, but also avoiding the mistakes. Some have expressed concern about the potential for errors with the Frogs going to a spread-style offense, but those people must not have been paying attention to the Frogs offense last year. I shudder to think it is possible for the Frog offense to produce more turnovers, dropped passes, penalties, and negative plays than last year.
Meachum and Cumbie come to Ft. Worth would good reputations and they have been given total control by Patterson. Gary might not have made all the complete changes some wanted, but he brought in two new, aggressive coaches and let them install an offense, which is a major philosophical change for the Frogs. What no one truly knows until Saturday is will the offense being pass-heavy like we saw at Tech where Cumbie coached or a more balanced approach like was seen at OSU and Houston with Meachum. Further, we do not know if the Frogs have found a quarterback, resolved some of the offensive line concerns, or have more than two receivers who they can depend to catch the ball.
So what do we know about the TCU offense besides the new staff? First, the key is going to be what it has always been and that is the play of the offensive line. The funny thing is no matter what the scheme, no matter what the talent at the skill positions, if you cannot control the line of the scrimmage any offense is going to have a tough go of it. When TCU came into the B12, the offensive line was not deep enough, skilled enough, and athletic enough to get the job done against the defensive fronts they faced in the conference. Two years later we have seen players get stronger, gain valuable experience, and hopefully get place in a scheme that will give them a chance for success. They do not have to be dominant, but they must be better this year and if TCU can get consistent play, it could be a big step to turning the offense around in 2014.
Next, TCU must get play that is much more consistent from the quarterback play in 2014. The why’s for 2012 and 2013 are in the past for the Frogs as hopefully is the inconsistent play and mistakes. The Frog quarterbacks in the new offense must be able to make the proper pre-snap reads, quick decisions after the snap, and throw the ball accurately. Meachum has said the offense is built around execution and not complexity. There is talent at wide receiver and running back. It is critical the quarterback make the right decisions where to direct the ball. Additionally, accuracy is as much about putting the ball in a position where the offensive player can make a play after the catch as whether the ball is catchable or not. If the offense is what we have seen at UH the ability to run after the catch is important for creating big plays for the offense and for that to happen the ball needs to be put into the right location and not just thrown to the correct receiver. Whomever can do that as efficiently and consistently as possible will end up being the starting quarterback. Whether that be Boykin or Joekel will play out in the first three games of the year in my mind. If the Frogs can get improved offensive line play and consistent quarterback play, I do believe we will see a much-improved offense and the Frogs finish at least in the top half of the conference.
The reason why I think we will see the improvement is that the Frogs do have talent and great speed at the skill positions. It begins in the backfield where TCU returns a very solid group with BJ Catalon, Aaron Green, and freshmen Kyle Hicks and Trevorris Johnson. Catalon has rushed for over 1,000 career yards and catches the ball well out of the backfield. If you look at how Meachum used his running backs at UH and OSU used their backs, it is easy to see Catalon doing big things in the offense. He had plus vision and burst and I do believe we see a big year from him in 2014. Green is a similar back though he has not shown to be as physical and Kyle Hicks showed great versatility in high school. One name to keep note of is Trevorris Johnson for the Frogs. He is the only back TCU has that weighs much over 220 lbs. and he could provide a physical compliment to the Frogs smaller quicker backs.
TCU has great raw potential at wide receiver, but not many knowns coming into the year. Literally, they have an NCAA meet caliber relay team with Listenbee, Echols-Luper, Moore, and Gray. Slanina has plus quickness, Porter ran a 10.5 in high school as well as McBride, and Storey is a big receiver who should a plus burst in the open field at times last year. Unfortunately, the only proven returning receivers for the Frogs are David Porter with 35 catches (562 yds./5 tds) and Josh Doctson with 36 catches (440/ 4 td’s). Combined, the other 5 returning receivers in 2013 totaled 41 catches for less than 500 yards, and 2 td’s last year. What the Frogs need at this position first and foremost is Porter and Doctson to start the season where they ended it last year. In their last 5-games, the duo combined for 47 catches, 667 yards, and 8 scores. If they can provide that type of consistency in 2014 if not more I think it takes the pressure off the other receivers and the quarterbacks.
To make this offense truly explosive will require players to provide big plays in the passing game and as I said, there is the raw talent at the receiver position for the Frogs. As I said before the raw talent is there on the roster. Listenbee was clocked last year at 10.17 in the 100M, Echols-Luper ran under 21.0 in the 200M, Jordan Moore has the school records in the 60M hurdles, Dante’ Gray-David Porter-Corey McBride all ran 10.5 or faster in high school, and Ty Slanina consistently ran in the low 4.4’s at various college camps. None of that matters if they cannot catch, run a route, or read a coverage, but if Porter and Doctson can provide consistency then all the Frogs need is someone from this group to provide the spark. Meachum showed at Houston he would find a way to put the ball in the hands of his playmakers. If they can get 2-3 of those players to provide that threat, it will open the offense up and that is when TCU will make the push into the top tier of the B12.
Nothing like a series of ifs and what might be’s for a program that is trying to change its fortunes on the field and the perception held by many. They are not completely farfetched nor improbable, but they are not lock as well. They are however critical for the future of the program. TCU must show more than being competitive, more than progress, TCU must show it can win. The program could find itself in a very good placing coming out of this season as the Frogs only have four seniors on their offensive depth and seven on their defensive depth chart starting the season. Fifty-four of their top sixty-one players entering the year project to return for 2015. It is critical though that they show progress this year to sell to recruits for the 2015 class and beyond. Each year that slips away costs them two in recruiting and while there is young talent on the roster things can change quickly with an 85-man roster.
Much attention has been given to a difficult three game stretch in October when TCU plays OU, at Baylor, and Oklahoma State, but what is missed is the five weeks prior to that stretch. The early schedule sets up very well for TCU with three very winnable games spread out over 5 weeks. TCU plays Samford, has a week off, and then plays Minnesota. That is followed by another week off and then SMU. I think this will provide not only the chance for TCU to build confidence through on the field success, but the week off between each will allow the staffs to address shortcomings in the offense and refine the defense. Even if the Frogs go, 1-2 in that three game stretch in October the Frogs would find themselves at 4-2 with six games to go and four of those games at this point appear very favorable (Tech, at WVU, at UK, and Iowa State). Finish the year at 7-5 or better and that starts to change the perception around the program a bit and sets things up for 2015.

2014 Paper Frogs

When I look back and recall the first time, I remember anyone caring about college football recruiting it was while driving in the car, listening to an AM station, and hearing the discussion about a person named Gerry Terranova. Terranova was an automotive worker who had an interest in learning about the incoming players for his favorite college team and their conference rivals so he did the unthinkable thing and actually wrote to them requesting information about their incoming classes.

In an era where programs go into lockdown mode if word gets out about a “silent commitment or a player who is about to flip” the idea of major programs openly giving information about their incoming classes might sound crazy, but no crazier that what Terranova once did for fun evolved (or de-evolved if you share Beano Cookes’ thinking that those who followed the decisions of high school kids lived lives of quiet desperation, but then what would he call people who prefer internet porn to real physical contact?) into a 24-7-365 multi-million dollar business.

I make this point to remind whomever reads this that recruiting sites such as Rivals, ESPN, or 247 are in the business to make money and while I won’t even try to make the argument that any of the three corner back prospects TCU signed are athletically in the same class as Tony Brown who signed with Alabama or Nick Harvey who signed with A&M I will say that there is no economic reason for them to do the homework and get an accurate read on whether or not R. Issahaku has the physical ability to play cornerback how Gary Patterson and Clay Jennings want their corners to play in the Big 12. With less than 100,000 living alumni, the market just is not there and I am not going to take the stance that the Frogs would not have been elated had Harvey flipped to them.
What matters most to me is that the people with the most at stake, Patterson and Jennings, while visiting recruits and high school coaches in the Atlanta area came hearing Issahaku’s name when they asked the simple question which cornerback did you face that gave you the most problems. They are the ones who went to Northcross and talked with his coaches, they were the ones who saw the film, and they are the ones who know what they want physically, intellectually, and psychologically from their corners.

No, I am not taking on the whole star rating system nor tilting one of the favorite Frog alums favorite windmills of “big school media bias”. Simply that while players like Tony Brown and Nick Harvey are incredibly gifted athletes and great looking prospects there is just far too many players to be viewed for anyone to truly gauge all of them and if I am going to favor the thoughts of one I would prefer it be the Head Coach and Position Coach with a proven track record of finding, projecting and developing over some who puts more stock in NFL combine style workouts and summer passing leagues.

When I have looked at recruiting classes I have written about the Frogs classes in the past I have taken a two-step approach, where there any immediate needs addressed and how does this class position the program long-term. It is a bit trickier on the offensive side of the ball short-term this year because we do not know yet what the offensive scheme will be for TCU. Based upon where Meachum and Cumbie have coached and the offenses they have been involved with it is a solid guess to say we will see a continuation of the spread with possibly some pistol and possibly the diamond formations. What remains to be seen is how the new staff changes will affect the run/pass mix for the Frogs that has been heavy to the run side and it has been widely held that Patterson has preferred a conservative offensive scheme to minimize turnovers and focus on controlling the tempo of the game. It also remains to be seen how the current players in the program fit into the new scheme and how they develop with the new staff members.
Defensively it is a simpler process in that we know TCU is going to run the 4-2-5, they are going to place an emphasis on quickness and aggression, and that the staff has a proven track record of developing talent. Additionally, two years of Big 12 play has given us a small sample size of how well the defense can hold their own in the league and what areas need to be improved upon. The trickiest part here is that Patterson and his staff have shown a great knack of finding underrated and unknown prospects and developing them into quality defenders. In some cases you don’t have much to go own short term, but the track record is there and in the end I have always put my faith in those with “skin in the game” over those who make 10,000 foot observations.

OFFENSIVE RECRUITS OVERALL
Coming into the 2014 it would be hard to make the argument that aside from running back there was not a position that TCU did not have to get better play from if they want to be competitive in the league. The offense has been the worst in the Big 12 the Frogs first two years in the conference that no doubt was the genesis for Patterson hiring Doug Meachum and Sonny Cumbie, but coaching has not been the sole problem. Inconsistent quarterback and receiver play have plagued TCU and the offensive line regressed last year. I truly believe that the best answers for the offense are already on campus, but that does not mean you will not see some of the 2014 offensive recruits push for early time. Frank Kee is already enrolled in school, will go through spring ball and TCU needs him to help stabilize the interior of their offensive line. I would not be surprised if Ty Barrett pushes for time and I have heard very good things about Austin Schlottman. At some point this program has to get where it isn’t looking for new offensive linemen to fill the depth chart and I think this class provides a very good base, but they aren’t there yet and I do think the one offensive recruit they did not land that would have helped was Braden Smith. Overall, this is a very good offensive class with two very good quarterback recruits, a group of four athletic offensive line prospects, a very good running back, and a group of receivers that includes three raw, but big and fast prospects.

Short-term if Kee is as good as hoped, Barret and/or another of the linemen helped solidify the line’s two deep, and one of the young receivers contributes this is a very good class. Long-term I think raw pieces are there at quarterback, receiver, and in the line to get some points on the board for the Frogs. The big “if” long-term centers around players being developed at those key positions and that is something we have not seen lately in Fort Worth. Here is hoping to the new hires reversing that trend.

QUARTERBACK – TCU returns three quarterbacks for 2014 and Trayvone Boykin has started games for the Frogs. What remains to be seen though is if he can be accurate enough throwing the ball and quick enough in his decision making to stay at quarterback or if he moves to wide receiver. In the past, it has seemed that Patterson has preferred an experienced quarterback, but both Cumbie at Tech and Meachum at UH had young quarterbacks play effectively for them last year and Boykin has struggled to effective over the course of a season throwing the football. I am not ready to say Sawyer or Muehlstein can push for time next year, but I do believe which ever quarterback shows the abilities to make quick decisions, avoid mistakes, and accurately throw the football they will end up starting for TCU. Landing both these prospects was big for the Frogs as they project well in the new offense and I would not be surprised if one ends up in a back-up role in 2014.

Grayson Muehlstein – Decatur High School (Decatur, TX.) (6’ 4” – 210 lbs.) – Muehlstein committed to TCU very, early in the recruiting process last February 25th and never really seemed to garner a great deal of attention. Some fellow Frogs will tell you part of that is the recruiting services ignoring TCU recruits because of the small alumni/fan base and overexposing recruits for larger schools and those who are still on the proverbial market. I don’t completely disagree with the basis of the theory that the services whose income is based upon subscribers and the lifeblood of all websites is indeed ongoing traffic meaning I don’t think it is a huge stretch to take the position a prospect from a small school north of Ft. Worth who had a solid junior year, pledged early to TCU, and then never took any other visits isn’t the type of prospect their business model is built upon.

What is more important than any of that though is what Grayson will be bringing to Ft. Worth next year and that is a very athletic quarterback prospect with some good tools and who showed significant improvement between his junior and senior year. He is a three time regional qualifier in track running the open 200M, open 400M, and legs on all three of Decatur’s relay teams over the past three seasons. He has posted a sub 4.5 forty, 31” vertical, 285 lb. bench press, and 400 lb. squat. Over the past two years he has started to fill out which can be seen in the 20+ lbs. he gained during his three years on varsity for the Eagles. Considering his build and reported work habits, it isn’t hard to project Grayson at 225 lbs. in a season or two.

As a two-year starter for Decatur Grayson threw of over 4,700 yards and 53 touchdowns along with over 2,100 yards rushing and 24 more touchdowns. The biggest thing to me on his numbers is that we see a significant jump in his senior season. Muehlstein in 2013 threw for over 3,000 yards, ran for just under 1,500 yards, and had a combined 53 touchdowns throwing and running in a 13 game season. That indicates to me growth as a prospect and I do think with his combination of mobility and arm strength he is a very good quarterback prospect.
In talking with people he has to work on his decision making as he throw 20 interceptions during the last 2 years, Grayson needs to continue to work on his mechanics to become more consistent with his accuracy, and there will be the jump in competition from a 3A program.

Video/Web Links: http://gofrogs.cstv.com/sports/m-football/spec-rel/tcu-14-sig
http://www.sbnation.com/college-football-recruiting/2013/2/20/4010692/tcu-horned
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOG07C5VPkA
http://qb1sports.com/prospect/grayson-muehlstein
http://videonewsindex.com/play/dallas-elite11-grayson-muehlstein-espn

Forest Sawyer –All Saints High School (Ft. Worth, TX.) (6’ 5” – 215 lbs.) – Forest is a tall, drop-back quarterback prospect from Ft. Worth who removed more attention early in the recruiting process than his classmate, but much of subsided when he pledged to the Frogs in April. He does not show the overall athletic ability like Muehlstein, but he does have some mobility and played multiple sports at All Saints. What drew the national attention last spring was his ability to throw the football showing both accuracy and some strength. During his two seasons as the starting quarterback for FWAS, he has completed over 65% of his throws for 8,710 yards, and 79 touchdowns leading his teams to back-to-back state titles. A specific strength has been decision making as reflected in his 48 touchdowns passes this year compared to only two interceptions.
Sawyer does have a gangly frame and needs to gain some weight and strength. You could see gains in his velocity and deep-accuracy with those gains between his junior and senior seasons and one would have to think similar gains would be made in the next few seasons at TCU. There has been some talk that if one of the two new quarterbacks were to see early playing time next season it would be Sawyer because of his advanced passing skills over Grayson. One thing to remember here is Forest has not faced on a regular basis athletes comparable to what he will see in the B12 and I do believe he just as much as Muehlstein will need some time to make the jump from a lower level of competition.

Video/ Web Links: http://gofrogs.cstv.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/tcu-14-signing-day.html#Sawyer
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_eEB3loKQSU
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nC4AFK9ucDY
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXyh4ufkLGl

RUNNINGBACK – if there was one position last year for the TCU offense that represented itself well it was the running back position. BJ Catalon, Aaron Green, and Jordan Moore combined for yards last year and with all three returning as well as red-shirt freshmen Kyle Hicks and Trevorris Johnson on the roster this wasn’t an immediate need position. The last two years though have painfully re-enforced the idea that you cannot have too much depth at a position and Nixon is a well thought of prospect who projects well in the new offense.

Shaun Nixon – Lake Travis High School (Lake Travis, TX.) (5’ 9” – 180 lbs.) – TCU did not expect to sign a back this season after landing two quality prospects last year in Trevorris Johnson and Kyle Hicks as well as transfer Aaron Green. Late in the recruiting process, Nixon decided to rethink his almost 1 ½-year pledge to the Aggies and his flip gave the Frogs their highest rated offensive recruit for 2014.

Nixon is not a big back, but does have good strength with a reported 315 bp and 405 squat to go with great vision and quickness. During the last three years playing for Lake Travis he has run for over 3,750 yards and 50 touchdowns, caught 93 balls for an additional 1,147, he ended up with over 6,000 career combined yards and showed great instincts for finding the end zone. One thing I really like about Nixon in the new Frog offense is his ability to catch the ball. Lake Travis did not merely line him out and throw slip screens to him. Shaun did room some patterns out of the backfield and down the field and his 93 career catches are more than four of the five Frog receiver prospects.
I have two concerns about Nixon. First, he has roughly been the same size for the past three seasons in high school, which does raise the question if he has reached his physical maximum. It does not mean he cannot be effective, but could mean limited upside potential. The second is that while he has above average quickness he is not a burner. He physically looks a bit like B.J. Catalon coming out of Westside, but he does not have the top gear Catalon has when he hits the open field. Again, it does not mean he cannot be effective and I do see some similarities to Waymon James.

Video/ Web Links: http://gofrogs.cstv.com/sports/m-football/spec-rel/tcu-14-sig
http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/463862/#athletics
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qXqYzKFUDOA
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ni9o8-7BP8c
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_pkiVULYew
http://www.maxpreps.com/video/watch.aspx?videoid
WIDE RECEIVER – asked to define the various offensive positions for TCU in 2013 with one word I think I would do it this way. Quarterback – disappointing, Running Back – underutilized, Offensive Line – lost, and Wide Receiver – enigma. No group was harder to figure out actually for the past two years than the wide receivers. Everyone wants to lay the blame last year at the feet of Curtis Luper being the receiver coach, but inconsistency catching the ball, poor routes, and lack of development has extended beyond his tenure with the receivers. It did however seem to reach a head in 2013 with Boyce leaving early for the NFL, Carter breaking a hand in Fall Camp and never appearing to be right all season, Brown-Listenbee-Gray all seem to have no idea how to play the position or use their physical skills, Storey struggled to stay healthy, Porter and Doctson offer consistency but neither is physically talented enough to be a true threat on their own, and the two frosh in 2013 Luper and Slanina offer promise but haven’t shown yet they are ready to be a consistent contributor and featured part of the offense.
Short-term do not confuse numbers with depth and while the Frogs do return nine receivers from last season who do you say is a proven number one receiver? Heck, who has shown they can be counted upon to be a solid number two or three option over the course of a season? I would love to think that four to five of those returning receivers will step their games up and form a solid group, but I do think that there will be an opportunity for at least one of the young receivers to play next season. Additionally, long-term I think this wide receiver group is athletic as any group brought into the conference and that includes the highly regarded quartet at Baylor. They are not as polished and might not have the raw speed of the Baylor 4, but they can run and the upside on this group is high. The big key will be if they actually develop which has been a big problem at this position.
Get ready to read one common theme with each of the four receiver prospects that TCU signed in 2014 and that is raw with a load of physical potential. To give you a bit of perspective Shaun Nixon with his 93 career catches has more career catches than four of the five receivers signed by TCU, but do not take that to mean none of the five will or could contribute in 2014. I do believe we will see at least two of the younger receivers contribute in 2014 simply because TCU signed some incredible athletes in this group. The upside on three of these recruits is as high as any position they filled in this class and I am encouraged with the new staff we will begin to see actual development from this roster position.
Corey McBride – Dutchtown High School (Geismar, LA.) (6’ 2” -175 lbs.) – an Arkansas pledge who flipped when the Hogs pulled their offer to high school teammate and future Frog Torrance Marshall. McBride has had great success as a track athlete for Germantown since his freshman season when he posted a 21.14 in the open 200M, long jumped 22’ 3”, scored in the open 100M at the state meet, and ran on their relay teams.
He has been part of track teams that have won three consecutive state track titles in Louisiana’s largest classification scoring in the open 100 as well as running on their 4×100 and 4×200 relays (Those relays in 2012 and 2013 from what I could tell also featured future Frog Marshall and Alabama defensive back Landon Collins.). Corey has posted a best of 10.67 in the 100 M and has been clocked at under 4.4 in the forty at multiple camps.
When you watch video of Corey, you can see the great speed and looking at the long strides you can tell he is definitely a track guy. Two of the big concerns for great track athletes when they move to college is one do they have more than straight-line speed. One item mentioned about Corey prior to his senior season is can he develop his lateral quickness and agility to be an effective college receiver. It sounds simple enough to simply have him line-up and just run down the field, but to truly develop as a complete receiver he needs to be able to show he understands how to use that great speed to his advantage coming out of breaks, alternating speed coming off the line, and being more than just a guy out there running go routes.
Do not get me wrong as I like the idea of TCU having at least one vertical route one each passing play putting pressure on the secondary similar to what Baylor does in their offense. The idea of having guys like McBride and Listenbee who can absolutely fly is great, but I hope McBride can develop into a more versatile threat. To do that he needs to learn to use that speed, improve route running, reading coverages, and the mechanics of catching the football. These are things that can be worked upon and I am encouraged with Meachum working with the young receivers.
The second question I have is how will handle the more physical play from defensive backs in college. More times than not in high school, defensive backs will not physically challenge receivers who are faster and the more physically talented defensive backs are not technically sound. I think one area where the TCU receivers have really struggled is against some of the better defensive backs in the league and if the TCU offense wants to be effective against the better secondaries in the conference, they are going to have to contend with physical plays when they face teams like OU, UT, KSU, and OSU. Part of that involves getting stronger and while the Frogs list McBride at 185 I have seen him listed anywhere from 165-185 and he definitely shows a sprinters build on the video. I would suspect as a sprinter McBride has not done a great deal of weight room work and I think he will benefit in a few years.
It is tough sometimes with out of state kids to get information as all too often we expect to find the same access to video and even basic stats. I can tell you that McBride as a junior had 15 catches for 160 yards and two scores. Watching the video highlights for his senior season, I counted and in reviewing, some of the box scores for his senior season there were some games Germantown was happy to keep the ball on the ground and not throw. It would be great if McBride came in as a more polished receiver, but that does not mean he is a reach. The kid has great speed and athleticism and it is up to the staff to develop the other aspects of playing the position. I asked a friend who is much closer to the program what he thought the potential upside to McBride and he mentioned from Louisiana native Jimmy Young, which would be fine with me.

Video/Web Links: http://gofrogs.cstv.com/sports/m-football/spec-rel/tcu-14-sig
http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/1543809/#highlights/109546377
http://theadvocate.com/sports/preps/6519422-123/corey-mcbride-set-to-build
Ryan Parker – Fossil Ridge High School (Keller, TX.) (6’ 2” – 190 lbs.) – go back last spring and see if you can find any of the recruiting experts talking about Parker and you won’t find anyone simply because he stopped playing after his sophomore year. He did however excel for Fossil Ridge on the basketball court as a point guard and during the summer last year, there were some mentions of his athletic ability during a few 7-on-7 passing tournaments. My point is the supposedly the rankings are a reflection of the upside potential, but the biggest flaw in the entire system is that the rankings only reflect those who are in the system early and often times miss kids who develop later or emerge during their senior season.
When you look at Parker’s measurables, he fills all the requirements. He has good size, plus speed and quickness, great leaping ability (reported 44” vertical), and shows a very good knack of finding the football in the air. He had 15 catches against Southlake, was the District Offensive MVP in a very good district, and finished the season with 83 catches for 1,270 yards, and 18 touchdowns (1 for every 4.5 catches).
I have read and heard some concerns about his inexperience at the position, he struggled against a very physical and talented Hebron secondary, he does not have great foot speed, and there have been whisper about academic qualification worries.
Yes, much like McBride and also with Porter, it would be great if Parker stepped onto campus with a fully developed understanding of routes, reading various coverage, and receiving mechanics, but as I pointed out above those are things that can be taught and I feel much better about that happening at the receiver position than has been taught in quite some time. What can’t be taught though is the instinctive to see the ball, go catch the ball, and then make something happen which if you watch his footage you will see he did quite well this past season.

In regards to the others consider that Fossil Ridge faced Hebron very early in the year and Parker and where he was a senior or not this was either he second or third game as a varsity receiver. Additionally, I don’t know exactly what his times are in the forty, but he shows a very good burst running after the catch and he doesn’t have to have Corey McBride’s’ raw foot speed to be an effective receiver for the Frogs. Quickness out of breaks and the ability to change directions can be much more valuable and those are skills that I think translate very well off the basketball court. Additionally, I think his physical skills compliment McBride and Porter.

Finally, I have no idea on the academics rumors and do not really care about them at this time. If it were a hopeless case, the kid would not have signed and if there is work to be done, he still has time. I trust those who know the real numbers and actually seen the transcript. I think that in the end TCU landed a great prospect in Parker who as a result of not playing as junior and making the combine/camp circuits was unknown last Fall, but the production was there and you can see the raw talent in his video footage. It would be unfortunate if he does qualify, I do think he could push for playing time in 2014 based upon the Frogs need for receivers and Ryan’s abilities.

Video / Web Links: http://gofrogs.cstv.com/sports/m-football/spec-rel/tcu-14-sig
http://insidetexas.com/news/story.php?article=4415
http://insidetexas.com/news/story_print.php?article=4505
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=711GOs28Mb4
http://theoldcoach.rivals.com/content.asp?CID=1542802
http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/2835961/#highlights/75894375
http://www.texasfootball.com/recruiting-news/view/180689

Emanuel Porter – Lincoln High School (Dallas, TX.) (6’ 3” – 190 lbs.) – KD Cannon might have been the highest rated receiver in the state of Texas last year, but I truly believe no receiver in the state has a higher ceiling than Emanuel Porter. Do not get me wrong, as I would have loved to see Cannon sign with TCU and I think he will be a big contributor quickly in the Baylor offense. I just believe that Porter has that much upside physically and this is a player who loves to compete against the very best.

I have read and heard the knocks on Emanuel. Yes, you can find footage on him dropping some easy catches; he needs work on his routes as well as his mechanics catching the football (Told you there would be some common refrains in this section) which all can be addressed by coaching. What oft gets lost when people talk about him is that this is a guy who has not had an off-season over the past three years. A common thought on Porter is that because he is from inner Dallas at Lincoln he did not have the program advantages of a player at Allen, Coppell, Cedar Hill, or Desoto that is all true, but this is also a prospect who truly has not given football his complete focus.

If you do a bit research on-line, you can find the story of Porter going to the TCU summer camp on a whim before his junior year when he for the most part was an unknown and dropping a sub 4.5 in the forty. Here is a kid who played football as something to do in the fall getting an offer for a scholarship from the TCU staff.

Google the phrase “Emanuel Porter dunk” and you will find multiple clips of Porter exploding off the basketball floor and finishing as well as anyone. A friend of mine after watching a couple of the videos commented that Porter was the answer to the thought of his what Chris Clack would have looked like playing basketball. I do not think Porter is in that class of dunker, but based upon the clips I do believe the claims of the 40”+ vertical.
As sophomore, Porter started for a very good Dallas Lincoln basketball team down low and averaged double-digit rebounds at 6’3”. If you Google Slam Online: Impossible to Ignore you will find an on-line article dated July 14, 2012. Read the article and you will find out that instead of running pass patterns all summer or competing in 7-on-7 passing tournaments Porter was playing with the Neal twins on Derron Williams’ Metro Elite AAU team that competed in Chicago at the LeBron James tournament that brought together some of the best AAU teams in the country. Read a bit further and you will come across Porter electrifying the crowd with two dunks as a sophomore and drawing attention from New Mexico and Lehigh for basketball.

On top of playing football and basketball for Lincoln and being on Williams’ traveling AAU basketball team Emanuel has also run track for Dallas Lincoln and a summer track program. I found times of 10.7 in the 100M and 47.4 in the 400M and last spring he ran at the Texas Relays and State Track Meet on Lincoln’s 4X100 and 4X200 relays.
In the era of specialization, Porter is the antithesis of it. Would he have been a better high school receiver had he spent all that time working on the position? Yes, but in the end I think he will be better suited for what lies ahead because for his entire time in high school he has been competing and not in mat drills or flag football. He has been competing against some of the nation’s best athletes in big game settings.

Physically he has everything you would want in are receiver in terms of height, long arms, has a build that can easily carry over 210 lbs., quickness and speed. There will be adjustments, as he does need to work on routes, catching mechanics, and learning how best to use his quickness and speeds. I have not seen any footage where Emanuel has had to face a defensive back with good press coverage technique or is near his equal as an athlete. That will come very soon and how quickly and how well he responds to those challenges will determine in my mind how soon he makes an impact in the TCU offense. What I am not concerned though is how he responds to the challenge as he has shown he will not back down when facing elite competition and this is why I believe he has the highest ceiling of any receiver prospect in the State this year. When I look at him, I see a prospect who has the speed to be a deep threat with the physical build and presence to be the focal point of the Frogs passing game and a name that pops in my head while I watch him is former Humble athlete and Ohio State receiver David Boston.

Video/ Web Links: http://gofrogs.cstv.com/sports/m-football/spec-rel/tcu-14-sig
http://www.hudl.com/athlete/232249/emanuelporter#
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ZRIn5VQ-qo
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7JGSq2kf1DW
http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&feature=frwo&v
http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=RSjGmkVG4fQ (at the 0:10 mark)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=pqgBg-FxQc (at the 2:49 and 3:37 marks)
http://www.flotrack.org/coverage/250693-UIL-Texas-State-Championship-Track-and-Field-Meet-2013/video/709222-B-4×100-H01-4A
http://www.flotrack.org/coverage/250693-UIL-Texas-State-Championship-Track-and-Field-Meet-2013/video/709327-B-4×200-H01-4A

Desmon White – De Soto High School (De Soto, TX.) (5’ 7” – 150 lbs.) – while McBride, Parker, and Porter all have the stature to play both the inside and outside receivers Des White projects to being a slot guy who most likely will need to be placed in certain positions and packages to maximize what he can do for the Frogs offense. White has been about as productive as any offensive player in the State the past two years with over 10,000 total yards and 102 touchdowns. He has been the leader of a team that has gone 26-2 in 2012 and 2013 and have played some of the toughest competition in Texas.
There is no doubting his leadership or character and he has explosive quickness. When you watch his video, you can see the great ability to change direction coupled with the quickness that made him so effective running the football for De Soto. The biggest concern simply is the size as he is listed at a gracious 5’ 7” and 150 lbs. he is going to have certain physical limitations. Much as I would have had concerns about the technical development of the other three receivers under the old offensive staff, I do not think we would have seen White put into situations to leverage his skills and benefit the offense. It will be interesting to see how Cumbie and Meachum integrate him into an offense that has been terrible the past two seasons and has to find some signs of life.

Video/ Web Links: http://gofrogs.cstv.com/sports/m-football/spec-rel/tcu-14-sig
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_xmXfHLMMI
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52CZMjl6030

Andres Petties-Wilson – Mission Bay High School (San Diego, Ca.) (6’1” – 195) – a late 2014 signee from San Diego, Andres is just another of the group of players who either seem to be overlooked or had some obstacle that has to be circumvented. A multi-sport athlete Andres is from the same high school the produced Houston Texan running back Arian Foster and rock legend Frank Zappa. On tape, he shows great body control and the ability to run after the catch. Andres has a reported 4.5 forty time, 4.35 agility shuttle, 11.2 100 meter time, 275 bp, and 345 squat. He does not possess the straight track speed of Porter or McBride, but he shows good acceleration and separation speed against solid competition.

My favorite things about Andres are his reported work ethic and response to setbacks. Consider his final catch in his junior season, which took place in a first round play-off game. APW had gotten behind a defender for a long completion and was headed for the end zone in what appeared to be a game deciding plan for Mission Bay. The defensive back did not give up on the play, caught APW from behind, and knocked the ball free resulting in a touchback and preserving the victory. I have only read about the play and it was one of a handful of catches for APW his junior year, but it did not end up defining his career at Mission Bay. As a senior APW had over 100 catches, 16 touchdown catches, 1,700+ receiving yards, and had his biggest career game with over 300 yards receiving in a semi-final game to help put Mission Bay into the championship game his senior season.
Academically we see the same determination from APW. He has a reported 3.3 cumulative GPA at the magnet high school, but came up short on his initial test score. Working with a non-profit that focuses on helping students improve their test taking skills APW exceeded the mark need for qualifying for the Frogs. I can’t say why APW didn’t’ merit more attention in recruiting. Maybe it was the small sample size of catches coming into his senior season, maybe it was the concern over his test scores, and maybe it was because he does not have the raw astonishing numbers posted at some combine where he is running through cones and do other drills instead of playing football.

My point is not that there is not some transference between those drills, raw athletic skills, and upside potential. I fully understand I just took the position that Emanuel Porter should not be judged on his lack of his high school production because of his raw upside. My point is that in the offense TCU is going to they need multiple receivers and as much as you need speed guys and the freakish athletes who can generate the high light film plays you also need those guys who you can depend upon running their routes, being fearless on the inside routes, and I think based upon his body of work and willingness to compete will be APW’s role at TCU.

Video/ Web Links: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/3254810/#highlights/68975375
vimeo.com/79574274
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5ye2mHTXF0
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4DuL3cDHMGo
http://www.beachcombermb.com/news/…/opportunities-afoot-for-petties-wilson

OFFENSIVE LINE – to be blunt the Frogs have been over matched in the offensive line since they started playing in the Big 12. Understand there is a difference in blaming the players and saying that over the past two years the Frogs have not matched up in an area that is critical for any offense, but especially when you have an offense that is centered around running the ball. This program was not ready to compete in the conference in the line and been struggling for two years to find any consistency. Disciplinary problems, injuries, and grades have all impaired the line’s progress. Add in that many of the older linemen were not athletic enough to get the job done against the fronts they faced in the Big 12 and the struggles look to continue in 2014 unless some of the linemen recruited the past two years begin to step forward and some stability is provided at key positions from this class. Specifically, Frank Kee was brought in to help the Frogs in the interior which was a disaster last year and it won’t be a surprise if Barrett and possibly Schlottman push for time in the line’s 2-deep.

Long-term I think all four of the 2014 freshmen to be project the type of athletic ability TCU has sorely lacked since the Rose Bowl against Wisconsin. Key here will be some needed strength and weight gain as well as technique work. The latter will be interesting as we have not really seen much improvement in that area in the past two years and part of the staff changes will affect the line. Short-term I do think Braden Smith would have pushed for early time and I think Frank Kee ends up starting at one of the guard positions. Ideally, Frank would be the only one of the five pushing for immediate time as this program has to get to a point and do so quickly where you constantly aren’t throwing young offensive linemen into the mix because of injuries, disciplinary issues, and misses in recruiting. Unfortunately, as mentioned above I would not be surprised to see both Barrett and Schlottman push for time.
Ty Barrett – Skyline High School (Dallas, TX.) (6’ 4” – 315 lbs.) – the most highly regarded of the four freshman offensive linemen signed, Ty has a big-square frame and quick feet that have him projecting to playing inside for the Frogs. He did play outside as a junior at Skyline and moved in for his senior season. Some have projected him at senior where his quickness and feet would seem to be a good fit for the position. Ty is not an elite athlete, but has good balance and lateral movement. His technique at times is raw and like most young linemen slips a bit as he tires. Even though Skyline does play against some of the better competition in the State, he has not seen the skill level, strength, or athleticism he will at the college level. Unfortunately, I do not think he will get that extra year to adjust to the college game and start to make the strength gains he will need to become a plus interior offensive linemen. I do think he is more athletic than most of the Frogs interior offensive linemen and unless a few players make big strides during the Spring and Summer we will see Barrett getting snaps early and often.

Video/ Web Links: http://gofrogs.cstv.com/sports/m-football/spec-rel/tcu-14-sig
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Xf5RikG8Fq
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQluJCa-rY
http://www.nucsports.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=23100&ATCLID=209316582

Trey Elliott – Jesuit High School (Dallas, TX.) (6’ 4” – 275 lbs.) – Trey is another in a group of young offensive linemen (Childs, Fromayan, Noteboom, and Griswold among others) who are more athletic than many of the bigger offensive linemen TCU has recruited in recent years, but also still need some time for physical maturation and strength/weight gains. That is not a bad thing as I think one thing that has really hampered the TCU offensive line is they have struggled to match the athleticism of the defensive fronts they have faced since joining the Big 12. Size and strength are important, but if you can’t move those benefits are muted and I do believe that among the contributing factors to the offensive issues faced by the Frogs the interior offensive linemen not being able move be it in various run blocking schemes or sliding in pass protection.

My favorite comment written about Trey by a supposed “recruiting expert” is that he will need to make the jump from playing in a private league to the Big 12. One quick point of correction here is that while Dallas Jesuit is a private school the Jebbies have been playing 5A football for quite some time now and his jump isn’t quite had he played at All Saints or say Bishop Dunne. What Trey brings to TCU is long frame and above average quickness. Elliott is a multi-sport athlete and has shown the quickness and explosiveness in the weight events for Jesuit. Trey won his district in the shot with a best of 55’ 5.75” as well as the discuss 161’ 7” (10th best in the state this year).
He played tackle in high school, but is projected to move inside. The needs to gain strength and weight are there as well as improving his technique (footwork, agility, lateral quickness, etc…), but that is going to be the case with almost all young linemen. What I am curious about with TCU recruiting the more athletic prospects in their offensive line if they incorporate more movement into their run blocking schemes.

Video/ Web Links: http://gofrogs.cstv.com/sports/m-football/spec-rel/tcu-14-sig
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZzPQ2BBtWo

Ryan Griswold – Pearland High School (Pearland, TX.) (6’ 5” – 255 lbs.) – very similar to 2013 freshman Joseph Noteboom in regards to high school career as well as build/skill sets. Ryan was a defensive end as a junior for the Oilers who moved to offensive tackle. He has a very long frame and long arms combined with good feet that makes him a potential offensive tackle prospect. You can cut and paste the comments about Elliott above in regards to the needs for strength, weight, flexibility and work on technique. If you watch his footage, you can see he moves well and Pearland is a program that is known for placing a premium on strength and being physical.

He is going to take some time as he is new to the position and must make the strength/weight gains, but the frame is there, you can see the mobility, and he is reportedly a very smart kid. One thing that is a bit interesting when you watch his footage is that the team in gray with stripes and numbers is Manvel. The Manvel defensive end lined up over him is highly regarded A&M prospect Koda Martin. Granted it is Griswold’s highlight footage so I do not think they would include clips of Martin blowing him up off the line of scrimmage, but he does hold his own and I would love to see more footage from the game.
Ryan is not a player I would look to see early in his career at TCU and I would love him to be able to red-shirt. He seems to fit the profile they have recruited the past few seasons for their offensive linemen and I like the upside he has as a tackle prospect.

Video/ Web Links: http://gofrogs.cstv.com/sports/m-football/spec-rel/tcu-14-sig
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LvcnVWyMjU
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQiPpKoEFqU
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=blqY9Jhjwp0
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CTCSwfgtRya
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxeQnVpSbQI

Frank Kee – Tyler Junior College (Mansfield, TX.) (6’ 3” – 335 lbs.) – he is a massive offensive guard prospect who originally signed out of high school, didn’t qualify, and is back on campus after a year and a half at Tyler J.C. To be blunt, he is being looked to provide stability to an interior offensive line that was not very good last year and must get better in a hurry for TCU to see any offensive improvement in 2014.

Kee has a wide body, good feet, and shows good punch delivering a blow. He is not an elite athlete, at times would depend upon superior size/strength over technique, and would get a bit sloppy when he began to tire. This is not a player though that was brought into to develop into the position. He is being looked to push for starters minutes from the beginning of the season and I will not be shocked if coming out of the spring if he is not one of the Frogs two starting guards.
I don’t want to say that the 2014 offensive line depends upon Big Frank, but if he is the players the staff thinks he is and he can provide some interior stability I think we will see a big improvement in the Frogs offense.

Video/ Web Links: http://gofrogs.cstv.com/sports/m-football/spec-rel/tcu-14-sig
http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/468648/=highlights/1767418

Austin Schlottman – Brenham High School (Brenham, TX.) (6’ 6” – 280 lbs.) –it might sound crazy that in an offensive line class with prospects Elliott and Griswold who look to be long-term rather than immediate contributors that Austin is the most underappreciated offensive line prospect in this class as he not only got little attention from the recruiting services, but really doesn’t get mention by Frog followers talking about the class.
Maybe it is because he pledged to the Frogs early, was not a big combine person, or is not all the flashy. It surely is not because Austin played at a school off the beaten track at Brenham. The Cubs have been one of the most successful 4A programs in the Gulf Coast area of Texas and Austin has been a multi-year starter. He does crank out dominating highlight clips like some higher rated prospects, and at his size is imposing physical specimen. He has plus feet, shows a very good understanding of the position, and moves very well in Brenham’s scheme. They ask him to move quite a bit and while I do not see him physically dominating immediately in college I do see him being able to pull and move very effectively in the running game. Additionally, he has shown the same quickness and balance in the ring for Brenham. To date he has bests of 46’ 8” in the shot and 153’ in the discus. As previously mentioned, I would not be surprised if by mid-season that Austin was not in the rotation in the interior of the offensive line, I really think long-term he, and Ty are going to make a very solid pair for TCU inside.

Video/ Web Links: http://gofrogs.cstv.com/sports/m-football/spec-rel/tcu-14-sig
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2T7Q4Da72_8
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EmAso_MFbQ4
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYfWodzAjUE
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1aLOUklYfe
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-68vSabxw
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=00sptU2Dm5Q
http://www.kbtx.com/…/National-Signing-Day-Cross-The-Brazos=Valley

DEFENSIVE RECRUITS OVERALL
It is tough to question Patterson and his staff when it comes to players they recruit on the defensive side of the ball. I am not sure if there is a staff in the Big 12 that has shown they truly understand the type of players they need to plug into their system better than TCU the first two years in the conference. Outside of DeVonte’ Fields I can really think of that was highly regarded coming out of high school and yet the Frogs have had multiple players who have been highly, highly productive over the past two seasons.

I would place Jason Verrett, Sam Carter, Kenny Cain, PJ Dawson, Davion Pierson, and Chucky Hunter among the Conference’s most productive players at their positions and I do not think they got much of a token glance from most major programs. The automatic response from those wearing purple-colored glasses is that these six players are just more examples in the long line of great college players that Patterson and his staff have turned out at TCU without the recruiting fanfare, media attention, and resources of other programs. It is tough to argue that to big degree that statement isn’t true, but it isn’t as if TCU’s defensive staff made the proverbial chicken salad out of chicken ****. Each of those six have talent and a toughness that helped them excel for the Frogs. What gets overlooked all too often is not only the staff’s knack for identifying and developing those traits, but being able to put some of those less heralded recruits in positions to contribute early in their careers in Ft. Worth.

Consider two years ago Derrick Kindred who in high school played S, LB, and DE and was a very late recruit whom TCU “stole from a lesser program’. In less than one year of time he goes from just a guy to a player who made a major contribution in the Frogs’ win in Morgantown against the Geno Smith led WVU offensive juggernaut. Terrell Lathan was another late recruit who TCU beat out La. – Monroe who drew little attention from the bigger schools and last year helped augment the Frog’s pass rush when Fields went down with injury.

These various success stories however do not mean though that the Frogs must improve on the defensive side of the ball if they want to be competitive in Big 12. Specifically, the Frogs must improve their depth in the front six, they must be able to generate a consistent pass rush from their defensive line, and they need to get faster in the secondary. I am certain I have/will draw the scorn/ire of some Frog fans for raising concerns about the Frog defense, but my counter is simply that Patterson himself has mentioned that TCU must improve their depth, be able to rush the passer, and avoid giving up big plays in the passing game. Bottom line is that over the past two years TCU defensively has done a very good job on first and second down, but taken a beating on third down in the conference. Additionally, they have shown a tendency to wear down in the second half of games or given up big plays. The easy response is to blame the offense, but remember that with the change in the Frog offense to an up-tempo style the number of offensive opportunities for opponents most likely will go up as the offense no long works to slow down the game tempo.

How does all this correlate to the Frogs 2014 defensive class? The one area that I think initially the Frogs missed is with the de-commitments of Jarrell Owens, Zaycoven Henderson, and Jimmy Swain. Owens is a great athlete who projects to being a defensive end who on the Frogs roster would only be topped by Fields in athletic ability, Henderson physically projects to having the size to contribute at a defensive tackle position that not only has lost David Johnson and John Lewis in recent years, but will those three of its top players in the next two years, and Swain would be more young talent at a position that will lose three seniors after 2014.

There is no way to know at this time if any of those three would have panned out in Ft. Worth nor if they will end up being better players than others signed by the Frogs at those positions. Patterson and his staff have shown a great deal of deft in addressing the depth problems and finding players who can contribute early as I have pointed out above. I also know though that to a large degree it is a battle of attrition and that when you start with fewer numbers you have less tolerance to personnel losses such as Johnson, Lewis, Yendry or injuries such as Maponga and Fields.

DEFENSIVE LINE – Dick Bumpus is one of the coaches on the TCU staff who I do not think gets the credit he deserves for developing the players he works with daily in the Frogs defensive line. One of the oft-mentioned concerns for the Frogs coming into the Big 12 by media/fans/blog sites was whether the Frogs could physically stand up against the offensive lines they would face in their new conference. While they have had their struggles in a few games, I do think TCU has accounted for itself well in this one particular challenge even when you consider that over the last two years they have lost three projected starters in Yendry, Maponga, and Fields for extended periods as well as two key reserves in Johnson and Lewis.

One consequence has been that some younger players have been forced to play early and the Frogs have struggled to develop depth. If the past two years are an indication, we will see at least one of the Frogs three young defensive linemen play early and often. Bumpus and Patterson have shown a great knack for placing young players in situations they can succeed early and develop confident. I hope that that trend will continue in 2014 and not be a matter of depth concerns catching up with the Frogs. All three defensive line signees show athletic ability, but the Frogs need to sign more and bigger bodies in 2015.

Chris Bradley – Evangeline Christian High School (Shreveport, LA.) (6’ 2” – 250 lbs.) A friend of mine who does gamble a bit on sporting events shared that his basic strategy involves finding a trend that has some history to back it and working that trend. If there is a solid trend for TCU defensive recruits it has been Louisiana defensive line prospects who committed to the Frogs late in the process. Chucky Hunter from West Monroe has wrecked shop for the last two years in the Big 12. Terrell Lathan also hales from West Monroe, last year might have been the Frogs best pass rusher in their defensive front, and Tevin Lawson from Baton Rouge is regarded as a looming future presence in the Frogs interior defense. The next is the trend appears to be Evangeline defensive line prospect Chris Bradley.

Over the past two years Chris has been a very, very productive defensive lineman for the Eagles garnering this year District MVP and All-State honors. He has a compact build (reported 335 bp and565 sq.) coupled with a great burst off the line. Watching his video, you can see he has a great sense of sliding blocks with outstanding closing speed (Totaled 15 sacks in 2013.) playing across the Evangeline defensive front.).
TCU projects him as a defensive tackle prospect and from among the Frogs 3 defensive line signees, I do think he is the player who will contribute early due to his great burst and experience playing inside. The Frogs have struggled in pressuring Big 12 quarterbacks on third down, the recent decision by John Lewis to quit football leaves TCU with only four defensive tackles on their current roster means TCU must get production early from at least one of the incoming defensive lineman, and my guess is Bradley. Perfect world is that he would get to red-shirt, get a shot at defensive end, and then slide inside as he fills out, but that is not the case and once again, TCU finds itself depending upon a defensive newcomer to quickly adjust and contribute.

The concerns about Bradley are that he is not flexible enough to play end and too small for defensive tackle. I cannot think of very many interior defensive linemen being effective in the 12 weighing 250 and I think one area that TCU has struggled with defensively is matching up against the level of offensive line they have faced in the conference. It is not just the size difference (if he plays at 250 in some cases it will be almost 100 lbs.), but also the strength and skill. The Frogs have struggled at times against OU’s physical line and OSU.
If the Frogs stay healthy inside and Lawson can contribute at the level he flashed last fall it allows them to slot Bradley in game situations that can take advantage of his quickness and natural instincts. The short-term concern is that does not happen and he struggles against the interior offensive linemen who are bigger, stronger, and more skilled than anything he has seen in high school. Long-term can he gain the weight needed to be effective inside or will he end up sliding outside.

Video/ Web Links: http://gofrogs.cstv.com/sports/m-football/spec-rel/tcu-14-sig
http://www.hudl.com/athlete/1753520/chris-bradley
http://www.shreveporttimes.com/article/20140206/SPORTS02.302060011/Local-athletes-make-college-choices-official

L.J. Collier – Munday High School (Munday, TX.) (6’ 3” – 245) I have seen L.J. listed anywhere from 6’ 2” to 6’ 4” and 225 to 250 which means that height/weight listed by TCU is accurate. The bigger mystery though is exactly what has TCU signed in Collier. Tech had recruited him as a defensive end prospect and in doing some research; I had found mention of him prior to the 2013 season as an OLB/DE prospect. TCU lists his as DT, which means the Frogs two 2014 defensive tackle signees combined weight is less than 500 lbs. I am certain that has not happened since TCU signed a raw defensive line prospect who played high school ball in Texas, but moved to Oregon during the end of high school.

Hyperbole aside, the mystery around Collier is not just limited to his being projected as a defensive tackle by the Frogs. Almost all the video footage of him at Munday is sideline view highlight footage shot by local film crews of the entire Munday team, edited together, and really does not show us much about him playing defense. Furthermore playing at a very small school he was easily one of the best athletes on the field and hasn’t seen an offensive lineman comparable to what he will see next Fall when he steps foot on campus. Finally, he was part of the Moguls football, basketball, and track teams so he really has never spent much time not playing some sport. Not a knock, just pointing out this is not prospect who has been hitting it in the weight room nonstop and is about maxed out potential and frame.

All of which means nothing going forward as L.J. is one of multiple defensive prospects who have most of us on the outside a bit perplexed and falling back upon the catch-phrase “Trust the defensive staff”. I hope I do not sound critical about Collier himself as I do not know him from Adam and instead am thinking aloud in struggling to project him forward based upon the information available on him. We do know he is from a very athletic family with multiple family members who have successfully played at some good college programs. L.J. shows very good quickness, is athletic, and has the long-armed body build coaches seem to prefer in their defensive line prospects. If you look at the pictures below you can see him flashing his athletic ability on the basketball court as well as a receiver. I am certain he is not the first Frog defensive line prospect who can dunk, but I am not sure how many could make the leaping catch shown below. I also should note that in track L.J. has gone 183’ 6” in the discus (4th best in the state at the Texas relays) and 49’ 7” in the shot.
My biggest struggle is projecting him inside and in the back of my mind still think, he slides back outside if Lawson is the player he flashed last fall, Bradley develops inside, and the Frogs sign three bigger defensive tackle prospects in 2015. Then again, Bumpus knows this defense, knows what the Frogs are facing in the conference, and put together a solid defensive line the past two years with all the losses so I guess I will trust the defensive staff.

Video/ Web Links: http://gofrogs.cstv.com/sports/m-football/spec-rel/tcu-14-sig
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JcdemMDxiuY
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kexgmsg5ITY

Casey McDermott Vai – Raytown South High School (Raytown, MO.) (6’ 4” – 250 lbs.) Here comes a mystery that to me exceeds trying to track down video footage of L.J. Collier. Casey Mc Dermott-Vai has all the physical measurables, has tested well (4.62 in the 40, 320 bp, and 450 sq), and been very productive in his high school career (32 sacks in his junior and senior seasons) and yet does not show an offer from KU, KSU, or ISU. I fully understand that two of those programs are not exactly gold standard programs that TCU is aspiring to match in terms of on the field performance, but consider these bits of circumstantial evidence. All three play in the Big 12, which is a conference that features multiple teams that throw the ball 40-50 times a game and use tempo that places a premium on defensive line depth and the ability to rush the passer. Casey on the surface projects to have the physical attributes for a Big 12 defensive end and was very effective in high school and none seemed to be overly interested in him.

Maybe he had no interest in them, but I am a bit perplexed as to why the no offers? I can’t imagine there is so much talent coming out of the Kansas City area that he completely flew under the radar after having 17 sacks as a junior so why are the only schools that I find showing interest schools such as NDSU? Something just does not add up and when I watch his footage, I am a bit more confused. The kid plays hard and shows very good quickness from the edge. He looks like he has the frame to gain more weight and from what I can gather is not immune to hard work.

Talking to some people and doing some reading the biggest knocks I can find center around two basic thoughts. The first is that he is maxed out and is not going to get appreciably better during his time in college. One person I spoke with compared him a bit to Abilene’s Jake McMillan who TCU recruited and signed with Texas. Primary concern then is that he does not project to get big enough to play inside nor athletic enough to play outside. The second thought is a variation of the first in that while Casey tests well in certain athletic feats (i.e. forty time, bench press etc….) he is not a very good overall athlete. Specific questions raised to me where his agility, flexibility, and quickness in changing direction.

Either could be true, but that does not answer exactly why no offers from the local schools and what did TCU find that attracted them to Casey? An indication might be something a friend told me and that was he felt that the floor for Casey is a defensive end similar to Jon Koontz. When I started to think about that, I can see why Patterson/Bumpus would value adding that type of player. Jon might not have ever wowed anyone with his physical ability and does not project to an NFL player, but he fit the scheme, played hard, and there never was any doubt what they would get from him.
Upside is a player who fills out to the 265-270 range and provides a physical defensive end who can hold the edge against the run as well as quick enough to get up the field in pass rushing situations. If you look at the Frogs roster at the TCU end position, he reminds me a bit, of what you find in Tuaua and Henderson. TCU in their 4-2-5 set must be able to control the edge with their defensive ends and I think all three players project to being bigger, more physical ends.

Video/ Web Links: http://gofrogs.cstv.com/sports/m-football/spec-rel/tcu-14-sig
http://www.hudl.com/athlete/203936/casey-mcdermott-vai

LINEBACKER – I have found it quite interesting some of the theories people present when they talk about the linebacker position at TCU and how the demands of the position affect recruiting the position. One theory is that the Frogs only using two linebackers hurts them because it means less potential game time. The counter to this however is that in the Big 12 you face very few traditional offensive schemes and the abundance of 4-receiver sets and teams that throw 40-50 times results in most defenses only using 1 fewer linebacker at a time (either a 4-2 or 3-3 look) instead of the traditional 4-3 or 3-4 defensive alignments.
Another theory is that TCU cannot recruit traditional prospects because the 4-2-5 requires that the Frog linebackers address a variety of situations. Sounds good, but once again the challenges the Frogs face is no different from the other teams in the conference. You just do not find very many 250+ lb. inside linebackers in the B12 and as we have seen with Alabama recently against A&M and Auburn there is a very good reason. Inside linebackers must be able to move laterally outside of the tackle box to defend modern offenses and chase ball carriers whose prime asset more times than not is speed over strength. They also must be agile enough to tackle a ball carrier in the open field as well as drop in pass coverage.

I fully agree that in the Frogs’ 4-2-5 defense the idea of a run plugging inside linebacker who cannot get back in coverage is a recipe for disaster in the B12. What I do not agree with though is the idea that what the Frogs are looking for is unique and that is why the Frogs have struggled in recruiting linebackers the past few years. That in my mind is a product of three position coaches in three years and the team struggling in the B12 the past two years.

Short term the Frogs look solid at linebacker with seniors Anderson-Dawson-Mallet and promising sophomore Sammy Douglas. That changes however in 2015 as TCU only has two linebackers on their current roster who project to be on the team in 2015 which meant the Frogs needed to sign at least two players in 2014 who would contribute in a year’s time.

Stop me if you have heard this before, but the loss of a highly regarded early commit and the signing of two under the radar prospects does raise an eyebrow or two and once again require the insertion of “trust the defensive staff based upon their track record”.

Vinny Ascolese – The College of the Redwoods CC, California (6’ 3” – 220 lb.) – Over the past three seasons Gary Patterson has had one much unheralded, unknown JUCO signing who was way under the radar and at the time was received by far, far more shrugs than accolades. It started with a freshman cornerback who was undersized, but came from a program with ties to Patterson. Three years later Jason Verrett has been an All-American and projects to being an early round NFL draft pick. Then there was the former high school receiver who no college program offered, went to a nearby JUCO, got bigger, moved to linebacker, and signed very late in the spring. P.J. Dawson went from looking lost at times during his sophomore year at TCU to being the Frogs best linebacker last year and finished with a great four games at the end of the year. Finally, a lightly regarded defensive end out of high school went to the same JUCO as the unknown of cornerback, but broke his leg his first year missing the entire season. He played the next year, but garnered little attention until his name popped up near signing day. Mike Tuaua began to come on for the Frogs at the end of last season and I believe we will see bigger things from him in 2014 based upon how he finished the season.

Three very good stories, but all three will pale in comparison to the mother of all under that radar Gary Patterson JUCO recruits if Vinny Ascolese makes an impact with the Frogs. If you do an internet search on Vinny, you will find at one time he was the star linebacker for a New Jersey high school power coached by his Grandfather. The team won a state title in Grandpa’s final season, Vinny signed with Arkansas, and all appeared to end happily ever after.

Unfortunately, things changed quickly as we all learned that Grandpa illegally recruited players to make sure he went out with a title, Vinny actually did not attend the high school he played for, and the NCAA deemed him ineligible even though his GPA and test scores would qualify for admission to most schools without the football scholarship. Time passes, the NCAA denies Vinny’s appeal, the new Arkansas staff decides to end the relationship, and somehow he ends up on the other side of the country attending classes, but not playing football at The College of the Redwoods. If you are confused don’t feel alone, but in a defensive class that is full of umm… lesser known recruits Vinny’s story and travels are just another chapter in what has to be the most obscure group of defensive linemen and linebackers ever signed by TCU.

Watch Vinny’s video footage and you see a linebacker who is physical and shows plus quickness with instincts. The biggest knocks on him were that he was not an elite athlete and might have maxed out in high school. He did show however, the traits TCU wants from their “inside” linebacker and you will not find anyone questioning his work ethic or instinct for the positions. There are some thoughts he could end up spinning down to a defensive end, but that has not happened much for Patterson’s teams. James McFarland was recruited as a defensive end even though some schools projected him as a linebacker.
The biggest questions now seem to center on what level of fitness has he been able to maintain over the past two years and how fast can he return to the game. TCU believes he can contribute and if that is the case Vinny could go a long way to addressing the needs at this position in 2015 and beyond. If that is the case as pointed out above, Vinny has to be Gary’s ultimate hidden gem of a defensive recruit.

Video/ Web Links: http://gofrogs.cstv.com/sports/m-football/spec-rel/tcu-14-sig
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZSBbpEmZo
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cm-XWuEs1eY
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g5WwqRE8M2c
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJllqcTWlqA
http://www.msgvarsity.com/…/high-tech-high-vin-ascolese-football-highlights

Ty Summers -Reagan High School (San Antonio, TX) (6’ 2” – 211 lb.) – I am sure there are those who thought I was way too harsh when talking about TCU’s recruits in their front six especially linebacker. Consider that one linebacker recruit has not played a down of football in over a year, we do not really know what type of condition he will arrive on campus, and the other recruit last year from what I can tell never played a down of defense. Many might say Patterson and his staff are reaching at this position, but what keeps coming back to me is the fact that Gary and his staff have continued to find players that fit their defensive system and been effective in the B12.
Ty was a quarterback for Reagan last year and if you watch his footage, you see that he is a very good athlete with quickness and agility. Additionally, he is a multi-sport athlete with reported best of 10.7 in the 100M, 22.70 in the 200M, 22’ 4” in the LJ, 40’ 10” in the TJ, and 46’ 1” in the SP. Rice recruited Summers as a safety so TCU isn’t the only school that sees the athletic potential for the defensive side of the ball as well as leadership and intelligence. The decisive factor to me though is Patterson making the comment that Ty reminds him of Jason Phillips. I understand it sound cliché’ but the man knows what he wants in defensive players.

Video/ Web Links: http://gofrogs.cstv.com/sports/m-football/spec-rel/tcu-14-sig
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VlhVDk7hEnc
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGMQQ5BZGEg
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FqoY4CGnr3k
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdw4RngQJhQ
espn.go.com/video/clip?id=9277849

CORNERBACK – the back five of the Frog defense works independent of the front with the safeties being looked to provide big plays in run support, forcing turnovers, and on occasion blitzing. For any of that to happen though TCU MUST get solid cornerback play and during their time in the B12 they have gotten that from White and Verrett. Patterson’s defense requires a corner to be comfortable in zone, but absolutely must be able to man up and lock down and outside receiver. If they can do this it is one of the two primary threads that can make the entire defense unravel (the other being the front four being able to penetrate against the run and create consistent pressure against opposing quarterbacks).

Just as we have heard Patterson, mention the Frogs must get faster and deeper in their front six the same holds true in their secondary and in all honesty, no position has been thinner than the cornerback position for the Frogs the past two years. With Verrett headed to the NFL draft and White a senior the Frogs needed to sign for not only future starters, but also immediate depth and they did that with this class. They project four incoming players to cornerback in the fall and I would expect that if a player or two did not show they had the skills for the position they would slide over to safety as we saw Elisha Olabode, Kolby Griffin, and Steve Wesley do in recent years.

There is a theory that struck me when I was watching a recording of Verrett’s combine workout. Deion Sanders and Mike Mayock were discussing how some many corners come out of college not properly prepared nor do many so called NFL talent gurus truly understand the physical skills needed to play the position in the NFL. Both Sanders and Mayock agreed that the only drill they truly wanted to watch was the ball drill in which the players would have to open up their hips coming out of a back pedal, turn, and break on a ball in the air. Bottom line is that no matter what you bench, your forty times, your vertical, or you sleeve length they felt that one drill encompassed the raw physical skills you need and can’t be taught. Maybe they were full of shit, but how often do we hear and do we see that ability to change direction, drive, and close on the ball are the keys to playing the position. Look no further than Verrett of TCU and Gilbert of OSU. Those two players looked like they were on ice skates as they slid across the turf. Just as with the NFL I truly believe many of the people who rate high school prospects truly do not know what to look for at certain key positions and corner back is one. Patterson and Jennings have a solid record of accomplishment of finding talented players for their scheme and when I look at the first three signees I see in each the same good size, balance, quickness, and ability to turn and run with the receiver. No, the Frogs did not sign any combine warriors but in the end if there is one place I truly trust Patterson’s eye for horseflesh so to speak it is in the secondary

Nick Foster – Fossil Ridge High School (Keller, TX) (5’ 11” – 170) – I truly don’t think many people who follow the Frogs realize just how good a cornerback prospect TCU landed in Foster and it is almost criminal the way he has been overlooked when people discuss the class. Yes, it was a great year for corners in Texas last year, he did pledge early to the Frogs (He was the first member of the class to pledge doing so on Feb. 5, 2013), he never looked elsewhere, he never really made the camp or combine circuit, and while I don’t completely buy into the theory that Frog pledges don’t get much hype from the services due to the sale market I think you can chalk that up in the case of the Foster.
No, he isn’t the physical freak of some his higher rated peers this year, but with a camp time 4.41 forty, 3.94 shuttle time, 37 1’2” vertical, and a solid 5’11” frame don’t think for a minute TCU “settled for a lesser prospect”. Lower rated maybe, but Nick Foster is a very, very good cornerback prospect. He needs technique work and rarely faced a receiver in a game who was his athletic equal. Additionally, he has not seen what he will see in the B12, but who has? If you watch his tape, he moves well and I think once he irons out the mechanics of the position he has the ability to be in the same class as Teague, McCoy, or Verrett.

Video/ Web Links: http://gofrogs.cstv.com/sports/m-football/spec-rel/tcu-14-sig
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDsuX5NniDo
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m196McJwvXU

Ridwan Issahaku – Norcross High School (North Gwinnett, GA.) (6’ 180) – last year late before signing day word came out about TCU recruiting a cornerback that no one really knew much about until late in the year. That was Cyd Calvin and if you do not remember the story he started the season playing wide receiver, was moved to corner late playing opposite then high school teammate Ranthony Texada, and showed enough to draw an offer from the Frogs.

In a class that is full of players it seems who have either switched positions their senior seasons or re-appeared after falling off the college football map the story of Ridwan seems to not only fit the class, but also the way Patterson and his staff go about the recruiting process. This was not a recruit found off a list as until last fall, he had never played cornerback in a varsity football game and he was not a kid who blew everyone away physically at a summer combine.

As the story goes, Patterson and some other staff were in the Atlanta area recruiting wide receiver prospects and during their visits with the high school coaches, they asked one question everywhere they visited on this trip, “Who gave you the most trouble throwing the ball?” Repeatedly they heard the same answer, that corner at Norcross High School named Issahaku. They went to Norcross, watched some tape, talked to the staff, talked to Ridwan, and the rest they say is history.

So how in the world was Ridwan so far under the radar? Consider that in his first two years in high school he played quarterback at another high school, he transferred to Norcross as junior knowing he could not play varsity, and it wasn’t until the summer of his senior season did it become apparent that Norcross had another solid candidate to play quarterback. I never could find any verified times and I have seen him listed anywhere from 5’10” – 6” tall, his only offers were from smaller schools, and again I can’t really explain why he never drew much late interest from the larger schools . Maybe they were full, maybe he was too far off the radar, who knows, but what I do know is that it was not because he did not perform his one and only season at the position. The basic knocks on Ridwan that I would go back again to not being an elite athlete, but that goes back to the question of whether or not it is more important to be the type of athlete who blows the top off of cone drills and vertical leaps or a very good athlete who is highly productive on the field?
As a senior starting for the Georgia 6A state champion Issahuku compiled 56 tackles, one forced fumble, 7 interceptions, and 21 passes defended. In the state title game, he overcame a bit of a rough start to finish with two interceptions and 4 passes defended. So why no attention? Heck if I know, but what I do know is if you watch his tape you see good agility, he shows good footwork and balance for one year at the position, very good instincts, is aggressive, and he can find the football in the air. Much like Foster, he is not a raw physical freak, but when I look at the tape, I see a damn good prospect and am excited about the future of the Frogs at this position with Texada, Calvin, Foster, and Issahaku.

Video/ Web Links: http://gofrogs.cstv.com/sports/m-football/spec-rel/tcu-14-sig
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LoJ4QQgDu30
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4rT7omyBxmxo
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gXoCo8aiNkA
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ax)h7_Bj928
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fsp10FYU92o
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wtSsC4UN19c

Corry O’Meally – Ellsworth CC, Iowa (North Miami, FL) (6’ 170) – Corry is a second team JUCO AA cornerback originally from North Miami, Florida (Reported 4.5 forty, 260 bp, and 340 sq). During his two years at Ellsworth, he compiled 95 tackles, 7 interceptions, and 18 pbu’s. In high school he was a highly productive player for North Miami Beach High School playing both sides of the ball and being part of a district champion his junior season. ESPN rated him as 74 prospect his senior year, noted his strengths as man-to-man coverage and balls skills, and he did have attention for Syracuse and WVU early during his senior year.

Why that interest never became hard offers really does not matter to me. He wouldn’t be the first kid to stumble from grades if that were the case, but what is more important is that he left the warm sunny beaches of home in South Florida for a Junior College in a town between 5-10,000 in Central Iowa. I cannot speak for Corry, but having been to Miami several times as well as Iowa I can imagine there was just a bit of a cultural change and it was not solely because of the success of the team. This past year Ellsworth went 2-8 so I have to think there was a drive to make something happen that kept him there. Maybe I am reaching here and maybe I have been caught up in the trust Patterson mantra that I have repeated repeatedly especially when writing about these defensive recruits. There just seems to be a common thread though in each of very athletic kids who play hard and in many cases have had to make some big change or overcome an obstacle.
If you watch his tape from JUCO then you will see the same athletic ability, same good hips, same ability to turn and run with a receiver, willingness to be physical, and ability to find the ball in the air. Corry is not a raw physical freak like so many want to see at this position, but he shows the attributes TCU wants in their corners and the biggest fault I can find with him right now is that he will not be part of spring ball. Do not be surprised if he becomes the Frogs third corner and pushes for playing time.

Video/ Web Links: http://gofrogs.cstv.com/allaccess/?media=432278
http://espn.go.com/college-sports/football/recruiting/player/
http://archive.sfhighschoolsports.com/blog/huddle-bcs/hind
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvrIdwkGw7c
http://orangefizz.net/2011/08/ritchey-desir-is-making-plays-for-syracuse-his-teammate-cory-omeally-next/

Nick Orr – Desoto High School (Desoto, TX) (5’ 10” – 166 lbs.) – Nick is a four-year starter at one of the premier high school programs in Texas and the son of former UT tight end/fullback Terry Orr. He has played both cornerback and safety for the Eagles and when you watch the footage and look at his numbers what you find is a player who consistently finds himself around the football.

A physical defender despite his smaller size, Orr is projected to start his career in football at TCU as a cornerback. I have talked with some friends who believe that Nick can be similar to former Frog Elisha Olabode. A defensive back with above average quickness, plus ball skills, and the ability to play zone and man. One of Patterson’s priorities has been able to build depth on the defensive side of the ball and I think Orr is the type of player whose athletic ability and position flexibility helps build that depth.
Orr is also a multi-sport athlete who also is part of the Desoto 4×100 meter relay team.

Video/ Web Links: http://gofrogs.cstv.com/sports/m-football/spec-rel/tcu-14-sig
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hXFHiLBDL2E
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eB8jxjavcUk
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1FiFD1axwJ0
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NfqvX7UGOcY
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDOXcHWnS6k

Torrance Mosley – Dutchtown High School (Geismar, La.) (5’10” – 160 lbs.) – Torrance is an athlete (reported 4.45 in the forty, 37” vertical, 235 lb. bench press, and 365 lb. squat) who has been recruited by TCU to start his career in the secondary, but was sought by other schools to play on the offensive side of the ball. He and teammate, Corey McBride, were committed to Arkansas before the Hogs rescinded their offer to Mosley triggering McBride to open up his recruitment. Rumors are that Arkansas was concerned over Mosley being able to qualify and there are some comments that can be found that appear to support this thought.

Much like the recruitment of Nick Foster and Ryan Parker, the TCU staff have seen the transcripts, know the test scores, and made their decision to pursue Mosley based upon the potential he brings to Ft. Worth in relation to the changes he meets both qualifying numbers.

On the field, Torrance’s game is built on explosive speed and quickness. He posted an 11.35 100M as freshman at Dutchtown, was clocked at 22.7 in the 200M as a sophomore, been a member of their 4 x100 and 4 x200 M relays for four years, and been time around 4.5 in the forty at various camps. If you watch his video you can see how quickly he gets to speed and has plus acceleration which allows him to separate from defenders whether at running back or as a slot receiver.
I could not find much video showing Torrance’s ball skills as a defensive player and some feel he might be a bit stiff to be a defensive back for the Frogs. Patterson and Jennings have a history of knowing what they want from their defensive backs and I would imagine they have done more than watch the highlight tapes. Patterson has said he wants the Frogs secondary to get faster and adding a player like Torrance would appear to address that desire.

Video/ Web Links: http://gofrogs.cstv.com/sports/m-football/spec-rel/tcu-14-sig
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QixdqkOdliU
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mKCOXR6i9mE
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eewi1EttONU

Travin Howard – Longview High School (Longview, TX) (6’ 1” – 190) – Travin was one of the best defenders in all East Texas last year amassing 89 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 8 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, and 4 touchdowns. In fact, East Texas Sports selected Travin as their defensive player of the year in 2013 over more highly regarded Longview defensive teammates as well as other highly regarded defensive recruits at Gladewater and other schools.

Howard’s outstanding senior season and lack of larger school offers once again poses the question about whether productivity is more important than raw upside, athletic potential. He did start as a junior and had a solid, but not spectacular season totaling 64 tackles. His raw physical numbers do not leap out and the Longview program is one that is quite familiar with college coaches. So why no more offers for a player having such a big senior season?

I cannot really provide any profound explanation than the points touched on earlier. He has good size, but does not have the raw physical skills of some higher other regarded prospects. He can run a bit though with a reported 4.55 in the 40, has gone 22.08 in the 200M, and broken 50 in the 400M. What he brings to TCU are some very important things to Patterson and his defensive staff. First, he has experience in the 4-2-5 defense and played all three-safety positions. More importantly, Howard shows great ball skills on video and continually is seen around the ball.

Watching him, he reminds me a bit of a fellow East Texas safety prospect in current TCU safety Chris Hackett. Hackett did not show blazing speed in high school and yet somehow posted big interception totals. Howard during his senior season had a similar season. Playing against a good level of competition Travin continually made big plays for the Lobo defense and his understanding of the defense seemed to have him continually in the right place.
Can he make that jump at TCU against the B12 offenses? TCU and Patterson have continually shown they know what is needed to succeed in Gary’s 4-2-5 and I think after two years in the Conference they know what they need to compete against their peers. The recurring line is this piece is trust in Gary, but he knows what he wants, and he and his staff have shown the ability to find traits and talents versus raw athletic ability.

Video/ Web Links: http://gofrogs.cstv.com/sports/m-football/spec-rel/tcu-14-sig
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yqv2i8aL8lY

Kenny Iloka – Tyler Junior College (Sugarland, TX) (6’ 2” – 210) – what happens when a lightly regarded defensive back prospect leaves Southwest suburban Houston, bust their butt, and gains 20 pounds while getting faster and stronger? They go from being a lightly regarded high school recruit to the top Junior College safety prospect in the country. Kenny went from 190 to 210, dropped his forty time to 4.55, upped his bench press to 305 lbs, and coupled those numbers with a 4.15 shuttle time and a 34” vertical leap.

Testing numbers are nice, but in the end it is production on the field that counts and primarily playing the Weak Safety position in the Apaches 4-2-5 defense he amassed 126 tackles earning All-Conference and Defensive Player of the Year honors.

The younger brother of Cincinnati Bengal George Iloka, Kenny showed at Tyler the unique instincts to play close to the line of scrimmage and support the line while still being able to drop back into pass coverage. In the video footage of Iloka at Tyler, you see a great burst as a physical force against the run. Word from Ft. Worth this spring though is that the staff was surprised how quickly he melded into the defense and the potential he showed in pass coverage. Kenny brings to Ft. Worth abilities that not only will provide the Frog defense with outstanding depth in their secondary, but also a skill set they only have on campus in Sam Carter and he could help give the Frogs great flexibility facing the offenses of the B12.
If I was to name one recruit who wasn’t at a “need” position, but might have a profound impact on the team this year it would by Kenny Iloka in the Frogs’ secondary in 2014.

Video/ Web Links: http://gofrogs.cstv.com/sports/m-football/spec-rel/tcu-14-sig
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRp62Sql34o
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zzvGudmmilo
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=219h-Sb2Yyl
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TqkeSXAxx9s
http://www.hudl.com/athlete/606405/kenny-iloka
In closing, I do think this class will have a bigger impact soon in Ft. Worth than many suspect will. TCU needs wide receivers to step up in their new offense and even if Ryan Parker does not qualify, there is potential in the group. I think we will see Kee and at least one of the other young linemen provide depth in 2014. Additionally, I think that the defensive class does bring the athleticism Patterson believes he needs to have on his squad to compete in the B12. TCU has shown they know what they want on that side of the ball and I will trust the staff when it comes to defensive prospects.