2013 TCU spring football primer: Dates, players and more to know

USA TODAY Sports

TCU has the defense to contend in 2013. Can they overtake the traditional powers to win a conference title?

The TCU Horned Frogs will open up 2013 spring camp with a season of Big 12 football under their belts and an experienced group ready to contend for the conference championship. Last year was a bit of a struggle for TCU, as it dipped to seven wins after enjoying many years in the double-digits. A lot of that had to do with the tougher competition, but the Horned Frogs weren't at their best, either.

TCU did finish out the conference slate with solid performances against the two teams with which they will be contending for the Big 12 title this season. Defeating in-state rival Texas was a huge step for the program. The Horned Frogs came up just short against the Oklahoma Sooners the following week.

Both those teams are expected to be ranked ahead of TCU to start the year. The Sooners will likely take a step back with the loss of quarterback Landry Jones, but they will still be near the top of the league. Texas is growing up after a couple years struggling with youth. They may be the favorites to win the conference this year as those young players are now experienced.

The Horned Frogs are in a position to make big strides in their second Big 12 year. They certainly have a championship-level defense, but as TCU blog Frogs O' War indicates, the man in charge of the offense may be the deciding factor.

Spring practice start date: March 1, 2013

Spring game date, location, TV info: TBA

Approximate returning starters: The Horned Frogs will have plenty of returnees in 2013, with eight coming back on offense and nine on defense. The quarterback situation will take center stage as Casey Pachall returns for his senior year after leaving the team to attend rehab following a DWI in 2012. He'll try to regain his starting role over sophomore Trevone Boykin, who is a less accurate passer but can make plays with his feet and developed into a capable leader during emergency duty.

TCU's young and talented defensive line will look to take a big step forward in the Spring. Returning All-Big 12 performer Devonte Fields will man the trenches for a stout Horned Frogs defense. Fields was the unanimous Big 12 defensive freshman of the year last season.

Biggest addition: Former four-star recruit Ja'Juan Story, a 6'4 redshirt sophomore wide receiver, is eligible to take the field after transferring from Florida.

The biggest addition to the coaching staff won't show immediate benefits on the field in the spring. Former Auburn running backs coach Curtis Luper comes in to work the wide receivers, and he brings an excellent recruiting background with him.

None of TCU's 2013 group of recruits enrolled early. The return of Pachall could be seen as an addition, as the quarterback tries to recapture the production of his sophomore season, when he completed 67 percent of his passes for 25 touchdowns and just seven interceptions.

Biggest loss: Stansley Maponga's early NFL Draft entry gives the Frogs' lineup one of its few holes. On the other side, TCU loses its top offensive lineman in guard Blaize Foltz. The departing senior earned All-Big 12 second team honors in 2012.

Linebackers coach Randy Shannon left to join Bret Bielema in the same position at Arkansas. Shannon was a key recruiter on Gary Patterson's staff, but leaves after just one season with the Horned Frogs.

New coaches? Luper will be joined by new linebackers coach DeMontie Cross, who comes to the Horned Frogs from Kansas. Cross has previously spent time as the special teams coordinator at Wisconsin, as an assistant with the Buffalo Bills, and as outside linebackers coach at Iowa State.

New schemes? With the horde of returning starters on defense, Patterson would be crazy to change the 4-2-5 scheme that has served him so well in the past. He won't, and the Horned Frogs should be tough to score on in 2013.

On offense, the scheme will depend a little bit on who is manning the quarterback spot. TCU always likes to run, but they'll do even more of that if Boykin keeps the job. Look for the Horned Frogs to air it out a bit more if Pachall is under center.

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