Preview 2017: TCU Horned Frogs
Previewing and looking ahead at the TCU Horned Frogs season – and what you need to know.
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What You Need To Know About The TCU Offense
It was good, just inconsistent. It needs to be explosive again, it needs to be able to keep up the pace and crank out more long drives, and it needs to be able to score. Last year’s TCU attack managed to score 24 points or fewer in six of the last eight games, only beating Kansas in the stretch.
The pieces are there and the experience is in place, but now it’s up to the offensive coordinator tandem of Sonny Cumbie and Curtis Luper to fire up the machine to 2014 levels again.
It’s up to QB Kenny Hill to help make everything work. Great at times last season, he ran for ten scores and did a nice job of pushing the ball down the field, but there were too many interceptions and too many missed third down opportunities. Combine that with a rough time in the red zone, and TCU wasn’t able to manufacture points without a struggle.
RB Kyle Hicks is back in a good-looking backfield that should take the pressure off Hill and the passing game. The receiving corps is potentially deadly with Shaun Nixon back after missing 2016 with a knee injury, combining with Taj Williams and a group that gets back the top seven pass catchers.
Pass protection was an issue, but the line paved the way for over five yards per carry and 30 scores. Four starters return around all-star center Austin Schlottman.
Biggest Key To The TCU Offense
The deep ball has to come back. The 2015 offense averaged 8.7 yards per pass with Trevone Boykin at the helm, and averaged eight yards per pop in 2014. While Hill was accurate – when he wasn’t throwing picks – he averaged under seven yards per throw to a receiving corps that was competent, but wasn’t explosive enough. Taj Williams averaged 18 yards per catch, but the team averaged under 12 yards per grab after averaging well over 13 the previous two years.
What You Need To Know About The TCU Defense
It’s not like Chad Glasgow hasn’t seen it all before. Part of the TCU coaching system for the last 16 years, Patterson’s defensive coordinator has been able to adapt and adjust when needed, and the results have usually turned out to be great.
Last year though, the D was too soft against the run, was uncharacteristically miserable on third downs, and ended up failing to come through in situations past TCU defense usually rose up and dominated.
The line is the biggest concern going into the season, losing Josh Carraway and James McFarland on the outside and Aaron Curry in the interior. but there’s plenty of movement and lots of adjusting to get the right pieces on the field. A whole slew of new pass rushers appear ready to take over, and the linebackers – Travin Howard, Ty Summers and Sammy Douglas – are among the best in the conference.
Ranthony Texada, Nick Orr, Niko Small and the defensive backs should be sound. Everyone gets bombed on in the Big 12, but the five-man secondary in the 4-2-5 alignment has the experience and should be stronger – even without the veteran pass rush up front to rely on.
Biggest Key To The TCU Defense
It has to get off the field. The 2014 and 2015 defenses allowed offenses to convert just 28% of their third down chances. Before last season, TCU allowed teams to hit fewer than 30% of their tries in six of the previous eight years. Last season? The Horned Frog D allowed gave up close to 44% of third down tries, going 0-6 when allowing offenses to convert 50% or more and only allowed under 40% twice in wins over Iowa State and Texas.
TCU Will Be Far Better If …
There aren’t so many big mistakes. Totally out of character for a Gary Patterson team, TCU couldn’t stop turning the ball over and committed way too many penalties at the wrong time. In 2014 – when the Horned Frogs went 12-1 and was on the lip of the College Football Playoff cup – the team was third in the nation in turnover margin and committed six penalties a game. Last season, the the Horned Frogs committed 6.77 penalties per game – yeah, not that big a jump – but they always seemed to be killers. Worst of all, the offense turned it over 20 times, stunk in the turnover margin, and went 1-3 when it lost the turnover battle.
Best TCU Offensive Player
QB Kenny Hill, Sr. – The 6-1, 212-pound Texas A&M transfer might have thrown 13 picks, and his throat-slashing gesture might have been an issue in the loss to Arkansas, but he wasn’t the problem. He connected on 61% of his passes for 3,208 yards and 17 touchdowns, while running for 609 yards and ten scores. A perfect fit for the offense, blow off the rough patches in spring ball, and an ugly spring game, and expect more of a leadership role, more explosiveness – in a good way – and even more production.
2. RB Kyle Hicks, Sr.
3. C Austin Schlottman, Sr.
4. WR/KR KaVontae Turpin, Jr.
5. WR Taj Williams, Sr.
Best TCU Defensive Player
LB Travin Howard, Sr. – Or Ty Summers. Take your pick when it comes to who the best TCU defensive player will be, but they should both dominate as the main playmakers in the 4-2-5 alignment. It didn’t go so well last year overall for the D, but Howard came up with a massive season, leading the team with 130 tackles with three sacks and a pick.
The 6-1, 210-pounder will work on the line at times as a quick pass rusher, but he’ll mostly be around the ball from his strongside linebacker spot where he came up with six straight double-digit tackle games, highlighted by a 19-stop performance in the loss to Texas Tech.
2. LB Ty Summers, Jr.
3. S Nick Orr, Sr.
4. CB Ranthony Texada, Sr.
5. LB Sammy Douglas, Sr.
Key Player To A Successful Season
QB Kenny Hill, Sr. – Top recruit Shawn Robinson might be the star-in-waiting, and Grayson Muehlstein is waiting in the wings just in case, but if TCU is going to compete with the Oklahomas and Oklahoma States of the Big 12 world, Hill has to be terrific. He’s shown glimpses of greatness, and the talent is undeniable. Now he has to be the Trevone Boykin type who can help carry the Horned Frogs to something special, even when the rest of the team isn’t.
The TCU Season Will Be A Success If …
The Horned Frogs finish in the top three of the Big 12. This doesn’t appear to be a fringe College Football Playoff team like it was a few years ago, and the road schedule is too tough to ask for more than a ten-win campaign, but TCU can be this year’s West Virginia and settle into a nice spot in-between the stars up top and the rest of the pack. Win nine games, get to a bowl, and everything will be back on track.
Key Game To The TCU Season
Sept. 23 at Oklahoma State – The Horned Frogs got flattened by the Cowboys 31-6 at home last year as part of the strange inconsistencies of the season. This year it’s the Big 12 opener and a statement moment on the road to show that they’re going to be a factor in the conference race – if all goes well. With the Oklahoma and Kansas State games on the road, lose this, and it’ll be an uphill climb to get totes conference title game.
2016 TCU Fun Stats
– 3rd Down Conversions: Opponents 98-of-225 (44%) – TCU 80-of-197 (41%)
– 4th Down Conversions: TCU 10-of-17 (59%) – Opponents 10-of-18 (56%)
– Sacks: TCU 43 – Opponents 31