Last year’s Big 12 football season ended over a month ago, but we’re already in the process of preparing for next year. Each team in the conference faces its own questions, and all ten squads will seek to answer those over the course of the next month or so as spring practices come and go.
Here, we’ll get into the issues faced by those teams, and examine the areas where they’ll hope to make progress throughout the fifteen practices allocated to each squad. The TCU Horned Frogs kick things off by starting practices at the end of this week, and they’re first up in this series.
Headed into 2018, the Horned Frogs seemed to have a lot of things figured out, and were pegged by many to make the Big 12 championship once again. Yet, due to injuries and an offense plagued by inconsistency, TCU lost to bottom dweller Kansas in Lawrence and found themselves fighting to get to .500 in late November.
Gary Patterson’s teams are known for bouncing back after mediocre seasons like 2018. Only once, from 2012-2013, has a Patterson-coached TCU failed to reach the ten-win mark two years in a row. Can the Horned Frogs bounce back again in 2019, or will some of their question marks be too much to overcome?
PRACTICE BEGINS: FRI, March 1
SPRING GAME: SAT, April 6
LOCATION: Amon G. Carter Stadium (Fort Worth, TX)
There might be more questions about Gary Patterson’s bunch this year than at any point since TCU joined the Big 12. The Horned Frogs have recruited well in that time, yet all of that talent will have to come together to make progress next season.
On offense, TCU has an experienced offensive line and returns explosive playmaker Jalen Reagor, along with running backs Darius Anderson and Sewo Olonilua. There’s some definite ability to rack up big numbers there, but the most pressing question revolves around the quarterback position.
A year ago it looked as if Shawn Robinson might be the future for the Horned Frogs, but after a rocky 2018 sophomore season, Robinson transferred out and opened the door for someone else.
Junior signal caller Michael Collins had a fairly solid season last year, but it wasn’t enough to jumpstart what at times seemed like a stalled offense. He’ll compete with Kansas State transfer Alex Delton, who showcased his athleticism in Manhattan, but often struggled to be consistent through the air.
Gary Patterson’s made his reputation for developing defensive talent, and the 59 year-old head football coach will have his work cut out for him this spring. Seven senior starters are gone from a defense that did much of the heavy lifting for the Frogs last season.
The interior of the defensive line should be sturdy if Ross Blacklock returns to form after coming back from last year’s season-ending Achilles injury. Corey Bethley is also a quality defensive lineman, but both guys will require help on the outside, where TCU needs new stars on the edge.
Linebacker is really where the Horned Frogs will need to rebuild some depth, as four senior contributors are gone from last year’s roster. Upperclassmen Garrett Wallow and Montrel Wilson have logged quality game time, but TCU will likely need one or two freshmen to make a name for themselves there.
Safeties Jeff Gladney and Julius Lewis will be seniors next season, and that duo could have the best 2019 season of any two players on the defensive side of the ball. They will also be doing their part, though, to break in new faces around the rest of the secondary.
In fact, TCU will likely have to develop younger players throughout their two deep, making the next few weeks pivotal for the Horned Frogs’ 2019 campaign. Can they get enough questions answered before summer rolls around, though?
If they are going to jump back into conference title contention, TCU probably has much to accomplish in the offseason. Will Patterson pull off another return to championship-level play, or will the Horned Frogs struggle again come fall? Either way, we’ll look to see what names emerge this spring to help lead TCU in 2019.