The top 10 TCU football players you need to know for the 2016 season.
1. DE Josh Carraway
The team’s best pass rusher rose up last season with 47 tackles, nine sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss, to go along with three fumble recoveries and taking one for a score. At 6-4 and 250 pounds, he’s a tall, athletic pass rusher who wasn’t exactly a hot recruit – almost no one of note was making a push for him – but he fits in perfectly with the TCU style. He camped out in the Oklahoma backfield and dominated SMU, and now he has the potential to do even more with a talented defense around him to help the cause.
2. LB Travin Howard
The team’s leading tackler, he’s not built like a top linebacker with 6-1, 210-pound size, but he can move. A decent special teamer early on, he was thrown to the wolves after all the drama in the linebacking corps last year and came up big. A tough, sure tackler with range, he came up with 105 stops with a sack and eight tackles for loss with an interception, doing most of his work against the run.
Not much of a pass rusher, he has the speed to get behind the line if needed. His worth is to get around the ball, coming up with 19 tackles against Baylor and 13 against Oregon to close things out. He worked in the middle, but in the TCU 4-2-5 defense, that’s not like the thumper position it would be at most places – he’ll be an outside linebacker this year.
3. S Denzel Johnson
The star strong safety finished fourth on the team in tackles with 79 stops, and he was fantastic at getting into the backfield making two sacks with 13.5 tackles for loss. He picked off just one pass, but he took it for a score against Stephen F. Austin and broke up eight tackles on the year. The 6-2, 210-pound veteran was a decent special teamer and backup in his first two years, and then he came up with a steady, solid season with ten stops against both SMU and Baylor.
4. WR/KR KaVontae Turpin
Josh Doctson is gone, and so it Kolby Listenbee. The Horned Frogs need receiving help, and they’ve got it with Turpin back after coming up with 45 receptions for 649 yards and eight scores, averaging 14.4 yards per pop. Really, really quick, he makes up for his 5-9, 152-pound size with elite athleticism running for 116 yards and averaging 10.65 yards per punt return taking one for a score. Also a dangerous kick returner, he averaged 27 yards per pop. Not really a deep threat, he’s more of a yards-after-catch guy who’s deadly on the move, destroying Texas with four touchdowns and 138 yards on six catches, and kept on producing throughout the rest of the season. He might not be a true No. 1 guy, but he’s a deadly No. 2.
5. LB Ty Summers
Bringing some size to the linebacking corps, he turned into a terrific option in the rotation after coming back from an injury that cost him the 2014 season. Very quick for his 6-2, 230-pound size, he was a machine late in the year finishing third on the team with 86 tackles with a sack and four tackles for loss, coming up with 23 stops against Baylor and 11 in the win over Oregon. He’ll step in whenever the Horned Frogs roll with three linebackers, and he’ll work in a rotation with Travin Howard and Montrel Wilson.
7. QB Kenny Hill
Is he getting the call? He’d better, considering all the drama following his transfer from Texas A&M, but he’s fighting with Foster Sawyer to get the gig. The one-time super-recruit for the Aggies has decent 6-1, 205-pound size, good mobility, and a nice enough arm, crushing South Carolina for 511 yards in his debut and hit Ole Miss for 401 yards. Can he crank up the offense for TCU, too? Sawyer is more than good enough to take over, but Hill has the talent and upside to become a statistical monster if he can really get the gig.
8. LB Montrel Wilson
He wasn’t supposed to be in the equation as a true freshman, but the half-safety/half-linebacker turned out to be outstanding making 61 tackles with a broken up passes and four tackles for loss. He’s only 6-3 and 210 pounds, but he’s going to work in a variety of spots including middle linebacker. While he doesn’t bring a wallop, he gets all over the field in a hurry and isn’t shy about getting physical against the run, making 13 stops against Texas. Now he’ll work in a variety of ways in the rotation.
8. DT Aaron Curry
The man in the middle after transferring from Nebraska, he turned into a decent starter making 41 tackles with three sacks, doing a nice job of holding his own as a part of the rotation. At 6-2 and 270 pounds, he’s not huge for a Big 12 tackle, but he’s quick off the ball and he’s strong against the run. Can he be more of an interior pass rusher? That’s not going to be his job – he has to hold the line.
9. OT Joseph Noteboom
The starting right tackle will move over the left side, and now it’s his job to be an anchor. At 6-5 and 315 pounds he’s got excellent size and he can move a little bit, doing a solid job shuffling and kicking to the outside in a hurry. Smart, he’s an all-star in the classroom to go along with the tools and experience to be the leader of a line that should have a nice starting five despite losing four starters.
10. RB Kyle Hicks
Can he turn into a do-it-all back to utilize his quickness? He came up with 262 yards and three scores, and was a decent receiver catching 13 passes for 104 yards and a score. At 5-10 and 210 pounds, he has decent size and the upside to be outstanding – he was a terrific recruit. He’ll have to battle for time, but he’s going to be the main man to try replacing Aaron Green and his 1,272 yards.