2015 CFB Preview – TCU

    TCU Horned FrogsGo to Team Page Horned FrogsGo to Selection Page           One first down. TCU was that close to true greatness.

    July 2, 2015

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    One first down. TCU was that close to true greatness.

    By Pete Fiutak | @PeteFiutak

    It’s impossible to use the “football is a game of inches” cliché in an epic 61-58 shootout, and who knows if the team would’ve been able to handle the pressure of being unbeaten over the last seven games, but yeah, TCU was probably one missed fourth down play against Baylor away from going to the playoff.

    The real pain was in the cruelty of the final rankings. Third in the next-to-last release, TCU did nothing worthy of dropping, tearing up Iowa State 55-3. But Baylor beat Kansas State, Ohio State obliterated Wisconsin, and Florida State, Oregon and Alabama didn’t falter. The CFP committee held to its word that conference championships matter most, and TCU – and Baylor – were left without a chair when the music stopped.

    Head coach Gary Patterson took as high a road as possible through the disappointment, and the team made a massive statement with a 42-3 annihilation of Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl, but it still stunk. This year, though, TCU has the potential and the talent to make things right.

    One constant about TCU under Patterson’s tremendous reign has been the ability to fix a problem that needs solving, but this year, he has to try to maintain.

    It was a little bit easier in the Mountain West and Conference USA days to have a style and a system and stick with it, but life in the Big 12 early on was rough with a mediocre offense. The Horned Frog D was fine in the first two seasons at the next level, but an O that finished 104th in the nation made the program look like a fish out of water.

    And then Patterson made a few changes.

    Co-offensive coordinators Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham were able to tweak things, adding a better pace, more explosion, and more creativity to the attack leading to a phenomenal turnaround. All of a sudden, TCU went from stodgy and underwhelming to confident and dominant, averaging 533 yards and 46.5 points per game.

    How unstoppable were the Horned Frogs? They never scored fewer than 30 points and finished up winning their final three games – including the bowl win over Ole Miss – by a combined score of 145-16.

    Offense, solved. Defense, never really an issue under Patterson. So now comes the next problem to deal with.

    Winning the Big 12 title and going to the playoff.

    The offense has the potential to be every bit as good with Trevone Boykin back at the helm along with a deep and talented stable of running backs and four of the top five receivers. Defensively, the back seven has to replace Paul Dawson and Marcus Mallet at linebacker, and top corner Kevin White and safety Chris Hackett are gone, but this is TCU – it’s never a problem finding defensive replacements.

    The Big 12 should be far better, and the Horned Frogs aren’t going to catch anyone napping, but at the very least, they’re going to be in the mix again.

    TCU has built to this point, and now it’s really and truly a Big 12 powerhouse. This year, is when it’s going to show the staying power, and this year, the payoff at the end might be there.

    What You Need To Know About The Offense: After massive struggles moving the ball in 2013, co-offensive coordinators Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham put together a devastating attack that couldn’t be stopped. As good as last year’s offense might have been finishing second in the nation in scoring and fifth in yards, it could be even stronger. Triggerman Trevone Boykin is back along with his top targets, Josh Doctson and Kolby Listenbee. The veteran offensive line should provide plenty of time for Boykin to operate and should provide a terrific push for Aaron Green and a great group of backs.

    What You Need To Know About The Defense: There’s plenty of rebuilding to do, but don’t weep for a TCU defense that always reloads in a hurry. The front four will be the rock with a good rotation at end around Davion Pierson inside. Top tackling linebackers Paul Dawson and Marcus Mallet are gone, but the young group has the speed and athleticism to crank out a ton of tackles behind the active line. Star corner Kevin White is gone, but Darrick Kindred is one of the Big 12’s best safeties and the corner tandem of Torrance Mosley and Ranthony Texada should be solid.

    What to watch for on offense: How much more will the running game be involved? Having a mobile quarterback like Trevone Boykin helps the numbers and certainly makes the ground attack more dangerous, but the goal has to be to keep the Heisman-caliber playmaker from getting hit. The more the backs can help, the better. B.J. Catalon took off early for the NFL, but former Nebraska Cornhusker Aaron Green grew into a better back, taking off for 922 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging 7.15 yards per carry. Kyle Hicks got in a few reps last year, and Trevorris Johnson ran for four touchdowns, but the expected emergence of Shaun Nixon might make the running game truly pop. The former star recruit tore an ACL last season, but he’s back and ready to roll as part of the rotation. For a team that ran for 2,689 yards and 32 touchdowns last year, even with a high-octane passing attack, 3,000 yards isn’t out of the question.

    What to watch for on defense: How fast can the linebackers rise up? Any secondary would have problems in the Big 12, but the loss of Kevin White at one corner shouldn’t be a total killer considering the talent returning at the other four spots. TCU always finds tremendous linebackers in the 4-2-5 alignment, but Paul Dawson was a tone-setting terror making 136 stops and Marcus Mallet was fantastic coming up with 100 tackles. On the plus side, TCU only has to come up with two replacements, and junior Sammy Douglas appears to be ready to step in and shine. The 6-3, 215-pounder is built like a big safety, and he can move. The middle will be the more interesting spot with true freshman Mike Freeze coming out of spring ball as the top option, but with former quarterback Ty Summers going to be in the mix this fall. With Minnesota and its running game coming up right out of the gate, the linebackers will have to be ready.

    The team will be far better if … the backup quarterback situation is settled and comfortable. If it’s possible to almost pitch a perfect season, TCU was able to do it. The punting game could’ve been a little bit stronger, and the penalties could be cut down, but there isn’t any one area from last year that needs a massive improvement. There’s a chance to do it all again, but the wheels could come off if Trevone Boykin – who was out this offseason recovering from wrist surgery – goes down. Foster Sawyer, Bram Kohlhausen and Grayson Muehlstein were all able to get more work this spring with the star out, and while Kohlhausen is probably going to be the No. 2 going into the fall, the more reps the reserves can get in games, the better.

    The schedule: Going to Minnesota to start the season should be just enough of a good non-conference game to give the Horned Frogs a little bit of national credit. Blowing away Stephen F. Austin and SMU won’t help the playoff cause.
    – If you’re going to have a run of three road games in four weeks, having to play at Texas Tech and Iowa State isn’t bad – but the Kansas State game will be tough. TCU has to take advantage of the home game against Texas.
    – Even if TCU is as good as hoped for, going to Oklahoma and facing Baylor in six days is brutal at the end of the year.
    – If the Horned Frogs can beat Oklahoma State on the road, there’s a chance to go on a nice run with at Iowa State, West Virginia and Kansas as part of a mid-season stretch.
    – WATCH OUT FOR … at Iowa State. Coming off the road trip to Kansas State, will it be letdown time with a week off to follow? The Cyclones won’t be that good, but the Horned Frogs have to hit the two-foot putt.

    Best offensive player: Senior QB Trevone Boykin. It’s one thing to be a product of a system, and it’s another to do what Boykin did. Sometimes it takes a little while for a player to take to a new style, but Boykin went from being known more for being a runner and receiver than a pure passer – throwing seven touchdown passes and seven picks two years ago – to looking like an NFL prospect after turning in Big 12 Player of the Year honors. The system might be good enough to keep on rolling no matter who’s at the helm, but now that he knows what he’s doing, Boykin could take the attack to a whole other level.

    Best defensive player: Senior FS Derrick Kindred. There might be a few changes needed on a defense that came up with a great year – even if it took a backseat attention-wise to the offense – but there are still plenty of talented veterans returning. DT Davion Pierson is about to be a dominant force up front, and Ranthony Texada should be an All-Big 12 corner, but it’s Kindred who should be the defense’s tone-setter until the linebacker situation is settled. Even with four interceptions, he was more steady than spectacular. That’s what the TCU defense needs in the pass-happy Big 12.

    Key player to a successful season: Sophomore CB Torrance Mosley. Kevin White was one of the best all-around corners in the nation last season making 51 tackles with two picks and 11 broken up passes, but now he needs to be replaced. With Ranthony Texada a proven veteran corner on one side, but that means everyone will challenge Mosley on the other. The 5-10, 170-pound sophomore got in a little special teams work and finished with two tackles, but now the spotlight will be on right away.

    The season will be a success if … TCU wins at least a share of the Big 12 title. Getting to the playoff requires a ton of luck as well as a near-perfect season – that’s asking a bit too much. However, with all of the star power returning on offense, and with TCU’s ability to reload on defense, it’ll be a massive disappointment if the Horned Frogs don’t repeat the success of last year and at grab some part of a Big 12 championship. It’s a better league this year, but TCU is good enough to handle it.

    Key game: Nov. 21 at Oklahoma. All eyes will be on the regular season finale against Baylor – hoping for the same magic as last year’s classic – but the showdown at Oklahoma the week before could turn out to be even more important for the Big 12 title chase. The Horned Frogs have to go to Kansas State, and going to Oklahoma State this year is going to be nasty, but if they can’t get by the Sooners, the Baylor game might not matter too much.

    2014 Fun Stats:
    – Interceptions Thrown: Opponents 26 – TCU 11
    – Punt Return Average: TCU 9.0 yards – Opponents -1.0
    – Third Quarter Scoring: TCU 196 – Opponents 59

    Players You Need To Know

    1. QB Trevone Boykin, Sr.
    Just how much of a shocker was Boykin’s amazing 2014 season? Thrown to the wolves as a freshman, he did a nice job at quarterback and showed good promise and potential, but he struggled as a sophomore and wasn’t nearly as sharp or consistent. With Casey Pachall available, Boykin turned into a receiver catching 26 passes for 204 yards – with 11 grabs against West Virginia. Then came the new offense, and he didn’t seem like he’d be the right fit for it. Instead, he turned out to be the perfect option.

    At 6-2 and 205 pounds, he’s not big, but he’s a tough runner with excellent quickness in the open field, taking off for 707 yards and eight scores, running 17 times for 123 yards and three scores against Kansas State. As a passer, he turned into a major surprise making great decision after great decision, and while he wasn’t always accurate – completing 61% of his passes – he always made big plays throwing for 3,901 yards and 33 touchdowns with just ten picks. Three of those interceptions came in the bowl game – he didn’t throw multiple picks in any regular season game. Now he’s coming off a wrist injury, and the pressure will be on to play at a Heisman level, but he’s experienced, talented, and ready to take his game to a whole other level.

    2. WR Josh Doctson, Sr.
    The 6-3, 195-pounder can jump out of the stadium, has the deep speed to make big things happen, and he has become the reliable No. 1 target for Trevone Boykin. With 65 catches for a team-record 1,018 yards and 11 scores, he blew up in the new offense after making just 36 grabs for 440 yards the year before. Unstoppable at times, he caught seven passes for 225 yards and two scores against Oklahoma State, and he blew up late in the regular season with 16 catches for 266 yards and two scores against Texas and Iowa State. Now he’s a veteran main man for an experienced group of receivers. Expect even more.

    3. FS Derrick Kindred, Sr.
    The team’s third-leading tackler, the 5-10, 210-pound All-Big 12 performer came up with a solid season in the secondary with four picks – highlighted by a 44-yard pick six against Iowa State – to go along with 79 tackles. Great in the open field, ten of his 11 against West Virginia were solo stops, the former running back cuts on a dime and move effortlessly to get around the ball. It should once again be a strong secondary, and he’ll be one of the leaders who brings it all together.

    4. DT Davion Pierson, Sr.
    The tone-setting main man up front, he’s a vocal leader who might not be massive, but he’s the bulk as the only 300-pounder in the rotation. The 6-2, 305-pound All-Big 12 performer came up with 26 tackles with 3.5 sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss, but his worth is as a blocker occupier more than a raw stat guy. The longtime starter knows how to get into the backfield and he can hold up well, but this year he should be even more active.

    5. RB Aaron Green, Sr.
    The former Nebraska Cornhusker didn’t take the team by storm in his first year, running for 232 yards in 2013, but last year he showed just how dangerous he could become. A backup to start the year, he took over halfway through the season and started six times coming up with a team-high 922 yards and nine scores. Extremely quick, he caught 19 passes for 166 yards and two scores, and he tore off big play after big play throughout last year with 171 yards and a score against Kansas State and 128 yards and two touchdowns against Kansas. At 5-11 and 202 pounds, he’s a good-sized compact runner who’ll be the lead man in the rotation. Expect another All-Big 12 performance.

    6. OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Sr.
    At 6-6 and 308 pounds, the senior has turned into a whale of a left tackle over the last two seasons. While he’s not bulky, he’s quick, has a great wingspan and reach, and can get nasty when needed. He has grown into the role, and now, after earning Second Team All-Big 12 honors, he should turn into one of the nation’s premier all-around blockers.

    7. C Joey Hunt, Sr.
    Good at either guard or center, the 6-3, 295-pound Second Team All-Big 12 performer is versatile and reliable. Active, quick and versatile, he’s the leader of the line after a year of rebuilding. While he’s a good athlete, he’s a pounder who can blast away when needed. Very, very smart – Stanford wanted him – he’s the right guy for the veteran line.

    8. WR Kolby Listenbee, Sr.
    A pure home run hitter, the 6-1, 183-pounder has blazing next-level wheels – he’ll destroy the combine if he gets the chance – averaging 18.37 yards per catch. He only caught 41 passes, but he made them count for 753 yards and four scores, highlighted by a four-grab, 146-yard day against Baylor and with five catches for 103 yards against Oklahoma. With all the talent in the receiving corps, and with Trevone Boykin back under center, expect Listenbee to be even more dangerous in single coverage.

    9. PK Jared Oberkrom, Sr.
    One of the nation’s best and steadiest kickers, Oberkron earned First Team All-Big 12 honors hitting 22-of-27 field goals – with one getting blocked – and nailing 76-of-77 extra points. While he doesn’t have a massive leg and doesn’t have 50+ yard range, he was on fire over the second half of the season hitting his last 13 regular season kicks. The nation’s leading scorer, he’ll get plenty of chances once again.

    10. CB Ranthony Texada, Soph.
    At 5-10 and 170 pounds, he’s not a huge defender, but he’s very quick and very promising. He did a nice job in the rotation coming up with 31 tackles with an interception, and now he’ll have to take over for Kevin White as a full-time corner on the other side of Torrance Mosley. Very, very fast, he was a high school track star who brings the wheels to the secondary – expect big numbers with teams challenging him early on.

    Head Coach: Gary Patterson
    15th year: 132-45
    Schedule
    Sept. 3 at Minnesota
    Sept. 12 Stephen F. Austin
    Sept. 19 SMU
    Sept. 26 at Texas Tech
    Oct. 3 Texas
    Oct. 10 at Kansas State
    Oct. 17 at Iowa State
    Oct. 24 OPEN DATE
    Oct. 29 West Virginia
    Nov. 7 at Oklahoma State
    Nov. 14 Kansas
    Nov. 21 at Oklahoma
    Nov. 27 Baylor
    Ten Best TCU Players
    1. QB Trevone Boykin, Sr.
    2. WR Josh Doctson, Sr.
    3. FS Derrick Kindred, Sr.
    4. DT Davion Pierson, Sr.
    5. RB Aaron Green, Sr.
    6. OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Sr.
    7. C Joey Hunt, Sr.
    8. WR Kolby Listenbee, Sr.
    9. PK Jared Oberkrom, Sr.
    10. CB Ranthony Texada, Soph.

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