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1. You can talk yourself into this team
I often say that hard jobs remain hard. No matter how much you've succeeded and no matter how many big moments you've had, college football has a very staid, conservative ecosystem. The programs with the most resources and deepest histories and largest alumni bases remain those, and if you're trying to win at a school without those things, you will always be walking uphill.
Gary Patterson knows this better than most.
The TCU head coach has been the engineer of one of the most consistently strong programs of the last decade-plus. He was Dennis Franchione's defensive coordinator when TCU broke through with a 10-2 record in 2000 -- the Horned Frogs' first season with more than eight wins since 1955 -- and was the natural successor when Franchione took the Alabama job in 2001. In the last 12 seasons, he has led TCU to eight more seasons of 10+ wins, three top-10 finishes, nine top-25 finishes, two BCS bowls, and the 2011 Rose Bowl title.
Because of his work, TCU not only has a pretty, drastically renovated stadium; it also has a seat in the Big 12. The Horned Frogs became the ultimate redemption tale when, after failing to secure a spot in a major conference after the SWC's mid-'90s dissolution, they played their way back in.
Of course, in two years as a major-conference team, TCU is 11-14. Within the confines of the new version of Amon G. Carter Stadium, the Horned Frogs have won a single conference game in eight tries (and that was over Kansas, so it barely counts). Is Patterson in over his head? Has he lost his touch?
Not really. It's just that TCU is a hard job. And it got a little bit harder over the last couple of seasons.
When you're one of the sport's blue bloods, you are more likely to overcome the loss of key assistants or unexpected attrition. When you're not, setbacks are more likely to hit you flush on the chin. Patterson has dealt with setbacks before, but the last couple of seasons have been full of them, and they've come mostly on one side of the ball.
After offensive co-coordinator Justin Fuente and quarterback Andy Dalton helped to upgrade TCU's offense from accessory to strength (12th in Off. F/+ in 2009, 11th in 2010), Fuente became Memphis' head coach. Dalton became a Cincinnati Bengal. Casey Pachall took over behind center and thrived early (17th in 2011) before personal struggles began to hold him back. The last two seasons have been full of shaky quarterback play, injuries, and suspensions, and the product has suffered.
The defense has not, however. Patterson's vaunted 4-2-5 has been as effective as advertised, ranking 12th in Def. F/+ in each of TCU's Big 12 seasons. And with a few interesting offseason moves on offense, one can see the ship getting righted. Patterson hired former Texas Tech offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie and former Houston co-OC Doug Meacham as co-coordinators. Cumbie was Kliff Kingsbury's right-hand man in 2013, and Meacham was the passing game coordinator for OSU at a time when the Cowboys dominated through the air.
Patterson also brought in former A&M quarterback Matt Joeckel as a graduate transfer. TCU has experienced offensive personnel -- three of its top four running backs return, as do nine of 11 wideouts and six linemen with starting experience -- and some exciting new pieces atop the totem pole. Joeckel's a short-term answer, but it's not hard to talk yourself into a pretty significant TCU turnaround this season, especially considering that, despite the record, this team wasn't far away even last year.
2013 Schedule & Results
|Record: 4-8 | Adj. Record: 9-3 | Final F/+ Rk: 44|
|Date||Opponent||Opp. F/+ Rk||Score||W-L||Adj. Score||Adj. W-L||5-gm Adj. Avg.|
|31-Aug||vs. LSU||17||27-37||L||26.1 - 19.4||W|
|7-Sep||SE Louisiana||N/A||38-17||W||20.5 - 42.4||L|
|12-Sep||at Texas Tech||43||10-20||L||22.9 - 17.5||W|
|28-Sep||SMU||84||48-17||W||26.9 - 13.9||W|
|5-Oct||at Oklahoma||20||17-20||L||17.4 - 23.0||L||-0.5|
|12-Oct||Kansas||101||27-17||W||30.6 - 12.3||W||1.8|
|19-Oct||at Oklahoma State||8||10-24||L||24.7 - 21.8||W||6.8|
|26-Oct||Texas||35||7-30||L||16.3 - 26.0||L||3.8|
|2-Nov||West Virginia||76||27-30||L||28.4 - 24.7||W||1.9|
|9-Nov||at Iowa State||78||21-17||W||19.0 - 15.0||W||3.8|
|16-Nov||at Kansas State||24||31-33||L||34.5 - 24.7||W||2.1|
|30-Nov||Baylor||7||38-41||L||34.2 - 11.0||W||6.2|
|Points Per Game||25.1||88||25.3||55|
|Adj. Points Per Game||25.1||95||21.0||9|
2. Hard-luck Horned Frogs
A 4-8 record isn't pretty, no matter how you spin it. At best, you're spinning 4-8 into "we were a couple of breaks from a minor bowl," which isn't very inspiring.
But TCU was close to something pretty far beyond that. The Frogs managed to go 4-8 while losing just one game by more than 14 points. Their adjusted record tells us that, playing against perfectly average teams with an average number of breaks, TCU would have gone something closer to 9-3 than 4-8. And more encouraging than that, this team slowly improved.
- Adj. Points Per Game (first 5 games): Opponent 23.2, TCU 22.8 (minus-0.4)
- Adj. Points Per Game (next 5 games): TCU 23.8, Opponent 20.0 (plus-3.8)
- Adj. Points Per Game (last 2 games): TCU 34.4, Opponent 17.9 (pus-16.5)
The defense went from good in September to excellent in November, while the offense went from terrible to solid. TCU was just good enough to be consistently disappointing, figuring out ways to barely lose to Oklahoma on the road ... and West Virginia at home. Field position was a nightmare, and crunch time execution left something to be desired.
But those things can be rectified. The components were good enough to rank TCU 44th in the final F/+ rankings, ahead of teams like Boise State, Bowling Green, Fresno State, Vanderbilt, and fellow 4-8er Florida. If this team just needed one extra shot in the arm, the offensive changes could be the answer.
|FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||39.6%||84||Succ. Rt. +||91.3||88|
|FIELD POSITION||Def. Avg. FP||31.4||100||Def. FP+||96.4||94|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Trip in 40||3.8||99||Redzone S&P+||99.9||61|
|Q1 Rk||94||1st Down Rk||87|
|Q2 Rk||114||2nd Down Rk||77|
|Q3 Rk||40||3rd Down Rk||95|
3. Identity helps
How the air raid ...
How the air raid ...
The offense did get better. After averaging 4.9 or fewer yards per play in five of the first seven games, against defenses both good (LSU, Oklahoma) and less good (Texas Tech), the Frogs averaged at least 5.0 in each of the last four games. After scoring more than 27 points just twice in the first 10 games (against SELA and SMU), they scored 31 and 38 in the last two.
Still, "at least 5.0 yards per play" isn't very good, not when the national average hovers around 5.8. Even with improvement, TCU had no demonstrable offensive strengths last year. The passing game was mediocre, which means it was a relative strength compared to an awful ground game, but it still wasn't great.
Back after missing most of 2012, Pachall averaged just 5.8 yards per pass attempt, with an interception rate (4.2 percent) more than double what it should have been. His backup, Trevone Boykin, managed to replicate Pachall's numbers (5.8 per attempt, 4.0 percent interception rate) while adding a semi-efficient run threat, but neither quarterback was effective, and the offense followed suit.
There were moments here and there -- B.J. Catalon rushed 23 times for 164 yards against Kansas State and Baylor, David Porter caught four passes for 118 yards against Kansas, Brandon Carter caught six for 93 against Iowa State. But nobody on the TCU offense provided any sort of consistency, which made it hard to establish any sort of identity.
With Cumbie and Meachem running the show and calling plays for presumably Joeckel, identity might not be a problem. Cumbie has coached under Kingsbury and another spread-offense stalwart, Neal Brown, at Texas Tech. Meachem coached under Todd Monken and Mike Gundy at OSU before moving to Houston. They come from the pass-first branch of the spread tree, but they have both been parts of offenses that cater well to the personnel at hand.
Note: players in bold below are 2014 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Trevone Boykin||6'2, 215||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||105||176||1198||7||7||59.7%||14||7.4%||5.8|
|6'4, 240||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||22||37||293||2||0||59.5%||0||0.0%||7.9|
|Zach Allen||6'3, 194||RSFr.||3 stars (5.7)|
|Foster Sawyer||6'5, 215||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)|
|Grayson Muehlstein||6'4, 210||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)|
4. It starts at QB
Joeckel was efficient in spot play for A&M in 2013; granted, he had Mike Evans to throw to, but he is still abreast of and acclimated to the style Cumbie and Meachem will likely bring to the table. He is a big, strong, pocket passer -- if TCU wants a dual-threat QB in certain situations, Boykin will probably have to be the answer -- and it seems he's a pretty quick decision maker.
He is only a one-year answer, but if he can direct the show in 2014, he could be a bridge to another solid era of quarterbacks. Dalton and the 2011 version of Pachall provided TCU with some of the best QB play in the country (a pretty nice asset when you've got that defense in your back pocket), but when Pachall left school to go to rehab in 2012, Boykin was thrust into the starting role earlier than he should have been. For parts of two seasons, Boykin has alternated between making impressive, tough plays and struggling with the mundane; he still has time to live up to the promise at which he sometimes hints, but the odds are decent that he ends up spending much of his time at wideout in 2014 (with Pachall behind center, Boykin caught 26 of 37 targets last fall).
If Joeckel thrives in 2014, then hands the baton to either a senior Boykin or one of three interesting youngsters (redshirt freshman Zach Allen and incoming freshmen Foster Sawyer and Grayson Muehlstein) in 2015, that could be rather favorable. But the odds aren't good that Boykin, Allen, Sawyer, or Muehlstein will be ready to thrive just yet.
And if Joeckel (or any other quarterback) could get more consistency from the offensive line, that wouldn't hurt. Decent in pass protection, TCU's line has struggled to open holes for running backs. Tackle (and 2012 starter) Tayo Fabuluje returns to give TCU depth at tackle, but we'll see if decent overall experience (57 career starts) helps the line to become a bit more reliable.
|B.J. Catalon||RB||5'9, 190||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||107||569||6||5.3||5.3||40.2%|
|Trevone Boykin||QB||6'2, 215||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||91||405||7||4.5||3.9||40.7%|
|Aaron Green||RB||5'11, 200||Jr.||4 stars (5.9)||72||232||0||3.2||3.4||25.0%|
|Jordan Moore||RB||6'3, 221||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||20||87||1||4.4||2.8||35.0%|
|Kyle Hicks||RB||5'10, 190||RSFr.||4 stars (5.8)|
|Trevorris Johnson||RB||5'11, 221||RSFr.||3 stars (5.6)|
|Shaun Nixon||RB||5'10, 180||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)|
|Josh Doctson||WR-Z||6'4, 190||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||56||36||440||64.3%||14.3%||46.4%||7.9||4||7.5||58.5|
|Brandon Carter||WR||5'11, 186||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||53||31||370||58.5%||13.6%||61.5%||7.0||-24||6.8||49.2|
|David Porter||WR-Y||6'0, 197||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||37||26||435||70.3%||9.5%||78.4%||11.8||133||12.1||57.9|
|Trevone Boykin||QB||6'2, 215||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||37||26||204||70.3%||9.5%||82.9%||5.5||-98||4.6||27.1|
|Ty Slanina||WR-H||6'0, 193||So.||3 stars (5.7)||28||19||184||67.9%||7.2%||46.4%||6.6||-40||6.9||24.5|
|B.J. Catalon||RB||5'9, 190||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||21||11||78||52.4%||5.4%||25.0%||3.7||-71||2.6||10.4|
|Deante' Gray||WR-H||5'10, 175||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||18||8||156||44.4%||4.6%||100.0%||8.7||37||6.2||20.8|
|Ja'Juan Story||WR-X||6'4, 208||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||15||7||152||46.7%||3.8%||69.2%||10.1||51||8.6||20.2|
|Aaron Green||RB||5'11, 200||Jr.||4 stars (5.9)||10||4||24||40.0%||2.6%||37.5%||2.4||-39||2.0||3.2|
|Cameron Echols-Luper||WR-Y||6'0, 190||So.||3 stars (5.7)||9||4||21||44.4%||2.3%||37.5%||2.3||-38||2.4||2.8|
|Kolby Listenbee||WR-X||6'1, 183||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||8||2||23||25.0%||2.0%||37.5%||2.9||-20||2.5||3.1|
|Jordan Moore||WR-Z||6'3, 221||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||2||2||21||100.0%||0.5%||50.0%||10.5||1||11.3||2.8|
|Griffin Gilbert||WR-Y||6'5, 220||So.||4 stars (5.8)|
|Charlie Reid||TE||6'4, 225||RSFr.||3 stars (5.7)|
|Emanuel Porter||WR||6'4, 190||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)|
5. Depth at skill positions
The overall recruiting numbers (44th in two-year recruiting) are far from amazing, but TCU has done a nice job of stocking up on four-star talent at the skill positions, either via recruiting or transfers. The Frogs will have three former four-star recruits at running back this fall and two (along with six high-three-stars) at wideout. This suggests upside, and if a new pair of coordinators and a new quarterback can coax out some of that potential, then the offense could turn around in a hurry.
But as I mentioned in the Texas preview, recruiting rankings expire. Four-star running back Aaron Green was neither efficient nor explosive as a sophomore transfer from Nebraska. Four-star receiver (and Florida transfer) Ja'Juan Story caught seven passes. Four-star tight end Griffin Gilbert caught one. The steadiest players on the skill position roster were a three-star running back (Catalon) and a Wyoming transfer (Josh Doctson).
Still, we've seen glimpses. Catalon caught fire late in 2013, David Porter made the most of his three targets per game, Boykin has enough athleticism to pretty quickly become a decent possession receiver, Story is still a junior, Gilbert is still a sophomore, and Brandon Carter showed all sorts of potential as a freshman and sophomore before a dud of a junior season. The quarterback will have options, but in 2014 the Whack-a-Mole receiving corps (Receiver A shows up for this game, then disappears, then Receiver B pops up momentarily) needs to provide more consistent options.
|Aviante Collins||RT||6'6, 285||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||22|
|Joey Hunt||C||6'3, 295||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||13|
|Tayo Fabuluje||LT||6'7, 315||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||12|
|Halapoulivaati Vaitai||LT||6'6, 308||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||7|
|Jamelle Naff||LG||6'4, 325||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||2|
|Patrick Morris||C||6'3, 288||So.||3 stars (5.6)||1|
|Bobby Thompson||LG||6'6, 310||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0|
|Brady Foltz||C||6'4, 325||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0|
|Joseph Noteboom||RT||6'5, 295||RSFr.||3 stars (5.6)|
|Matt Pryor||RG||6'7, 350||RSFr.||NR|
|Frank Kee||RG||6'4, 345||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)|
|Ty Barrett||OL||6'5, 316||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)|
|FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||32.6%||4||Succ. Rt. +||127.0||4|
|FIELD POSITION||Off. Avg. FP||32.4||19||Off. FP+||103.5||23|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Trip in 40||3.7||15||Redzone S&P+||139.5||4|
|Q1 Rk||14||1st Down Rk||5|
|Q2 Rk||17||2nd Down Rk||19|
|Q3 Rk||5||3rd Down Rk||21|
6. This defense, man
Only two things separated TCU's defense from Michigan State's in 2013:
- TCU's was actually better at limiting the magnitude of the (rare) big plays it allowed.
- TCU's didn't score as many points. And it needed to.
Gary Patterson has perfected the spread-killer defense, one many have failed to emulate. The 4-2-5 has become a trendy option for coaches looking to improve their defenses, but few actually get it to work. And none get it to work like Patterson.
[T]he Frogs rely on a blend of three base coverages, each of which features a two-deep safety alignment to keep the ball out of the end zone.
They also have a roster-building strategy and organizational structures in place to keep hurry-up, no-huddle teams in check and avoid the match-up problems these teams love to present. They have to, being in the Big 12.
The result of their total system is a flexible defense that can handle most HUNH schemes and potential match-up challenges from the same base, 4-2-5 personnel group (four linemen, two linebackers, five defensive backs). Find a way to defend it all from the same defensive package and you have a recipe for handling the stress of tempo. [...]
Overall, the Frogs are always looking for ways to be aggressive from a safe position. Much like Thunder guard Russell Westbrook gambling for steals while backed by a packed paint or MMA great Anderson Silva looking to draw the opponent forward before countering with a flying kick.
They'd all prefer that you make the first step. Then they can respond aggressively to any show of weakness by virtue of their speed and safe defensive positioning.
TCU stops the run with just two linebackers, gets pressure on the quarterback with just four linemen, and gets hands on passes with minimal risk. If you can master the 4-2-5, it can become the perfect defense for the modern offense. But Patterson is almost the only coach who has mastered it. And he has all the pieces for another outstanding D in 2014.
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Devonte Fields (2012)||DE||6'4, 240||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||13||43.5||6.7%||18.5||10.0||1||4||2||1|
|Chucky Hunter||DT||6'1, 300||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||12||31.0||4.6%||6.0||2.0||0||0||1||0|
|Davion Pierson||DT||6'2, 305||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||11||18.5||2.8%||4.5||0.5||0||0||0||0|
|Terrell Lathan||DE||6'5, 280||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||12||18.5||2.8%||7.0||5.0||0||1||0||0|
|James McFarland||DE||6'3, 248||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||12||13.5||2.0%||5.0||3.0||0||2||0||0|
|Mike Tuaua||DT||6'3, 253||Jr.||NR||12||13.0||1.9%||4.5||1.0||0||1||0||0|
|Tevin Lawson||DT||6'4, 280||So.||4 stars (5.8)||11||6.5||1.0%||1.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Josh Carraway||DE||6'4, 240||So.||2 stars (5.4)|
|Bryson Henderson||DE||6'4, 245||RSFr.||3 stars (5.6)|
7. A great line without Fields
To take advantage of the extra speed the 4-2-5 provides, the TCU line has to do damage with minimal assistance. It does. And the Frogs have done well enough at recruiting up front that they managed to put one of the best lines of the Patterson era on the field despite minimal contribution from one of Patterson's best linemen.
One has to give Dick Bumpas a lot of credit for his. We consistently talk about Patterson, Patterson, Patterson, and with good reason. But Bumpas has been with Patterson for 10 seasons, and as both defensive coordinator and defensive line coach, he has been an incredible asset. He has been a finalist for the Broyles Award (for top assistant) three times. He wasn't a finalist in 2013, but he might have pulled off his best performance yet.
Devonte Fields was possibly the Big 12's best defensive lineman as a freshman in 2012, but he was suspended for two games to start 2013 and missed seven others with a foot injury. He made just 3.5 tackles for the season, two for loss. And TCU still ranked 21st in Adj. Line Yards, 12th in Adj. Sack Rate, and 12th in overall Def. F/+. Chucky Hunter emerged as one of the conference's better tackles, and after combining for three tackles for loss in 2012, the trio of ends Jon Koontz and James McFarland and tackle Jon Lewis combined for 27 of them in 2013. Throw in run-stuffing middle linebacker Paul Dawson, and you've got a destructive defensive front.
Lewis and Koontz are gone, but Fields is back, as are 11 Horned Frogs who logged at least four tackles for loss in 2013. The front should be outstanding once again, and that should pave the way for one of the nation's better secondaries.
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Paul Dawson||MLB||6'2, 230||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||12||69.0||10.3%||10.0||0.5||1||3||0||0|
|Marcus Mallet||SLB||6'1, 227||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||12||56.0||8.4%||8.5||2.0||0||0||1||0|
|Jonathan Anderson||MLB||6'3, 227||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||12||50.0||7.5%||4.5||1.5||0||1||2||0|
|Sammy Douglas||SLB||6'3, 195||So.||3 stars (5.6)||10||3.5||0.5%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Paul Whitmill||MLB||5'11, 220||RSFr.||3 stars (5.7)|
|Vinny Ascolese||LB||6'2, 235||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)|
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Chris Hackett||WS||6'2, 195||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||12||71.0||10.6%||4.5||2||3||5||3||0|
|Derrick Kindred||FS||5'10, 210||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||12||42.5||6.4%||4||0||2||5||0||0|
|Sam Carter||SS||6'1, 215||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||12||41.0||6.1%||7.5||4||5||2||1||0|
|Kevin White||CB||5'10, 174||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||12||35.5||5.3%||0||0||3||8||0||0|
|Geoff Hooker||FS||5'10, 186||Sr.||NR||12||10.0||1.5%||0.5||0||1||0||0||0|
|Deante' Gray||CB||5'10, 175||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||12||9.0||1.3%||0||0||0||1||0||0|
|Denzel Johnson||SS||6'2, 205||So.||2 stars (5.4)||12||5.5||0.8%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Travoskey Garrett||CB||6'1, 190||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)|
|George Baltimore||SS||6'0, 205||RSFr.||3 stars (5.7)|
|Steve Wesley||FS||6'0, 175||RSFr.||3 stars (5.6)|
|Ranthony Texada||CB||5'10, 160||RSFr.||3 stars (5.6)|
|Cyd Calvin||CB||6'1, 175||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)|
|Kenny Iloka||WS||6'2, 209||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)|
|Corry O'Meally||CB||6'0, 170||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)|
|Nick Orr||CB||5'10, 166||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)|
|Nick Foster||CB||5'11, 170||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)|
8. All the DBs a team would need
TCU must replace two of the country's best defensive backs: corner Jason Verrett (a first-round pick of the Chargers) and safety Elisha Olabode. It is a testament to Patterson, corners coach Kenny Perry, and (especially) safeties coach Chad Glasgow that these departures aren't expected to make a significant impact.
Verrett was a special talent. It's rare to see someone who can defense 16 passes while making only 35.0 tackles; when this happens, it's either because the defender is a horrific tackler or because he's one of the best cover men in the country. His draft status suggests the latter, as do TCU's pass ratings. Olabode, meanwhile, was the steady safety valve, the reason Verrett and others could take chances.
TCU still returns plenty of exciting assets, though. Chris Hackett, Derrick Kindred, and Sam Carter give the Frogs three safeties who are dangerous both close to the line of scrimmage (16 combined tackles for loss) and far away (22 passes defensed). Kevin White isn't Verrett, but he's strong. And the odds are good that, between four three-star redshirt freshmen and two JUCO transfers, at least one or two newcomers will be ready to play a decent-sized role. Carter and White are seniors, but this unit is set up well for 2014 and beyond.
|Ethan Perry||6'4, 230||Jr.||80||40.3||4||33||29||77.5%|
|Jaden Oberkrom||6'3, 187||Jr.||60||63.4||33||1||55.0%|
|Jaden Oberkrom||6'3, 187||Jr.||37-37||10-10||100.0%||4-8||50.0%|
|B.J. Catalon||KR||5'9, 190||Jr.||28||26.5||1|
|Brandon Carter||KR||5'11, 186||Sr.||4||24.8||0|
|Cameron Echols-Luper||PR||6'0, 190||So.||14||13.4||0|
|Brandon Carter||PR||5'11, 186||Sr.||10||10.8||0|
|Special Teams F/+||55|
|Field Goal Efficiency||18|
|Punt Return Efficiency||77|
|Kick Return Efficiency||50|
|Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency||96|
9. Lacking in the field position battle
The TCU defense differed from Michigan State's in another area, too: it got no field position help, either from its offense or special teams unit. State had the best field position game in the country; TCU very much did not.
Offensive improvement will certainly help with some of that, but while B.J. Catalon is a solid kick returner, Cameron Echols-Luper and Brandon Carter were very much all-or-nothing on punt returns (good averages, lots of duds), and coverage was an issue for both punts and kickoffs. Everybody returns, including a strong place-kicker in Jaden Oberkrom, but the defense needs a bit more help here.
2014 Schedule & Projection Factors
|1-Nov||at West Virginia||71|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||20.5% (11)|
|Two-Year Recruiting Rk||44|
|TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin*||-2 / -4.0|
|Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.)||15 (7, 8)|
10. OU at home ... OSU at home ... KSU at home...
I'm a Gary Patterson homer. I called the Frogs "one of the best stories in college football" in 2011, I said "talking up TCU has been a pet project of mine" and "[I] assume the Horned Frogs will fare rather well in its new digs" in 2012, and I said it was "time to surge" in 2013.
All this talk hasn't prevented TCU from going 22-16 in those three years. And last year's "surge" time turned into TCU's worst season since 1997. That's the wrong type of surge.
I'm not going to claim that TCU is going to be a top-15 team again this year, and I'm not going to double (quadruple?) down on the big talk. But I will say that TCU wasn't that far away last year; the Frogs have new coordinators and a new quarterback leading an experienced offense, and they should easily have another top-15 defense that slows Big 12 offenses down better than anybody else. They've lost six of their last seven one-possession games, which will almost certainly turn around soon.
And they have a pretty nice schedule ... at least, if they figure out how to actually win at home again. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Kansas State visit Fort Worth, as do Texas Tech and Iowa State. Trips to Kansas and WVU are quite winnable.
In other words, while my Patterson Homer status renders my prediction meaningless, TCU doesn't have to improve that much to jump back to eight or nine wins. Determine for yourself whether the Frogs will improve, but it's not that far a leap.