My title isn’t intended to poke fun at any of the young men who have decided to attend TCU and play for the Frogs nor the idea those who follow college football recruiting. Simply, it is a poor play of words on one of Coach Patterson’s favorite terms when he is asked to talk about his recruiting classes.
Despite the continued growth in websites, recruiting services, blogs, and the explosion of social media it seems that each year we see players who emerge on the college level that were somewhat unnoticed by all the experts except for the staff (or staffs) that sought them. Each year attempts are made to evaluate which classes are the “best” as if each of these players is merely pieces in a puzzle of ingredients to be handed over to great chef.
I do agree that each and every year there are a group of young men who would for the most part have success wherever they would choose to attend and whatever offensive or defensive system they were recruited to fit. Not exactly the most profound thought on my part as I can recall Jim Wacker years ago stating in his first press conference at TCU saying simply that they wanted to recruit players who were big, fast, strong, and smart, but the problem was so did everyone else in the county.
The world of college football has changed since then, but that basic concept holds true. Each year there are that special group of players who everyone would want and success does depend upon to a degree the ability to land those players, but what truly separates programs in terms of recruiting to me is how you find that next group of players. Those who fit into your system perfectly, those who have those distinct skills and abilities you value, and those young men who have the other traits that allow them to buy completely into your program. In my mind it is those abilities that truly distinguish good recruiting staffs from great staffs and is among the areas that don’t get factored very well by the services in their rankings and even their work.
A good example is Derrick Kindred. Kindred at SA Wagner played running back, safety, and linebacker. He wasn’t highly regarded, heck I am not sure if most services, bloggers, and TCU followers even knew who the guy was until Ed Pope switched to A&M and TCU beat out ISU and UH for his signature. Fast forward 8-9 months later and we find this lightly regarded recruit is not only starting at WVU, but he turns in a big performance with 10 tackles (9 solo) and 2 pass break-ups. Do I know if the staff knew when they signed him that Derrick would be able to deliver that type of performance in that environment with everything going on in the program as quickly as Derrick did that day in Morgantown? No. What I do believe is they saw specific physical abilities and other traits that indicated to them that Derrick could be successful in the TCU 4-2-5 and that is one of the big keys for this staff building the program to a competitive level in the Big 12.
How then, do I believe should classes be evaluated if all recruits don’t fit the same way in a distinct scheme? First, does the class address any specific short –term needs? The best example is that when Stansly Maponga made the decision to leave TCU for the 2013 NFL draft the idea of landing at least one defensive end prospect went from building depth in the program to an immediate need. Perfect situation is that you can address a short-term need with a prospect (or prospects) that also build for the long-term, but I also think that filling a short-term need (i.e. signing Mike Tuaua) can be done so effectively and not address the long-term. Second is do the players you sign have the overall general abilities to develop into your system long-term with the added potential benefit of being able to contribute early (i.e. Kindred).
Don’t get me wrong, I would love for TCU each and every year to sign a recruiting class that is far and away better than every other class in the conference, but that is an accurate picture of the competitive world of college football. That doesn’t mean however that TCU can’t bring in great talent and I will always put more faith in a staff that is out turning over rocks late in the high school season and find a potential shut down corner in Cydney Calvin who switched to defense the middle of his senior year than multiple websites and bloggers who overemphasize summer camp drills and film clips.
Starting with the offense I think it was fairly easy to identify the short term needs of the program (better quarterback play, improved offensive line play, and re-stock the running back position). It is important to note that not all short term needs are met through recruiting. TCU got the best possible realistic option when it was announced that Casey had completed his re-hab and would be coming back to the program. Furthermore the situation in the offensive line could be addressed with the return of James Dunbar, Bobby Thompson, and Michael Thompson and Aaron Green is a great prospect at running back. Finally when you add in transfer receivers Ju’ Juan Storey and Josh Doctson, Deante’ Gray’s move back to wide receiver, and Stephen Bryant returning from the knee to those six players the TCU offense projects to be significantly better than it was last year.
That was a great start, but TCU still needed to address short term needs in the offensive line and at least one running back. Long term they need to bring in another quarterback prospect, more athletic depth along the offensive line, depth at running back, and younger players to start grooming at wide receiver (Time flies people and don’t forget that Carter, White, and Porter all will be juniors next season.).
Considering the short and long term needs I think TCU did a great job at their skill positions and I think people will be surprised in the offensive line sooner than expected by many. Here are profiles of the players TCU projects to the offensive side of the ball in their 2013 class:
ZAC ALLEN (6’3” 185 lb.) – quarterback prospect from Temple, Texas. Allen was a late pledge to TCU switching from Syracuse literally days before TCU students returned for the spring semester. This might be part of the reason he got lost from the attention as it seemed one day he was committing and the next enrolling in school.
Don’t view him as a prospect signed to fill a roster spot as he has a great deal of upside. TCU has trended towards mobile quarterbacks and while some regard him as a drop back passer he has run under 4.6 in the forty and over 1,800 yards during his high school career. His career passing numbers are over 4,500 yards with 39 scoring tosses and Allen showed enough in Dallas last summer to earn an invite to the Elite 11 Camp.
He needs to get physically strong (Hudl shows his him with a 225 bp/ 340 sq/ 245 pc) as he has a wiry build, but remember that just two years ago he was playing quarterback as a sophomore at around 155. There are the same questions you will see about any high school spread quarterback. Can he make reads, arm strength etc. but I do think Allen is a good quarterback prospect with an accurate arm and plus mobility.
TREVORRIS JOHNSON (6’ 210 lb.) – running back prospect from Alief Taylor High School in Houston. Last year many people were surprised by the play of true freshman running back B.J. Catalon. Maybe it was because Catalon played at an HISD school, maybe it was because prior to his senior year BJ didn’t post big numbers like other high school backs, and maybe he did make the combine circuit so many recruiting services use to verify the value of a prospect. If you looked at his numbers and watched the video you could see he was a legit prospect. Meet this year’s version of the prospect that posted big numbers, faced good competition, and for some reason really hasn’t gotten the attention.
Trevorris is a physical back with a down hill running style that projects to fill a need in the TCU backfield for a bigger running back. If you watch the video you can see that once he makes a decision he hits hard utilizing a strong lower body and above average body shift. Hudl shows his bench at 305 and a 405 sq to compliment a sub 4.5 forty time. Johnson is not the home run threat that Catalon was at Westside and isn’t comparable to Aaron Green or a healthy Waymon James. He projects to be a physical running prospect to compliment those smaller backs and he looks to have a frame that can carry 220-230 lbs as he matures, but long runs against Aldine Eisenhower and Houston Lamar show he has plus quickness in the open field.
So why no more attention? Consider that prior to his senior year he had ~700 career rushing yards and 7 scores. His senior year he posted over 2,100 yards/ 19 touchdowns/ 7.8 ypc for a team that he was basically the offense. The rest of Alief Taylor’s offensive skill players TOTALED less than 1,500 yards combined and 16 touchdowns. Bottom line is that opponents went into games knowing if they stopped Trevorris they stood a good chance to beat Taylor and they faced some very good defenses last year.
I have heard and read some comments about his struggles in the Katy, Eisenhower, and Hightower games. Johnson was held down in each of those games aside from a long run against Ike. If you look at each video you will see that there just wasn’t much running room and some great runs for no game. Additionally, each of those games was unique and in the case of Katy more than a few very good backs struggled against them. Patrick Carr was on a much more talented The Woodlands offense and struggled, same for Jamaal James of Cinco Ranch, and Keith Ford only hit Katy for a 77 yard scoring run (he did little else when the game mattered) when the Tigers were up 56-0 in the third quarter.
The biggest selling point to me on Johnson though is the 176 he posted against Lamar on 28 carries. Lamar’s defense was playing as well as any group in the state by the end of the year and basically carried that team into the 5A finals against Allen. Watch the video of that game and you will see Johnson didn’t back down against a defense that came after him the entire game.
Bottom line is that in my mind Trevorris Johnson might end up being the biggest immediate impact player on the TCU offense in 2013.
KYLE HICKS (5’ 10” 190 lb.) –running back prospect from Arlington Martin. Hicks is the highest rated of the Frogs recruits in 2013 and was a UT pledge who switched to the Frogs late citing a desire to play close to home and connection with former high school teammate Devonte Fields. A friend who is a UT alum joking says that Hicks is the player to be named later in the Daje’ Johnson trade. I don’t believe that Hicks’ decision to switch is a sign that recruits view the UT and TCU programs on the same plane, but I do believe it was and is a positive sign for other prospects in the Metroplex especially that a highly regarded prospect with standing offers with other large programs opted to stay at home.
When you watch video on Hicks you see a back with plus quickness, vision, and balance. He is a very patient running who anticipates and sets up blocks very well. It is very easy to see why Gary Patterson in his press conference on signing day used the cliché of “thunder and lighting” when describing the differing styles of Kyle and Trevorris.
A three-year letterman for a very good Martin program Hicks was used in a variety of roles on offense (primarily a back he was also used as their quarterback in the wildcat formation, in the passing game, and also has returned kicks) his last two years he totaled over 3,900 yards in total offense and 57 touchdowns. Noted performances include 113 yards rushing as a junior in Martin’s play-off victory over favored Trinity, over 100 total yards against DeSoto (including a great touch down run you can find on Hudl), and 200+ yards against Skyline and Arlington High.
The biggest question about Hicks has nothing to do with his ability as he definitely has plus ability in almost every area as a back except for physical size. Unfortunately his sophomore year and senior year were shortened by injury (foot as a sophomore and a knee as a senior) and that does raise the durability question. I would anticipate with TCU projecting Green, Catalon, and Johnson for next fall and quite possibly a well James that Hicks would be able to sit the year to ensure his recovery. Once well I think TCU has shown that they do a good job of spreading the load among their backs and I do think that in a year the combination of Green, Catalon, Johnson, and Hicks will provide a very formidable backfield for opposing defenses.
TY SLANINA (6’ 182 lb.) – wide receiver prospect from East Bernard High School. The easy thing of Ty is to focus on his speed. He has been clocked under 4.4 at multiple college camps, run 23.20 in the 200M as a sophomore, 15.96 in the 110H, and 42.08 in the 300H. Some track athletes don’t always translate their speed on the track to success on the football field (i.e. Refugio’s Toya Jones for example), but in Ty’s case the explosive quickness combined with plus vision and agility helped him produce some big numbers in East Bernard’s option offense. Over three years he ran for over 3,100 yards, averaged 11.0 ypc, ran for 55 touchdowns, and ran for a touchdown every 5th carry. Among Ty’s 64 career scoring plays in three years at East Bernard 18 were over fifty yards, 7 were over seventy yards, and AVERAGED over 35.0 yards per scoring play.
This is a guy whose career was a continual string of big plays and it is very easy to see him being a big-play guy for TCU playing the inside receiver position. If you watch the highlights on Hudl you can see the great acceleration in a run against Altair Rice where Ty outruns two defenders who have the angle on him. I reference this specific play because the biggest knock on him is the level of competition he faced at 2A. Watch the play and note how far ahead they are of Ty when he breaks clear of the line and Ty shows the plus acceleration needed to score untouched by either defender.
Best part of this kid though isn’t the great speed, balance, or instincts. Ty is a tremendous competitor from a line of competitors. His maternal grandfather is a Texas high school football coaching legend, uncle was a great high school athlete, mother was an even better high school and college athlete, and father played college football. This is a kid who has been taught to not only play the game the right way, but to win. He has won multiple medals at the state track meet and was part of a state championship football team this year at East Bernard. You want every recruit to pan out on the field, but the very best of the recruits are those who have a positive impact on your program off it as well. Ty is that type of recruit.
The biggest knocks on Ty are his frame, level of competition, and the position change. Remember that Ty is a three sport athlete in high school (football, track & field, and baseball) so he has never gone through a truly focused off-season program. He plans to try playing football and baseball at TCU which Patterson and his staff have experience with sharing the athlete. He will never be a big receiver, but I do think he will get stronger and be able to handle the physical demands of the position.
In regards to the conversion to wide receiver this is another area the staff has had very good success with during their time in Fort Worth. The two most recent examples and quite possibly the best are Jeremy Kerley and Brandon Carter. Ty and fellow 2013 recruit/ receiver prospect Cameron Echols-Luper show many of the same traits as those players and I will not be surprised if one of them makes an impact in 2013 even with the Frogs depth at receiver.
CAMERON ECHOLS-LUPER (6’ 190 lb.) wide receiver prospect from Auburn High School in Auburn, Alabama. In many ways CEL is a mirror image of Ty Slanina. CEL has that same explosive speed being time consistently under 4.4 in the 40 along with electronic times of 10.65 in the 100M, 21.24 in the 200M, and long jumped just under 24’.
He played predominantly quarterback in high school he amassed over 4,300 total yards and 51 touchdowns playing in Alabama largest classification. Watching the video of CEL you can see the plus quickness combine with great agility, vision, and balance. Much like Slanina, the people I talked to about CEL raved as much or more about the strength of his character traits and leadership as they did his speed and explosiveness with the ball. One difference between the two is CEL does appear to have a bit bigger and stronger frame. Hudl shows best of 285 in the bench press and best squat of 380.
TCU has recruited multiple players from outside the state of Texas during Patterson’s tenure and I think these kids get oft overlooked and underrated. CEL was an Ag commit who opted to look elsewhere and was contacted by multiple other Big 12 schools before deciding on TCU. The biggest questions on him like Ty are not the physical ability as the move over to the receiver position.
JERMAINE ANTOINE (5’11” 190 lb.) – wide receiver prospect from Loreauville High School in Loreauville, Louisiana. Some recruits arrive with resumes that contain eye popping stats and/or physically impressive numbers and others on paper just don’t see to be as impressive.
I don’t think it is an insult to Jermaine to say that on paper he doesn’t look as impressive as his 2013 recruit/receiver prospect peers Ty Slanina and Cameron Echols-Luper. It is also important for me to point out that earlier in this article I referenced the recruit of Derrick Kindred last year and if you compared Derrick on paper to fellow 2012 recruit/ safety prospect Jordan Moore the difference between the two on two would be just as vast. Point being that some guys are just ball players plain and simple. It doesn’t mean that they don’t have physical tools because the only way Kindred could come up with 10 open field tackles against the WVU last year was if he could run just a bit as well as a few other things.
I can’t find a forty time for Antoine anywhere, no confirmed track times, and the numbers for his senior year in high school are a somewhat pedestrian 1,200+ total yards and 17 touchdowns. Watch the video of him however and you see a kid who continually makes plays on both sides of the ball. Offensively Jermaine shows great balance, plus acceleration, very good vision and anticipation, and a very strong lower body. Defensively we see good anticipation and a willingness to contact.
As pointed out with CEL, I think many don’t know much about Jermaine because they don’t know high school football in Louisiana and questions about academics kept his offers down. I know some are bothered by his only true offer at the end being from North Texas, but if you watch the video and look at the staff’s track record I think this is a guy with potential. He starts at receiver, but I would not be surprised if there is move to the backfield or the defensive side of the ball.
CHARLIE REID (6’5” 225 lb.) – tight end prospect from All Saints Episcopal School in Ft. Worth Texas. On paper Charlie looks to be everything TCU has been looking for in a tight end. He shows great speed posting not only a sub 4.6 forty, but an 11.4 100M, a 23.7 200M and a 55.7 400M. to compliment (according to Hudl) a 335 best on the bench press and a 475 squat.
His numbers in high school indicate production shouldn’t be a concern as he caught 119 balls during his high school career, totaled 2,431 yards, averaged over 20 yards a catch in his career, and had 27 scoring catches. Charlie’s senior numbers alone (50 catches – 1,229 yards – 24.6 yards per catch – 17 scoring catches) dwarf the career numbers of fellow 2013 signee and tight end prospect Bryson Burnett.
The biggest questions surrounding Reid are first the level of competition he faced in high school playing in the Southwest Preparatory Conference and one of the two teams they played last year that wasn’t a private/prep school was Carter Riverside which is a historically bad FWISD program, but Brownwood is a very solid program and they beat them handily. I think one big thing to remember is it really doesn’t matter if Gordon Wood or Bob Shipley were on that Brownwood sideline. Instead, that the level of competition faced by All Saints was not that much different than many of the kids playing 3A ball and lower around the state and that he played at a very high level. There will be an adjustment period, but will it take any long than Slanina, Burnett, Denzell Johnson, or even Trevorris Johnson who play at the 5A level.
The second question and the bigger one to me is that in many of Reid’s highlights you see him split out into a slot. We don’t really know what the future of the TCU will be with Fuentes leaving for Memphis last season, the loss of Casey, the porous offensive line, and the erratic play of Boykin. There has been talk about the desire to utilize the tight end position in a manner similar to the Patriots which involves multiple TE’s, multiple alignments, and Reid’s physical abilities would seem ideal for him lining up in the back-field as an H-back, as a wing, in the slot, and a traditional alignment. In some of those situations he will have to contend with having a defensive player lined up over him and his ability to release from the line and get into the route while facing a defender who is better athletically in all phases than what he saw in high school is an unknown. I truly believe this is the biggest challenge a new prospect faces when making the jump from high school to college regardless of the high classification. Off the top of my head I truly don’t recall that many linebackers, defensive ends, or safeties that are comparable to what the offensive player will face in college on a weekly basis and the ability to make that adjustment is critical.
Tight end is a position that TCU has not gotten much production in recent years, big things were expected of Stephen Bryant who was lost to a knee and now much show he is ready to contribute, and the leading receiver in terms of career catches at the position is Griffin Gilbert with 2 catches for 11 yards. That means there is a great chance for Reid to see the time early if he can make the jump to the college level. The physical ability is there, but that isn’t the hard part of the equation.
BRYSON BURNETT (6’ 5” – 225 lb.) –tight end prospect from Springtown High School in Springtown, Texas. Unlike his tight end contemporary Reid; Burnett doesn’t bring big production numbers from high school. In fact, I am not sure if Bryson had 25 career catches at tight end and a good number of the video you can find on him is playing on the defensive side of the ball for the Porcupines.
Remember though that of any position on the offensive side of the ball that seems to be hard to project based upon high school numbers it is tight end. Burnett is a great athlete with a long frame that looks thinner than his peer Reid though they both are listed at similar weights. Playing for a 3A high school he played both sides of the ball which is something he most likely wouldn’t have done had he played for a larger school and in his video footage you see very good quickness and flexibility for his size.
That shouldn’t come as a surprise as Bryson not only has run in 4.6’s in the forty, Hudl shows a 4.12 shuttle, and he has posted track times of 15.44 in the 110HH’s along with 40.2 in the 300 IMH’s. The hurdle times are interesting because those are faster than wide receiver recruit Ty Slanina has posted at the same distances.
A multi-sport athlete at Springtown you can tell he has great lower body strength and explosion through his hips as Hudl shows a squat of 515, a power clean of 330 (impressive when you consider that is almost 150% of his body weight), and a 32” vertical leap. Combine the physical ability with great intelligence on and off the field I truly believe Burnett is one of those players who TCU has had great success in the past with finding, give time to physically develop, and make an impact compared to higher rated peers.
Bryson did graduate early and is going through spring practice. It will be very interesting to see how he physically matures in the next few months and how fast he adjusts to college level competition. Unlike Reid, Burnett normally lined up as a traditional tight end, but we don’t know how effective he can be in the passing game. You can find some footage on him from 7-on-7, but there is a big difference in flag-football (I realize how physical it can get, but it isn’t the same.) and full pads. As stated above, TCU really doesn’t have a great number of known’s at the tight end position with Bryant returning from knee surgery, Gilbert still being more of a big receiver and h-black that a traditional tight end, and Ballard-Merka-Murphy have not really shown yet they are up to the needs of the position.
Burnett will get a chance, but also don’t be surprised if you see him flip over to the defensive side of the ball. I have heard him compared to the Schobels in terms of physical ability and playing style.
EASON FROMAYAN (6’5” 285 lb) – offensive tackle prospect from Milton High School in Alpharetta, Georgia might be the least known of the four offensive line prospects signed by TCU in 2013, but don’t be surprised if he ends up in the rotation at offensive tackle. TCU has recruited a large number of kids from outside the state of Texas while Patterson has been head coach and I do believe this is one reason why their talent is oft under rated by people inside the state of Texas. Texas is such a big state that I have never bought into anyone being able to accurately gauge all the talent in a given class let alone be able to accurately compare that talent with players from outside the state.
He was All-State at the largest classification in Georgia last year and was a Cincinnati commit that flipped to TCU. His father was a 4-year letterman in basketball at TCU and you can see Eason has plus agility and footwork in his video. In terms of physical measurables Hudl shows a 5.12 forty, 29” vertical, 365 bench, and a 470 pound squat.
Watching his footage Eason combines a long frame with good footwork and the ability to get to the second level on running plays. He needs to get more consistent in his initial punch off the line and is a little stiff, but you don’t find many high school offensive linemen who are truly polished in all areas because they rarely get challenged by the time of player they will see in college. Fromayan did face good competition in high school and with his being able to go through spring in 2013 and build on his physical conditioning I would not be shocked if he ended up being the fourth offensive tackle for TCU in their rotation in 2013.
PATRICK MORRIS (6’ 3” 290 lb.) – offensive line prospect from Guyer High School in Denton, Texas. Morris played for one of the most successful programs in the state of Texas and faced some of the best competition in the Metroplex area in early season and the state going into the play-offs.
He primarily played offensive tackle for the Wildcats, but projects to slide inside which fits his body build and strengths as a player. Key word here is strength as Morris has posted numbers of 350 in the bench, 560 in the squat, and a 385 power clean. Those last two numbers reflect the great lower body strength Morris has and you can see it watching him on video. He is very physical at the point of attack with a wide, compact build and good feet he keeps up under himself when run blocking.
Biggest weakness looks to be lateral agility, but if he slides down inside that should be minimized and there is talk that the Frogs might look at him as a possible center prospect. TCU is thin at proven talent at the guard and center position and Morris will be given every chance to show he can contribute as part of their interior line. The biggest challenge though is proving he can handle college level interior defensive linemen. These are guys who are going to be larger, stronger, and in some cases quicker than what he faced in high school. Morris is a player who has been able to physically dominate most of the defensive linemen he has faced in his career, but that will change the moment he steps onto the TCU campus. If he can hold his own in fall camp against the Frog d-tackles he will be able to contribute, but that isn’t a given. Joey Hunt found out last year just how big that jump can be when he struggled being able to hold up at the point of attack against KU and ISU early in the conference schedule. Perfect world would be Morris follows the same model TCU has used in the past for their offensive line which would be a red-shirt year and then Morris work his way into the starting line-up, but unless someone steps up inside I wouldn’t be shocked to see Morris garner playing time early to see if he will be ready to help come conference play.
JOSEPH NOTEBOOM (6’5” 260 lb.) – offensive line prospect from Plano High School appears to be the most athletic of the four offensive linemen signed in 2013, but projects to be the least likely to help in 2013 based upon his weighing only 260. It is possible he could gain weight before August, but after seeing him at the OU last fall he looked more like a TE or DE than a OT (especially in the legs).
That doesn’t mean there isn’t a great deal to like with Noteboom and it begins with plus feet and quickness for an offensive line prospect with a long frame. If you watch his video you can see how he is able to quickly turn his body to shield defenders and get to the second level on running plays. No surprise based upon the 4.8 forty he is reported to have run, but he will need to gain some weight and get stronger (reported 315 bench and 400 squat. In comparison 160 lb. cornerback prospect Ranthony Texada has a posted squat of 370).
TCU needs to have athletic tackles to handle the pass rushers they will face in the Big 12 and I think that Noteboom has the upside to be a very athletic offensive tackle. The reality is there are very few high school kids who have all the traits you want in terms of size, strength, agility, balance, and feet. It is very difficult to take a big player who doesn’t have the last three and compensate on the edge which is why I would rather the Frogs opt for someone like Noteboom who has those last three, a frame to gain weight, and the work ethic to get stronger than the other. Big key here will be time and patience.
LLOYD TUNSTILL (6’4” 330 lb.) – offensive line prospect from College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, California. Patterson and his staff have not been afraid to action if they felt there was a hole in their team that needed to be filled quickly. Perfect examples are signing Jason Verrett two years ago out of Santa Rosa JC to address a hole at cornerback on the 2012 team and last year signing PJ Dawson out of Trinity Valley JC after the Frog linebacker position got wiped out due to injuries and stupidity. Yes, Dawson did not come close to make the same impact as Verrett, heck it can be argued that Dawson barely made an impact at all on the 2012 team. I liked the move because they did something about a need on the roster and they acted instead of trying to force the same solution.
Patterson has commented that TCU must get stronger in their interior offensive line and when you look at the Frog roster what we see inside for them is one known in Tausch, hope that Michael Thompson is healthy and has lost weight, a senior who has yet to continually contribute in Woolridge, and four younger players in Childs, Foltz, Hunt, and Naff who will be given every chance to show they deserve time in the spring and the fall camps. All of that means if you are truly honest that TCU has one player they know what they can expect and several if’s which isn’t always bad, but you need to have a contingency plan and it is even better if that plan is good enough to push for starter’s minutes and force those if’s to step up if they want time next fall.
Tunstill is exactly that contingency plan. He is a very physical player with good size and strength who should be able to push for a starting position inside for the Frogs. As with Morris you will find Tunstill playing tackle in most of the video available on him. What you will see is a guy who isn’t the most agile, gets beat at times by quicker players, and needs to deliver more than an initial punch at times. You will also see a big, physical frame combined with a nasty streak in a player. Unfortunately, Lloyd wasn’t an early enrollee and gone through spring practice. He could use the time to refine technique and he does need to lose some weight to improve his agility and quickness.
With his being a JUCO with two years to play two Tunstill needs to come to Ft. Worth in shape so that he can contribute early and often next year. It would be great if his presence motivated some of the younger players to up their level of play, but it would be a big disappointment if Lloyd isn’t at least part of the Frogs interior line rotation.
Defensively TCU came into the 2012 with a number of questions and many people skeptical that the Frogs could have the same type of success in the offensive minded Big 12 as they had under Patterson in CUSA and then MWC. Despite having an offensive that struggled all season with trouble in its offensive line, the loss of Casey Pachall one game into conference play, an inexperienced quarterback in Boykin, the loss of Ed Wesley prior to the season, Wayman James early in the year, and Tucker hurt much of the year TCU put together a very impressive first season in its new conference.
The Frogs finished among the top three schools in 8 of the 10 team defensive categories for the total season 6 of the 10 for conference play. The only category they finished in the bottom half was red zone defense for both season and conference play. What makes these results even more impressive besides the problems on the offensive side of the ball is that TCU had no real depth at cornerback (a critical position in the Frogs defense), played an undersized walk on much of the season at linebacker, and played two upperclassmen in their defensive line. Among those players in the TCU defensive front were three true freshmen (Fields, Lathan, and McFarland), red-shirt freshman Davion Pearson, and three sophomores (Hunter, Johnson, and Lewis).
Coming out of 2012 the only real short-term needs the Frogs appeared to have was depth at cornerback (something that could be addressed by transfer David Jenkins who Patterson and Jennings are very high on and hopefully a contribution from a healthy Travoskey Garrett) and help at linebacker in terms of replacing senior Kenny Cain and depth at the position. That changed a bit however when junior Stansley Maponga opted to enter the NFL draft opening up a need a defensive end. Regardless of the reason(s) why Maponga left or if it was a smart move the only reality that matters for this team in 2013 is that they have a big hole to fill opposite DeVonte’ Fields.
The Frogs added quality depth at cornerback, but it remains to be seen if they did find immediate help at linebacker and defensive end. Long term I like the prospects TCU signed at linebacker, but there are legitimate questions if the three are physically ready to play in the Big 12 at linebacker. The Frogs got caught by surprise on Maponga and I think Patterson and his staff lost critical time they could have used to address the need had they had some forewarning. They did sign a JUCO defensive end that looks like he will be able to provide at least quality depth, but I am not sure is the ultimate answer at this position for the Frogs. That could come from either McFarland or Anderson, but I am also intrigued by the potential of Bryson Henderson. He shows great quickness off the ball, plus flexibility and agility for a big man, and shows a knack for slipping blockers. Henderson doesn’t project long term as a defensive end, but I do think he might be a short term solution at the position and an overlooked gem in the defensive line.
Biggest question for him actually is the test score which takes me to the long-term view of the defensive recruiting class. If you look at the Frogs roster they are loaded on the defensive side of the ball with young players. This class projects to fill the long-term needs of the back seven and could help in the interior defensive line with Henderson and late signee Tevin Lawson. Both Henderson and Lawson have academic questions which sets up a hit big/ miss big scenario for the Frogs. If they can get both kids on campus I think TCU will be in great shape for the future, but if they struggle look for the Frogs to end up looking for multiple defensive tackles in 2014 to pair with the defensive end prospects they need to sign in the 2014 class.
In might sound crazy with all that happened inside the program in the spring of 2012 and the subsequent season, but the Frogs dodged some bullets at key positions during the season. We will find out very, very quickly if they were able to address short term needs at linebacker and defensive end and the key the long-term will be Henderson and Lawson being and staying on campus next fall. Here are profiles of the players TCU projects to the defensive side of the ball in their 2013 class:
Mike Tuaua (6’ 3” 260lb.) – defensive end prospect from Santa Rosa Junior College in Rohnhert Park, California with the bonus of having three years of eligibility at TCU. He broke his leg early in his time at Santa Rosa missing that season due to the injury. Tuaua was an unknown to many on signing day, but TCU had been in contact with him prior and Patterson has a very strong relationship with his JUCO coach. It is also the same JUCO that provided TCU with cornerback Jason Verrett.
You can’t find a great deal of video on Tuaua and there isn’t much available on things such as speed and lifts. What I did find is that he went 37’+ in the shot as a freshman to place third in the junior varsity division of the 2008 North Bay League Championships held at his school, Rancho Cotate. Not really sure what happened next in his high school track career or why he didn’t play basketball beyond his junior season when he is listed on the Rancho Cotate varsity roster. Attached are some highlights from his high school season in 2010 when he was a tight end/ defensive end for a very good team. There are some very positive things written about his play against Cardinal Newman and he received accolades for his senior play. I couldn’t find much more beyond that as I couldn’t find him listed in the Rivals or Scout database for California in 2010-11.
What does matter though is that during his one full season in a good California Junior College League he was very productive posting over sixteen tackles for a loss and eight sacks. TCU wants defensive linemen who can get up field and you can see watching the video Mike is a player who is pushing up field every play as hard as he possibly can go. With the long hair, square build, and playing style he does have look about him of being the stereotypical football player with Polynesian roots.
Unfortunately Tuaua won’t be on campus in the spring, but based upon comments you find about him there aren’t concerns about the type of physical condition he will report to camp. His work ethic and discipline are things you read about time and time again. The bigger opportunity missed isn’t just his as the Frog offensive tackles could use the work against a hard charging defensive end. Mike might be the least known of the TCU defensive recruits, but don’t be surprised if he makes the biggest impact early on as he appears to have the strength and physical style to play opposite Fields in 2013. I can’t tell you why bigger programs didn’t pursue Tuaua in 2011 and why he seemed to fly under the radar in 2013. One though that does have some credence based upon the comments made by his JC Coach is that Mike could have opted to come back to Santa Rosa last year if he wanted because of the broken leg during his first year at the school.
If the linked article is correct it was the contact by his coach, a former player for Patterson who tipped TCU off to a defensive end who was available and overlooked that he felt could step in and help the Frogs in 2013. Patterson has a reputation for loyalty among his former players and his staff. You don’t get that unless you do as you say and mean what you say which is Gary and I don’t think Mike was offered as a favor to a former player. That player wouldn’t have brought him to Gary’s attention if he wasn’t positive that “Big Mike” was a Patterson type of guy who could help right now and as far as I am concerned I will take the opinion of one of Gary’s former players over a “recruiting guru”.
BRYSON HENDERSON (6’ 4” 245 lb.) –defensive line prospect from Summit High School in Mansfield Texas. Last year TCU signed a defensive line class with highly regarded prospect Devonte Fields, old/ de linebacker Prospect James McFarland, and a late commit from a very raw defensive line prospect with a great frame in Terrell Lathan. As the 2012 season played out Fields was even better than projected as he became a dominant defensive lineman by mid-season, McFarland flashed great potential and have some believing he will give the Frogs another great pass rusher off the edge, but the guy who truly surprised many with his play was Lathan. When David Johnson went down with a knee Terrell not only filled the spot in the Frogs interior defensive line rotation, but he flashed potential that he might be much more than a rotation player. With some time in the weight room and improved technique it is very easy to project Lathan as a dominant defensive tackle for the Frogs.
When I watched the video of Bryson Henderson I immediately thought of Lathan with even more upside potential. The reason why I say that is Henderson has that same huge frame. When you see him reach for a ball carrier his arms just seem to reach out forever, but the difference is that Henderson shows plus agility, very good flexibility, and a knack for slipping blockers that is something you don’t teach a player. Watch the video and you see him naturally find around and force his way between blockers. Patterson wants defensive linemen who can get up field and create havoc and you can see that on play after play of Henderson’s footage.
You can also see a great deal of natural strength that belies a 245 lb. frame. Bryson extends that inside elbow to hold off blockers while pushing up field and my favorite clip is when he craters a pulling guard from Everman with that same move. It is not the type of strength you see built from time in the weight room, but the type of strength that if you have makes you damn near impossible to handle solo by an offensive lineman.
I haven’t heard anything that would indicate I am on to something, but I am just curious with the agility and the quickness (only measurable I could find for Henderson is a listing of a 4.8 forty time) if he could possibly play some snaps as a strong side defensive end for the Frogs. Unfortunately, none of that might come to pass if he doesn’t get his test score. Henderson doubled signed and while close he has yet to get the number. As pointed out before I think if he gets on campus he has the potential to become a monster for the Frogs in the defensive line, but none of the matters if can get the score.
TEVIN LAWSON ( 6’ 4” 285 lb.) – defensive tackle prospect from Denham Springs High School in Denham Springs, Louisiana. A good friend of mine commented that the first time he saw Chucky Hunter on video his first thought was here was a stereotypical SEC defensive tackle. Hunter had a wide build, looked a bit soft, and at the snap just created all kinds of havoc with plus quickness and agility that just didn’t seem to match his body.
When I first saw video of Lawson that was my thoughts first went as I remembered a young Michael Brockers playing in Houston. Neither will ever be that sculpted body or the first person you want off the bus if you are headed to the Venice Beach of the Big XII known as Austin. Massive frame, long arms, and a good burst that gives them a better first ten yards than any of the last thirty which is perfect for a defensive tackle who can hold the interior against the run and collapse the interior pocket flushing the quarterback to the faster players off the edge.
Some have asked about Lawson possibly playing offensive tackle and he did play that position most of his senior season, but he was recruited by TCU to start at defensive tackle and that was the same as LSU. As mentioned above, when you watch his footage at defensive tackles you see a plus burst combined with long arms that allowed him to close on ball carriers. It is important to remember that with Lawson we are talking more tools than polish right now as Denham Springs is not a school that has poured the resources into its football program like Katy, SLC, Allen, or Denton Guyer.
Much like his defensive line recruit peer Henderson, Lawson needs work and will benefit from time in the weight room, but with his size and quickness it would not be a complete surprise that he push for minutes in 2013 and allow the Frogs to red-shirt someone like Jon Lewis. It could get interesting next fall if for the opener TCU had on the field at the same time two defensive tackles who wanted to go to TCU, got spurned, and ended up with the Frogs.
SAMMY DOUGLAS (6’3” 195 lb.) – linebacker prospect from Arlington High School in Arlington, Texas. Several years back TCU had a linebacker from Dallas SOC who I am not sure could bench his weight when he got to campus, had a better burst in the first twenty yards than forty, but Gary Spahn’s game was not about how much he could live or the time on a watch. He had unbelievable instincts, could pursue through trash somehow without getting caught up, and would just make play after play after play.
Watching footage about Douglas and reading about him I get the same feeling about Sammy. He isn’t going to grab your attention with his physical measurables (Hudl shows a 265 bench, 305 squat, 240 power clean, and 27.5” vertical), but when you watch his footage you see Sammy continually making tackles.
Don’t get me wrong. Douglas has athletic ability and has run on multiple relays in track for Arlington High. Just as I don’t think Tevin Lawson will ever have that Greek god body I am not sure Sammy is the first guy you want off the bus either. He is however a damn good linebacker prospect that Patterson can keep from saying good things about and once again we are reminded that you want guys who are football players who make great plays and not just someone who is a great looking football player.
Douglas has a rangy frame with long arms that when combined when a plus burst allowed him to close down high school ball carriers. He will need to get stronger as if you watch the Kyle Hicks video you will see Sammy struggle at times physically at the point of attack versus high school offensive linemen. How big will that problem be in college? Many of the offenses in the Big XII are spread oriented , but the Frog linebackers do have to take on offensive linemen as well as the backs and receivers you are going to be asked to tackle or bigger and stronger than what you faced in high school.
With the depth problems at linebacker it isn’t farfetched to believe that Sammy sees time next fall. Truth be told TCU needs at least one of the young linebackers to make an impact in 2013 and if Sammy has a good spring and summer I think he can provide some quality depth.
DAC SHAW (6’2” 200lb.) – linebacker prospect from Mineola High School in Mineola, Texas. Shaw is comparable to Douglas in having a long frame with plus balance, quickness, and agility. He looks a bit thicker to me than Sammy, but that also might be because of the difference in the players Dac is facing on video playing for 2A Mineola versus the players Douglas faced at 5A Arlington High.
It doesn’t mean that Shaw isn’t a legitimate prospect or that he can’t play right away, but that sometimes you have to be careful watching the video and you see defensive lineman fall off Shaw as he runs the football. You can see good natural strength in Shaw and he closes on the ball carrier quickly. I couldn’t mind much on Shaw’s measurables and do know he was a multiple sport athlete at Mineola which most likely means he hasn’t spent as much time in the weight room as he will starting this summer.
I have talked to some people who are very high on Dac’s potential, but I really can’t make any type of guess as to whether or not he will be able to make a contribution in 2013.
PAUL WHITMILL (5’11” 200 lb.) – linebacker prospect from Bastrop High School in Bastrop, Texas. Paul was highly regarded as a sophomore and junior, but slipped a bit n the recruiting rankings and the biggest reason I can find is he just didn’t grow very much since his sophomore year. I am not disagreeing with the idea of factoring in things such as frame and growth potential (especially when you consider the other two linebackers who TCU signed in this class), but I want to point out that you really can’t find too many people who will tell you that Paul stopped making the types of plays he did the two years prior.
Whitmill has a very solid build with a great burst of quickness and is a physical defender. It you watch his video footage you will see him playing out in coverage on multiple plays which opens up the thought that while Paul might not have the perfect size to play linebacker he physically doesn’t look that different from Derrick Kindred did playing multiple positions at SA Waggoner.
TCU was very vulnerable last year with their linebackers in pass coverage which led to them running a 4-1-6 in a few games. The Frogs didn’t sign a bigger linebacker and I am not sure if they really found a bigger linebacker in the JUCO ranks that they felt they could bring to campus and help them immediately. I think it is very interesting with the offenses in the Big XII that Patterson has talked about moving a player like Anderson from linebacker to safety in an attempt to get faster at the position instead of bigger.
Consider that he specifically said he wanted to get bigger in the defensive line and I can’t claim any true incite behind the purple curtain, but I am curious if Patterson is comfortable signing multiple safety/linebacker prospects that have similar size and skills to give him the speed and flexibility to face the Big XII offenses. If you look at players such as the three linebackers and safety prospects such as George Baltimore and Denzel Johnson there are very common physical traits and abilities in all five prospects.
Following that line of thinking I think Whitmill is a great example of a prospect who isn’t as highly regarded by some schools who don’t run the 4-2-5 and more importantly don’t have Gary’s eye for finding those kids who seem to not quite fit in one position, but have the speed and physical nature needed to excel in the Frogs system. If you watch the footage you can see Whitmill’s ability to tackle in the open field and his physical style which is complimented by above average quickness. As with Douglass, Paul has run on Bastrop’s 4 x 100, 4 x 200, and 4 x 400 meter relays the past two seasons.
GEORGE BALTIMORE (6’ 205 lb.) – safety prospect from Mansfield High School in Mansfield, Texas. Baltimore is a thick, powerfully built safety prospect who fits into the description I just described above about Paul Whitmill. In fact, the two remind me a bit of each other.
George played a traditional safety at Mansfield and showed good instincts to compliment plus quickness and a willingness to be physical. I talked with a few people who think he is a bit stiff in coverage, but I think he can handle any of the three safety positions for the Frogs. He posted a best time of 11.25 in the 100 M as a sophomore and has consistently run in the range of 4.55 -4.6. this means he runs well enough and a reported vertical of 33” shows good explosion through the hips combined with a best of 265 on the bench according to HUDL.
The thought by many is that Baltimore will first see time at free safety, but as mentioned before I would not be surprised to see him end up playing closer to the line of scrimmage.
DENZEL JOHNSON (6’2” 205 lb.) – safety/athlete prospect from Gainesville High School in Gainesville, Texas. Johnson is a prospect who didn’t gather much attention until late in the process, but if you read around on a few blogs his name did start to pop up the middle of his senior season and one blogger compared him to current Frog Sam Carter.
So why the low profile? There was a time when D-1 prospects were common at Gainesville as they were one of the strongest 3A programs in the state. Time passes and when you have turnover at the head coaching position word doesn’t always circulate the way it should for some prospects. Don’t confuse however the lack of recognition for a lack of athletic ability. Johnson has a long frame with great balance and agility. HUDL posts best of 4.5 in the forty, a 37” vertical, 290 bench press, and a 400 pound squat.
What you need to remember on those last two numbers is that Denzel is a four sport athlete for Gainesville having started three years of varsity football, three years of varsity basketball, and four years of varsity baseball. Not a great deal of down time which also means he hasn’t spent a great deal of time in the weight room like he will for the Frogs. Johnson is a raw prospect on the football field and his name has been tossed around for multiple possible positions in his future. The thought is that he will start on defense at safety and things will take their course from there.
The best part of Johnson though might not be his athletic ability. Talking to people in the area he is a leader and a competitor. One person pointed out that he has started since a freshman for Gainesville playing baseball in a district in which they are on the short end of the stick when it comes to resources and players. Hasn’t mattered to him as he comes to compete regardless of the mismatch with stronger district teams (i.e. Argyle) and that says a great deal to me about Johnson.
STEVE WESLEY (6’ 175 lb.) – cornerback prospect from Bowie High School in Arlington, Texas. Wesley was an early pledge for the Frogs and played for an established program in Bowie, but it is tough to find much about him.
What I could find is that most sites had him listed at 4.6 or under in the forty, there is no video footage on YouTube or HUDL, and I really could not find much in terms of individual track times (He was listed on Bowie’s 4 x 100 and 4 x 200 relay teams). Look around and didn’t find much combine information so what does any of this mean?
Not really much when you consider that Clay Jennings has earned himself a very solid reputation in finding talent and that if he and Patterson felt Steve deserved an offer that is good enough for me. True, that doesn’t score very high on the services rating scales, but once again Wesley might be a kid who doesn’t fit in all systems, but TCU thinks he will excel in their scheme. I have heard comparison’s in body build to Greg McCoy with the same quick burst. No real way to know if he has McCoy’s top end speed, but also consider that in the Frogs scheme if you have a very physical corner, with plus feet and quickness they can be very, very effective moving inside to the weak safety position. Elisha Olabode? I realize is sounds like an easy out to say I will put more faith in Patterson and his staff than the recruiting sites, but it also is a pretty solid decision based upon their track record of knowing the skills and traits they must have to make a position work in their scheme.
RANTHONY TEXADA (5’ 10” 160 lb.) – cornerback prospect from Centennial High School in Frisco, Texas. Texada might be closer to 5’9” than 5’ 10” but that is the only thing that separates him from being considered an elite cornerback prospect. He shows great burst on the ball, plus instincts, footwork, and hips.
Granted he did struggle against Tyler John Tyler’s Fred Ross in the play-offs last year I think Texada is a great prospect when you consider the offenses TCU is facing in the Big XII and the challenge faced in chasing many of the smaller faster receivers. He didn’t back down from Ross and while he will never be a big corner he has the build to get stronger combined with great natural speed ( 4.33 in the 40M, 10.5 in the 100M, and 22.94 in 200M) .
Jennings for some reason hasn’t got the credit he deserves for his job with the Frog corners, but I can’t wait to see how he develops Texada. Ranthony has great natural confidence, is smart, great instincts, is a play maker with the ball in his hands, and the type of burst you can’t teach. I would not be shocked if Texada pushed for the fourth cornerback spot in 2013.
CYDNEY CALVIN (6’ 1” 175 lb.) – cornerback prospect from Centennial High School in Frisco, Texas. Some have earmarked Denzel Johnson as the sleeper of this class, but the guy to me who flew under the radar and could be this years Derrick Kindred is Cydney Calvin.
No slight to Denzel as I love the potential I bring to the Frogs, but Calvin is a guy who you won’t find anyone writing about for a very good reason. Up until the middle of his senior season he was a good high school receiver who was moved to cornerback to try to solidify the position opposite the above mentioned Ranthony Texada. Roughly two months later he has Jennings and Patterson in his home offering him a scholarship to play the boundary corner position for the Frogs.
For those not convinced with the belief that Patterson and Jennings know what they are looking for in defensive backs also consider that Calvin is 6’1” with the wingspan that matches a 6’3” body, has run under 4.5 in the forty, run a 4.01 shuttle, and has a 34” vertical leap. So, long body with long arms, very good feet, and plus speed.
So why nothing earlier? I can’t tell you why the coaches at Centennial weren’t playing him at cornerback, but what I know is at the end of the year he was starting opposite Texada for a team that made a deep run in the play-offs. Yes, he is raw, but you can see the instincts in finding the football in the video and as I said before I have great faith in Jennings ability to take that frame, agility, quickness, and instincts and mold him into a great corner just as Clay has done before for the Frogs.