As college football athletes across the country return to campus to prepare for the upcoming season, we turn to looking more closely at what to expect from each Big 12 team come fall. As the summer rolls along, we’ll preview the entire conference, providing an overview of the offense, defense, and special teams. Included as well is a projected depth chart, with returning starters in bold.
The 2019 season was a disappointment for the Horned Frogs, who missed out on a bowl appearance for just the third time in head coach Gary Patterson’s long tenure in Fort Worth. Despite giving up at least 40 points in two contests, overall the defense was stout. With a true freshman at quarterback, however, TCU struggled to score consistently enough to win close games, going 1-6 in games decided by a possession or less.
Now, the Horned Frogs find themselves having to replace graduated seniors and multiple players who were picked in the 2020 NFL Draft. Gone is Jalen Reagor, the focal point of last year’s offense, along with TCU’s top two running backs in Sewo Olonilua and Darius Anderson. TCU’s top two draft picks were defensive players, so the Horned Frogs will need talented to players to step upon that side of the ball as well.
After losing the that kind of talent, TCU looks for new players to emerge as they hope to take definitive steps forward in 2020. Doing so will require filling in a few key spots on both sides of the ball.
Projected 2020 TCU Depth Chart
|LT||Quazzel White (Jr.)||LE||Ochaun Mathis (Jr.)|
|LG||Kelton Hollins (Sr.)||DT||Corey Bethley (Sr.)|
|C||Coy McMillon (Jr.)||DT||Terrell Cooper (Jr.)|
|RG||Austin Myers (Sr.)||RE||Colt Ellison (So.)|
|RT||T.J. Storment (Sr.)||MLB||Wyatt Harris (Jr.)|
|TE||Pro Wells (Jr.)||SLB||Garret Wallow (Sr.)|
|RB||Emari Demercardo (Sr.)||SS||Trevon Moehrig (Jr.)|
|QB||Max Duggan (So.)||FS||Ar’Darius Washington (So.)|
|WR||Taye Barber (Jr.)||WS||La’Kendrick Van Zandt (Jr.)|
|WR||John Stephens, Jr. (Jr.)||CB||Kee’Yon Stewart (So.)|
|WR||Te’Vailance Hunt (Jr.)||CB||Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson (So.)|
TCU Offensive Outlook
The Horned Frogs will be thinner on experience than offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie would probably prefer, but there are pieces to build from. That starts with returning quarterback Max Duggan, who put up over 2500 yards last season as a freshman. Newcomers Matthew Baldwin and Stephon Brown might give Duggan competition, but the position should progress at any rate.
With their top two running backs gone from last year, the Horned Frogs will need to decide how to replace those 285 carries that helped drive one of the better rushing attacks in the conference in 2019. Senior Emari Demercado, who only ran the ball 18 times last year, is likely to be the starter there, but five star signee Zach Evans could make a big impact for the Horned Frogs at the position.
Three of the four receivers from last season are back. Tight end Pro Wells, a member of the 2019 All-Big 12 Second Team, and wide receiver Taye Barber should start again in 2020, and expect Te’Vailance Hunt, who had twenty catches last year, likely will step into a starting role as a junior.
TCU’s offensive line won’t be the most experienced he’s had, but this is also not a total rebuild from last year. Coy McMillon, Kelton Hollins, and Austin Myers have over 30 starts collectively, which is nothing to scoff at, and they’re all upperclassmen. Graduate transfer T.J. Storment comes over from Colorado State, where the senior was a full time starter last season. He’ll certainly have to work for it, but it’s feasible that he grabs a spot with the first team in the next few weeks.
TCU Defensive Outlook
Graduation and position changes have left a fair amount of questions on TCU’s defense, although it’s never advisable to count out Patterson’s ability to pull that side of the ball together. Junior Ochaun Mathis is athletic and could be ready to make a big leap at defensive end, and the Horned Frogs should be stout in the interior. Who starts at the other end opposite Mathis will be a bit of a mystery.
Last year’s leading tackler in the Big 12, Garret Wallow, returns at one of the linebacker spots to be a major force for TCU. Whoever takes over beside him is unclear, but junior Wyatt Harris, with five career starts under his belt, is a likely candidate.
Four starters are gone from the TCU secondary, but there’s talent nonetheless. Junior Trevon Moehrig, a First Team All-Big 12 safety, will anchor the back end for the Horned Frogs. Expect Ar’Darius Washington and La’Kendrick Van Zandt, both of whom have some experience, to start at the other safety positions. Sophomore Kee’yon Stewart brings started as a true freshman, a rarity on a Gary Patterson defense, and will likely take over full time at cornerback. Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson was a backup at the other corner, so anticipate him stepping up to the first string.
TCU Special Teams Outlook
Graduation took a heavy toll on TCU’s special teams, as most of the top returners from last season are gone. Expect to see Emari Demercado and Derius Davis returning kicks and punts this season, as they shared some of those duties in 2019. Punter Jordy Sandy returns, and could potentially be a bright spot for Gary Patterson. The Horned Frogs will have to find a new man to kick field goals in 2020, however, after losses there.
Suffice it to say, Gary Patterson is not on the hot seat, but the long-tenured head coach of the Horned Frogs has had a couple of rough seasons these past two years. Most of those woes have come on the offensive side of the ball, where TCU has averaged just under 27 points per game while going 12-13. In an offensive league like the Big 12, it’s difficult to make much progress without being able to churn out points, and whether TCU can do that in 2020 will be a major question.
Max Duggan should take steps forward as a sophomore and have a stronger campaign this year. With Duggan at the helm, how much does that help elevate the play of the skill players as their quarterbacks looks for a new go-to guy? Outside of that, it’s hard to believe that Patterson won’t have the defense and special teams ready to play at a satisfactory level. The overall lack of returning star power on this year’s team should give us reason to pause before projecting any kind of quick turnaround, though. TCU in 2020 can be better than they were in 2019, but what that means in terms of wins is a bit of an unknown.
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