Spring football is drawing to a close throughout the Big 12, and teams have started gaining more clarity as to what their 2021 squads are going to look like. As they head into summer workouts, we’ll get into some tentative impressions of all the teams, providing a projection of offensive and defensive starters for the upcoming season (returning starters in bold) as well as some post-spring observations.
Entering their tenth season in the Big 12, TCU looks on paper to be set up well for success. They regularly haul in the third best recruiting class in the conference, and put players in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft on an annual basis. Over the past three seasons, however, the Horned Frogs have gone 18-17 and struggled with health issues. TCU built some momentum at the end of 2020, though, and there’s a wealth of upside on both sides of the ball. There are enough pieces to believe this could be “the year” for the Horned Frogs, and below we offer some thoughts on if they’ll capitalize on that opportunity.
|PROJECTED 2021 STARTERS|
|LT||Obinna Eze (Sr.)||DE||Ochaun Mathis (Jr.)|
|LG||Wes Harris (Sr.)||DT||Corey Bethley (Sr.)|
|C||Steve Avila (Jr.)||DT||Terrell Cooper (Sr.)|
|RG||John Lanz (Jr.)||DE||Khari Coleman (So.)|
|RT||Andrew Coker (So.)||MLB||Dee Winters (Jr.)|
|TE||Carter Ware (Sr.)||WLB||Wyatt Harris (Jr.)|
|RB||Emari Demercado (Sr.)||SS||La’Kendrick Van Zant (Sr.)|
|QB||Max Duggan (Jr.)||FS||T.J. Carter (Sr.)|
|WR||Quentin Johnston (So.)||WS||Josh Foster (Jr.)|
|WR||Taye Barber (Sr.)||CB||Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson (Jr.)|
|WR||Blair Conwright (So.)||CB||Kee’yon Stewart (Jr.)|
This Offense Needs Some Breakout Players
Offensive development will be critical for this team to reach their ceiling. A lot of the younger talent will hopefully continue to emerge on that side of the ball, like wideout Quentin Johnston and former five star running back Zach Evans. The 6’4” Johnston became a popular target for Duggan last season, and Evans really started to shine in his freshman season while averaging 7.7 yards a carry. Either – or both – of them could log All-Big 12 seasons next year, but it’ll be a priority for this reshuffled offensive staff to find a way to create opportunities for a lot of the talent that TCU has amassed in recruiting.
Linebacker Will Continue To Be A Question
Gary Patterson’s defenses are dependably solid year-in, year-out, and this season looks to be no exception. In a league full of improving defenses, though, one has to wonder if the Horned Frogs will be elite this season on that side of the ball. TCU will have as good of a starting four along the defensive line as any team in the Big 12. Tackle Corey Bethley is back from injury, and will be eyeing his spot in the NFL Draft if he can plays up to the same standard that he set with 2.5 sacks in 2019. Along with him, last year’s Co-Defensive Freshman of the Year, Khari Coleman, returns at defensive end, and Ochuan Mathis should be a star at the other end position.
Linebacker will remain the most immediate for the Horned Frogs until proven otherwise. Dee Winters had his moments in 2020, but he and whoever lines up at the other linebacker spot will surely be tested next season by Big 12 offenses. The back end has some newcomers, but lately it feels like TCU is a revolving door of NFL Draft picks at defensive back. With the rumored emergence of transfer T.J. Carter, additionally, it makes sense to be optimistic about the secondary.
This Team Could Develop Into A Contender
TCU has been working to get back to the nadir of those 2014-15 teams that worked their way into the College Football Playoff conversation. If any team has the potential to outperform expectations this year, it might be the Horned Frogs, with all the talent they’ve brought to Fort Worth. Still, the same pitfalls that have befallen TCU teams of recent memory – namely, injuries and inconsistency – could turn their ugly heads again next fall. If they avoid those missteps, the Horned Frogs should be squarely in the conference race in 2021.