The 2020 football season is officially underway, with spring football practices opening over the next few weeks in the Big 12. The first of the Big 12’s ten members to start practices is the TCU Horned Frogs, who begin practices today, and wrap things up with their spring game in early April.
Last season was a rough one for the Horned Frogs, who missed out on a bowl berth for the first time since 2013. Head coach Gary Patterson has certainly had down seasons in his tenure at TCU, but over the past two seasons his Horned Frogs are 12-13, and the long-tenured Patterson isn’t used to hovering around .500 over a prolonged period of time.
As 2020 spring football kicks off, Patterson has more than a few questions to try and answer over the next few weeks. TCU has consistently recruited well since they’ve been in the Big 12, and their head coach has a reputation for being able to develop talent. With some production having left both sides of the ball, though, the Horned Frogs will have plenty to work on.
PRACTICE BEGINS: FRI, February 28
SPRING GAME: SAT, April 2
LOCATION: Amon G. Carter Stadium (Fort Worth, TX)
Offensive Questions For The Horned Frogs
Most pressing is the need for TCU to improve on the offensive side of the ball in 2020. Gary Patterson made changes to his staff on that side of the ball in offseason, including his hiring of former assistant Doug Meacham as inside receivers and tight ends coach. The offensive line will also have a new position coach in Jarrett Anderson, and Bryan Applewhite was brought on to coach running backs for the Horned Frogs. Jerry Kill, a long time friend of Patterson and one time head coach at Minnesota, was also brought on to provide comprehensive evaluation of the TCU offense.
In terms of personnel, the Horned Frogs have spent the past few months trying to establish some stability at the quarterback position after Michael Collins and Justin Rogers sought to be part of other programs. Starter Max Duggan returns, but he could have some competition from dual threat signal caller Stephon Brown, a top JUCO signee for the Horned Frogs in 2020.
The biggest mystery to solve might be along the offensive line, though, where TCU loses four starters to graduation. Coy McMillon, Quazzel White, and Austin Myers all have starting experience, with McMillon with the only full time returning starter on the line, where he played center last season. The Horned Frogs did bring in T.J. Storment from Colorado State, and he could feasibly fill in a position at tackle. Guard will remain a bit of question mark, though, and may require TCU to start one of their recent signees.
The skill positions feature potential but less proven production. Darwin Barlow and Emari Demercado will likely take the spotlight at running back, but they combine for all of 164 yards rushing in 2019. Jalen Reagor, the focal point of the offense for the last two years, will be missed, but a host of upperclassmen could step up to take his place. Taye Barber, Te’Valiance Hunt, John Stephens Jr., and Pro Wells were all strong options for TCU’s quarterbacks last season, and combined for over 1,000 yards receiving last season.
Defensive Questions For The Horned Frogs
It’s easier to be optimistic about the defensive side of the ball for TCU. Not only is it Patterson’s specialty, but there are up-and-coming stars as well as reliable veterans on the defense. Two year starter Corey Bethley returns along the defensive line with Ochaun Mathis, a player who could be ready for a breakout year as a redshirt sophomore. Soni Misi, a 305 pound junior defensive tackle, is a likely candidate to replace the departed Ross Blacklock as starter, and Adam Plant Jr. may very well take over the starting spot at end.
At linebacker, Garret Wallow returns as a stalwart starter, and there are four other linebackers in that room with starting experience. The defensive backfield will need to replace four defensive backs, as Trevon Moehrig – one of the best safeties in the Big 12 – is the only full time starter who’s back. Kee’yon Stewart was the first true freshman to start at cornerback for TCU since 2015, so expect him to nail down one starting spot. Other secondary spots will have to be worked out in spring, but most of the candidates there have some playing experience.