Spring football is drawing to a close throughout the Big 12, and teams have started gaining more clarity as to what their 2019 squads are going to look like. As they head into summer workouts, we’ll get into some of the possible issues and potential surprises in store for them.
TCU opened up practices in early March, and they finished things up just over a week ago. Injuries were a major storyline throughout spring practices for TCU. Around 30 players were unable to go for what would have been the Horned Frogs’ spring game last Saturday.
In lieu of an actual game, therefore, head coach Gary Patterson opted to have a practice open to the public.
The Horned Frogs are trying to improve on their record from last season, which was somewhat of a step back from the ten win seasons they’re accustomed to. How close are they to getting there? Here we get into some tentative impressions of the 2019 Horned Frogs, providing a projection of offensive and defensive starters for the upcoming season (returning starters in bold) as well as some post-spring observations about TCU.
|PROJECTED 2019 STARTERS|
|LT||Anthony McKinney (Sr.)||LE||Ochaun Mathis (So.)|
|LG||Cordel Iwuagwu (Sr.)||DT||Corey Bethley (Jr.)|
|C||Kelton Hollins (Jr.)||DT||Ross Blacklock (Jr.)|
|RG||Wes Harris (So.)||RE||Brandon Bowen (Jr.)|
|RT||Lucas Niang (Sr.)||MLB||Montrel Wilson (Sr.)|
|TE||Artayvious Lynn (Jr.)||SLB||Garrett Wallow (Jr.)|
|RB||Darius Anderson (Sr.)||SS||Innis Gaines (Sr.)|
|QB||Alex Delton (Sr.)||FS||Trevon Moehrig (So.)|
|WR||TreVontae Hights (So.)||WS||Vernon Scott (Sr.)|
|WR||Taye Barber (So.)||CB||Julius Lewis (Sr.)|
|WR||Jalen Reagor (Jr.)||CB||Jeff Gladney (Sr.)|
The Uncertainty On Defense Is Significant
Yes, I know what you’re going to say. You’ll say that Gary Patterson is one of the best defensive coaches in college football, and that is true. Still, there are significant personnel concerns on that side of the ball for the Horned Frogs as we inch closer to the summer months.
Specific concerns are particularly pronounced at linebacker and defensive line, two position groups that deal with contact on the regular. The Horned Frogs are replacing starters there, in addition to a couple of spots in the defensive backfield. A majority of the projected starters for next season have little or no starting experience, and many of those who do – defensive back Jeff Gladney, for example – sat out last weekend’s open practice.
Could a lack of depth and experience make for defense that’s below Patterson’s standards next season? It’s not out of the realm of possibility, but don’t be surprised if the staff goes after some graduate transfers.
The Running Game Could Carry The Load In 2019
The situation for the Horned Frogs along the offensive line has improved from a year ago, where TCU will have linemen with multiple starts under their belts. That should help improve with the running game, which will likely be the strength of this offense next season.
After all, seniors Darius Anderson and Sewo Olonilua, who both have NFL potential, should lead the way for the running attack in 2019. In fact, the Horned Frogs bring back most of the key pieces that allowed them to average 252.5 yards per game over their final two contests last year.
Quarterback Is Up In The Air
Most reports out of spring practices are that the quarterback position for the Horned Frogs is still somewhat up in the air. The most experienced candidate is senior transfer Alex Delton, whose athletic ability was definitely showcased by his 4.1 yards per rush at Kansas State.
Max Duggan is a highly touted true freshman who might also have an outside shot based on the potential he’s flashed so far, and Justin Rogers might be the best passer in the quarterback room. He’s reportedly well on his way back to fully recovering from a foot injury that hampered him all last season.
According to Gary Patterson, the winner of the quarterback job will be the guy who best takes care of the ball. Such a preference might favor an upperclassman like Michael Collins, whose 1,059 yards and 3-to-1 interception ratio from last season put him firmly in the mix.
Examining the situation, it’s hard to not think that this will be a true competition into the fall, and maybe beyond that. None of these quarterbacks has yet to definitively separate themselves, and it might be well into next season before any of them definitively do that.
Pay Attention To Special Teams
The Horned Frogs were last in field goal kicking in the Big 12 last season, making just under 62 percent of their kicks. That could mean change is coming, despite the return of seniors Jonathan Song and Cole Bunch to the practice field.
That’s because Gary Patterson takes his special teams seriously, and there’s also a question about punt return for this squad. Jalen Reagor was the primary option last season, and he’s one of the more dangerous returners in the Big 12. Can TCU keep him healthy, though, when the team’s so dependent on him? Only time – and actual football games – will give us the answer to that question.