A rebuilt defense could mean the Horned Frogs will be involved in plenty of shootouts this season.
By: Steven Lassan | 5/4/12, 5:35 AM EDT
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You can read the entire TCU preview in Athlon Sports' 2012 Big 12 magazine, available for purchase now at the Athlon Sports store.
Big 12 PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Gary Patterson, 109-30 (11 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Jarrett Anderson, Rusty Burns | DEF. COORDINATOR: Dick Bumpas
Casey Pachall’s first year as the starting quarterback could hardly have gone much better. He threw for a school-record 2,921 yards and completed a record 228 passes in his first year as the starter. The good news for the Horned Frogs is that Pachall is back with all of his main weapons.
Three of his four leading receivers return, most notably Josh Boyce, who led the Frogs with 998 yards and nine touchdowns as a sophomore.
The Frogs’ return three of their top four rushers (four, if you include backup quarterback Matt Brown), including two main ball-carriers — Waymon James, and Matthew Tucker. Together they combined for 1,428 yards and 18 touchdowns. Ed Wesley, who had over 1,000 yards rushing as a sophomore in 2010, left the team in late May and is not expected to return in time for the 2012 season.
The offensive line is the one area of concern. Three starters must be replaced, including the left tackle and left guard. The replacements at those positions have little or no experience. Against much of the competition in the Mountain West, TCU may have skirted the problem. Against the big boys in the Big 12, offensive line stability will be a top priority, and a lack of depth on the line could be a liability.
How Many Big 12 Games Will TCU Win in 2012?
On paper, TCU appears less experienced and more undermanned on defense than it did in 2011. But that’s not the case. The Frogs return only five starters, but many of the new faces saw plenty of action in 2011.
Defensive end Stansly Maponga is a breakout star waiting to happen. The two-year starter led the Frogs with 13.5 tackles for a loss, nine sacks and forced five fumbles last season.
Deryck Gildon, who played well in a limited role as a freshman in 2011, was the favorite to start at middle linebacker next to Kenny Cain, but is not expected to play in 2012. The Frogs had planned on plugging Tanner Brock back into the lineup after he missed the majority of the season with a foot injury, but Brock was one of the four players kicked off the team in the February drug scandal.
Patterson hopes the return of longtime safeties coach Chad Glasgow, back after one year as Texas Tech’s defensive coordinator, will help shore up a secondary that was torched far too often in 2011. He’ll have a young but talented crop of young prospects to work with, including strong safety Sam Carter, weak safety Jonathan Anderson and free safety Elisha Olabode.
Casey Pachall, QB—Shining moment of his first season as a starter was a 473-yard, five-TD performance in TCU’s 36–35 upset win at Boise State.
Waymon James, RB—Led the Horned Frogs with 875 rushing yards last season. With Ed Wesley leaving the team, will be expected to shoulder more of the load on the ground in 2012.
Josh Boyce, WR—His 998 yards were nearly 500 more than TCU’s second-leading receiver, Skye Dawson.
Stansly Maponga, DE—Had 55 tackles, including a team-leading 13.5 for a loss, and nine sacks. Also recorded a team-high five forced fumbles.
Kenny Cain, LB—Led the team with 72 tackles in 2011 and had a sack and interception.
|Sept. 8th||Grambling State|
|Sept. 15th||at Kansas|
|Sept. 29th||at Southern Methodist|
|Oct. 6th||Iowa State|
|Oct. 13th||at Baylor|
|Oct. 20th||Texas Tech|
|Oct. 27th||at Oklahoma State|
|Nov. 3rd||at West Virginia|
|Nov. 10th||Kansas State|
|Nov. 24th||at Texas|
The departures of four-year placekicker Ross Evans and punter Anson Kelton leave a massive void in the Frogs’ kicking game. TCU signed players at both positions in this year’s recruiting class, and both should contend for the starting jobs as freshmen. Another big loss is Greg McCoy, who returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in ’11.
Even with depth issues on the line, TCU’s offense is talented and deep enough at the skill positions to compete with most teams in their inaugural Big 12 season. The defense should be improved from last year’s 11–2, Poinsettia Bowl-winning team.
The real test for the Frogs will be overcoming the week-to-week pounding against bigger, faster players than they’ve routinely faced in the Mountain West. Sure, TCU’s top-line players can hang with most of their peers in their new league, but can the second- and third-team guys hold that level of play if needed in a pinch? Or worse still, for a long stretch of the season?