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The TCU football bandwagon is a little too crowded right now

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The Horned Frogs' offense is loaded, and Gary Patterson never has bad defenses. But be careful penciling TCU into your Playoff bracket.

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.

1. The case for TCU

Now that's more like it.

Between 2011-13, TCU and head coach Gary Patterson suffered one of the more ill-timed slides imaginable. After going 36-3 between 2008-10 and ranking in the F/+ top eight each year, the Horned Frogs announced that they were moving up the Big 12 and immediately suffered a backslide.

It began in their last year in the Mountain West, when they were still good (11-2, 15th) but not quite as sharp defensively. And then they lost offensive coordinator Justin Fuente and key offensive personnel and went 11-14 in their first two years in their new conference. The defense was great again, but the offense fell apart, as did their F/+ ranking: 34th in 2012, 53rd in 2013.

Still, they were close.

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.'

But TCU was close to something 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.

The defense went from good in September to excellent in November, while the offense went from terrible to solid. TCU was good enough to be consistently disappointing.

But those things can be rectified. ... If this team just needed one extra shot in the arm, the offensive changes could be the answer.

Those offensive changes were in the coaching booth. Patterson brought in spiffy new co-coordinators Sonny Cumbie (Texas Tech) and Doug Meacham (Houston), and the offense didn't unexpectedly lose anybody of consequence. After a couple of seasons of growing pains, junior quarterback Trevone Boykin proved ready to take on a major-conference offense.

And ... bang. The defense held steady (from 14th in Def. S&P+ to 13th) and the offense clicked (from 97th in Off. S&P+ to 17th).

Suddenly, TCU was a top-10 team again. And perhaps as importantly, their luck changed. In 2013, they were at plus-0.9 points per game in turnovers luck but suffered some untimely close-game bounces and went 1-4 in one-possession games. In 2014, those figures were plus-6.3 points per game (most turnovers luck in the country) with a 3-1 close-game record.

And when you're both really lucky and really good, you go 12-1 and rank sixth in the country in F/+.

The season-ending bowl romp against Ole Miss was perhaps the second-best performance of the season (behind Ohio State's pasting of Wisconsin), and it sent a message: after three seasons in the wilderness, TCU is back. This wasn't an out-of-nowhere surge; it was a rebound.

This is replicable. TCU returns most of its offense and plenty of familiar faces on defense. And this wasn't some inexplicable surge -- this was TCU's fourth top-10 team in seven seasons. Since 2009, TCU has spent more time playing elite-level football than not.

Granted, the hype is new -- No. 2 in Sporting News' preseason rankingsNo. 2 per Bleacher ReportNo. 2 per Stewart MandelNo. 5 per AthlonNo. 6 per SI -- but TCU is not.

2. The case against TCU

That Patterson's Frogs are getting the benefit of the doubt is heartening, perhaps an acknowledgment that, despite only being a power-conference team for three seasons, the Frogs aren't new to playing elite ball.

Really, though, it's just a bowl bump. The Horned Frogs looked spectacular and angry the last time we saw them, and we're giving them the same boost that we gave Oklahoma last year and West Virginia a few years ago.

As good as they were when playing their best -- and wow, were the high points high: 42-3 over Ole Miss, 48-10 over Texas, 82-27! over Texas Tech -- there were dicey moments. They needed a pick six at home to survive an Oklahoma team that wasn't as good as everybody expected. They recovered six of nine fumbles and needed a last-second field goal in a sloppy one-point win at West Virginia. And even though their luck turned dramatically against Kansas (they recovered zero of four fumbles, and KU scored on a deflected 78-yard touchdown in the third quarter), needing a late comeback to beat an awful Jayhawks team is not a good look, even with bad bounces.

There's more reason for doubt:

  • After a few years of untimely injuries, TCU suffered almost none last year. Running back B.J. Catalon missed five games (and was replaced by the even more effective Aaron Green), No. 4 receiver Deante' Gray missed two, and that was about it for the offense. On defense, the top nine linemen missed a combined one game, the top four linebackers missed zero, and the top nine defensive backs missed zero. That's an immaculate run that will be almost impossible to replicate.
  • On average, interceptions make up about 22 percent of your total passes defensed (INTs plus breakups). For TCU's defense, that number was 33 percent last year; for opponents, it was 15 percent. Law of averages could have resulted in eight fewer interceptions for TCU and four more for opponents.
  • While the offense remains mostly intact, the defense must replace its best tackle (Chucky Hunter), its top three linebackers (Paul Dawson, Marcus Mallet, Jonathan Anderson), and three stalwarts in the secondary (Chris Hackett, Kevin White, and Sam Carter). These seven players combined for 53.5 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, 18 interceptions, 29 breakups, and seven forced fumbles last year. The TCU D is only going to fall so far, but it's probably going to fall a bit, especially considering ...
  • In February, longtime defensive coordinator Dick Bumpas retired.

I feel like a turncoat. A year ago, I was one of TCU's biggest advocates. Now, I'm wondering why we're ranking the Frogs quite as high as we are. They're going to be good, but there's plenty of reason to believe they won't match last year's heights.

2014 Schedule & Results

Record: 12-1 | Adj. Record: 12-1 | Final F/+ Rk: 6
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Percentile
Performance
Adj. Scoring
Margin
Win
Expectancy
30-Aug Samford N/A 48-14 W 74% 15.2 100%
13-Sep Minnesota 37 30-7 W 96% 42.1 100%
27-Sep at SMU 127 56-0 W 91% 31.8 100%
4-Oct Oklahoma 19 37-33 W 65% 9.0 58%
11-Oct at Baylor 10 58-61 L 65% 9.2 37%
18-Oct Oklahoma State 75 42-9 W 94% 37.2 100%
25-Oct Texas Tech 82 82-27 W 78% 17.8 98%
1-Nov at West Virginia 40 31-30 W 73% 14.5 91%
8-Nov Kansas State 26 41-20 W 89% 28.4 98%
15-Nov at Kansas 99 34-30 W 34% -9.6 61%
27-Nov at Texas 53 48-10 W 92% 32.8 100%
6-Dec Iowa State 92 55-3 W 94% 36.3 100%
31-Dec vs. Ole Miss 5 42-3 W 100% 64.4 100%

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 37.8 17 18.4 13
Points Per Game 46.5 2 19.0 8

3. A short explanation

As good as TCU's F/+ ratings were, I've heard from quite a few Frog fans regarding their team's placement as compared to that of a certain team they mopped the Georgia Dome turf with on New Year's Eve.

5. Ole Miss (9-4): 50.1%
6. TCU (12-1): 49.3%

This doesn't pass the transitive property test, but it can be explained in part by something I wrote in this year's Ohio State preview:

Only five teams put together 90th-percentile performances in at least 60 percent of their games last year.

Percentage of 2014 games in the 90th percentile or better
1. Ohio State (73%)
2. Alabama (71%)
3. Ole Miss (69%)
4. Oregon (67%)
5. Georgia (61%)

(Yes, Ole Miss. The Rebels were at 94 percent or higher in each of their first seven games before crumbling. Last three games: 23rd percentile, 96th percentile, 11th percentile.)

TCU hit the 90th percentile six times in 13 games (46 percent), which is both very good and a little bit off from these five teams. And among these six great games were five performances that landed between the 65th and 78th percentile -- good but not excellent.

The Frogs were demonstrably better than the Rebels at the end, but Ole Miss earned a lot of cachet by being the best team in the country for the first two months. So that's how you end up with something odd like that even though ... well ... scoreboard.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 0.95 18 IsoPPP+ 128.1 16
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 46.4% 25 Succ. Rt. + 110.8 34
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 25.3 1 Def. FP+ 107.0 10
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.7 38 Redzone S&P+ 107.6 45
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 27.7 ACTUAL 22 -5.7
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 5 22 28 16
RUSHING 36 13 16 11
PASSING 7 32 33 32
Standard Downs 23 27 18
Passing Downs 22 24 19
Q1 Rk 6 1st Down Rk 17
Q2 Rk 55 2nd Down Rk 28
Q3 Rk 11 3rd Down Rk 10
Q4 Rk 38

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2015 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Trevone Boykin 6'2, 205 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8491 301 492 3901 33 10 61.2% 22 4.3% 7.4
Matt Joeckel
12 21 134 2 1 57.1% 0 0.0% 6.4
Zach Allen 6'3, 205 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8361
Bram Kohlhausen 6'2, 203 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8160
Foster Sawyer 6'5, 220 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8891
Grayson Muehlstein 6'4, 210 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8550

4. "It starts at QB"

I was right in talking about how important the quarterback position would be for TCU. But I was wrong in predicting who would start.

I wasn't alone in assuming Texas A&M graduate transfer Matt Joeckel would win the job. In two years, Boykin had shown promise and athleticism but had struggled to develop.

His interception rate was a little too high (3.6 percent), as was his sack rate (7.7 percent), and while he was a solid mobility threat (987 non-sack rushing yards in two part-time seasons), TCU fell from 54th in Passing S&P+ in 2013 to 73rd in 2014, and his rushing wasn't enough to keep TCU's run game afloat (110th in Rushing S&P+ in 2014). And in the battle of known quantity vs. unknown quantity, we seem to go with the unknown every time.

The combination of experience and a new offensive system worked wonders. Boykin was the perfect template for the version of the air raid that Meacham and Cumbie created. He was given more short passes to complete, and while his completion rate improved by about 1.5 percent, the combination of short passing and infinitely more effective running opened up more downfield passing opportunities.

Boykin's yards per completion went up, and his interception and sack rates went down. And perhaps more importantly, both Boykin's and the running backs' rushing averages improved dramatically. Boykin rushed for 829 non-sack yards (6.4 per carry), while the duo of Green and Catalon (pre-injury) combined for 1,415 yards (6.2 per carry) and 19 scores.

And now, a year after he wouldn't even have been the betting favorite to be TCU's starter, Boykin enters as the betting favorite to win the Heisman. He was a little lucky in terms of dropped interceptions, and that might change (and Ohio State's starting quarterback, whoever that ends up being, is the real favorite), but his command of this offense was obvious.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Opp.
Opp.
Rate
Fumbles Fum.
Lost
Aaron Green TB 5'11, 202 Sr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9813 130 922 9 7.1 7.8 44.6% 1 0
Trevone Boykin QB 6'2, 205 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8491 130 829 8 6.4 4.8 50.8% 5 1
B.J. Catalon TB
98 493 10 5.0 5.7 36.7% 3 1
Trevorris Johnson TB 5'11, 221 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8553 54 302 4 5.6 5.2 46.3% 2 1
Kyle Hicks TB 5'10, 200 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9165 46 160 0 3.5 2.3 37.0% 0 0
Deante' Gray WR 5'10, 175 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8700 8 88 0 11.0 4.9 100.0% 1 0
Cliff Murphy TE
7 14 1 2.0 0.5 14.3% 0 0
Shaun Nixon TB 5'10, 196 RSFr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9229







Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Josh Doctson WR-Z 6'3, 195 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7000 117 66 1022 56.4% 22.9% 55.6% 8.7 203 8.7 129.1
Kolby Listenbee WR-X 6'1, 183 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8729 82 41 753 50.0% 16.0% 63.4% 9.2 230 9.1 95.1
David Porter WR-Y
53 39 392 73.6% 10.4% 62.3% 7.4 -68 7.4 49.5
Deante' Gray WR-H 5'10, 175 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8700 50 36 582 72.0% 9.8% 72.0% 11.6 156 14.1 73.5
Ty Slanina WR-Y 6'0, 193 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8731 46 32 383 69.6% 9.0% 56.5% 8.3 2 8.3 48.4
B.J. Catalon TB
25 14 163 56.0% 4.9% 68.0% 6.5 -11 6.2 20.6
Ja'Juan Story WR-X 6'4, 208 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9340 25 17 145 68.0% 4.9% 64.0% 5.8 -58 5.7 18.3
Aaron Green TB 5'11, 202 Sr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9813 22 19 166 86.4% 4.3% 54.5% 7.5 -53 7.7 21.0
Emanuel Porter WR-Z 6'4, 210 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8833 19 12 154 63.2% 3.7% 73.7% 8.1 8 6.7 19.5
Desmon White WR-H 5'7, 150 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8089 16 14 119 87.5% 3.1% 50.0% 7.4 -42 7.7 15.0
Cameron Echols-Luper WR-H 6'0, 190 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8588 15 9 72 60.0% 2.9% 53.3% 4.8 -38 4.7 9.1
Kyle Hicks TB 5'10, 200 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9165 14 12 118 85.7% 2.7% 71.4% 8.4 -20 8.6 14.9
Buck Jones TE 6'4, 255 Jr. NR NR
Corey McBride WR-X 6'1, 187 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8501
Andre Petties-Wilson WR-Y 6'1, 190 RSFr. NR NR
Tony James WR 5'10, 165 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8635
Jarrison Stewart WR 5'11, 177 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8619
Jaelan Austin WR 6'0, 192 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8600
Tre'Vontae Hights WR 6'3, 180 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8569
KaVontae Turpin WR 5'9, 165 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8505

5. Keeping everybody happy

TCU's tempo was both an asset and a necessity. The Frogs needed quite a few snaps to get the ball into the hands of everybody who deserved it. Boykin rushed about 10 times per game, and the combination of Green, Catalon and two freshman running backs carried 25 times. Josh Doctson was targeted nine times per game, Kolby Listenbee about six, three others about four each, seven others once or twice each.

Just about everybody produced, too. Four of the top five receivers averaged at least 8.3 yards per target, Catalon was fine, and Green was a revelation. After averaging only about five carries per game before Catalon's injury, he averaged 17 carries for 108 yards over the final five games.

The distribution could get even more interesting. Catalon and No. 3 target David Porter are gone, but that's pretty much it. Green, Doctson, and Listenbee will lead the way, and Deante' Gray and Ty Slanina will play a role. But now Johnson and Hicks and receivers Emanuel Porter and Desmond White are sophomores, and redshirt freshmen Shaun Nixon and Corey McBride might force their way into the rotation. (Plus, quarterback Zach Allen might pull a Boykin and spend time running routes.)

Can TCU raise the tempo even more?

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 109.5 3.36 2.85 44.8% 63.6% 19.4% 121.1 2.4% 8.3%
Rank 37 14 102 16 95 69 39 15 79
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Career Starts Honors/Notes
Joey Hunt C 6'3, 295 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8755 26 2014 2nd All-Big 12
Halapoulivaati Vaitai RT 6'6, 308 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.9050 20 2014 2nd All-Big 12
Tayo Fabuluje LT
24
Aviante Collins LT 6'6, 295 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8398 23
Jamelle Naff LG 6'4, 325 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8681 15
Brady Foltz RG 6'4, 320 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8331 13
Patrick Morris RG 6'3, 288 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8619 1
Bobby Thompson LG 6'6, 310 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8625 0
Joseph Noteboom RT 6'5, 310 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8482 0
Austin Schlottman C 6'6, 280 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8220 0
Matt Pryor RT 6'7, 350 So. NR NR 0
Frank Kee RG 6'4, 330 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8594 0
Ty Barrett OL 6'5, 316 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8767
Ryan Griswold RT 6'5, 270 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8227
Trey Elliott LT 6'4, 280 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7944
Sam Awolope OT 6'6, 265 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8713
Jozie Milton C 6'2, 310 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8569
Cordel Iwuagwu C 6'3, 290 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8469

6. So many seniors

There's plenty of reason to get excited about TCU's offense in 2016 and beyond; A&M transfer Kenny Hill will join some exciting youngsters in the race to replace Boykin, and young running backs and receivers have shown flashes of brilliance.

Still, 2016 will see a blood transfusion. Boykin, Green, Doctson, Listenbee, and Gray are all seniors. So are five of the six returning linemen with starting experienced. The only non-senior who has started up front: guard Patrick Morris, who did so just once. This line was pretty good (but not great) last year but will begin as one of the most experienced in the country with 98 career starts. This offense is loaded with experience; we'll worry about next year next year.

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Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 0.85 70 IsoPPP+ 121.3 20
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 33.7% 5 Succ. Rt. + 122.3 8
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 35.2 3 Off. FP+ 112.1 1
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.0 32 Redzone S&P+ 112.2 25
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 29.2 ACTUAL 40.0 +10.8
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 18 9 7 20
RUSHING 9 5 7 8
PASSING 77 29 12 44
Standard Downs 11 7 27
Passing Downs 16 23 18
Q1 Rk 20 1st Down Rk 10
Q2 Rk 19 2nd Down Rk 45
Q3 Rk 9 3rd Down Rk 7
Q4 Rk 5

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 123.3 2.15 3.02 30.0% 53.7% 26.3% 110 5.1% 8.6%
Rank 6 2 39 4 5 6 40 50 43
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
James McFarland DE 6'3, 248 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8820 13 35.0 4.8% 12.0 7.0 1 3 3 0
Chucky Hunter DT
13 32.5 4.5% 9.5 3.0 0 0 1 0
Mike Tuaua DE 6'3, 253 Sr. NR 0.7000 12 23.5 3.2% 8.5 5.0 0 4 3 0
Davion Pierson DT 6'2, 305 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8400 13 22.5 3.1% 8.0 3.5 0 1 0 0
Josh Carraway DE 6'4, 250 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7000 13 21.5 2.9% 5.0 2.0 1 0 1 0
Aaron Curry (Nebraska) DT 6'2, 280 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8673 13 18.5 2.6% 3.0 2.0 0 0 0 0
Terrell Lathan DE 6'5, 280 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8731 13 17.5 2.4% 10.0 4.5 0 1 1 1
Chris Bradley DT 6'2, 255 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8174 13 8.5 1.2% 2.0 1.5 0 0 0 0
Tevin Lawson DT 6'4, 280 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8882 13 8.0 1.1% 1.5 1.5 0 0 0 0
Bryson Henderson DE 6'6, 275 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8510 9 4.0 0.5% 1.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
L.J. Collier DE 6'4, 275 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8379
Casey McDermott Vai DT 6'4, 276 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8148
Breylin Mitchell DE 6'4, 255 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8832
Joseph Broadnax DT 6'0, 305 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8593
Tpia Galea'i DE 6'5, 220 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8495








7. A 4-2-5 isn't supposed to stop the run like this

Put as generally as possible, when you move from a 4-3 alignment to a 4-2-5, you're sacrificing about 30 pounds of run-defending girth (a 230-pound third linebacker) for extra speed in pass defense (a 200-pound third safety). That doesn't seem like a lot, but it hints at one of the issues with attempting a nickel look: run defense. When the nickel fails, it fails because it's getting pushed around.

That's not a problem for TCU. For more than a decade, Patterson and Bumpas made the 4-2-5 defense look a lot easier to implement. Despite a wonderful secondary, TCU was far better at defending the run than the pass last fall. The Frogs pulled off the tough combination of great short-yardage success and an invasive presence in the backfield.

So how much of this was because of the line, and how much was because of incredible linebackers Paul Dawson and Marcus Mallet? It's a chicken vs. egg debate -- the line cleared the way for the linebackers to make plays, and the linebackers wrecked shop far beyond what a 4-2-5 linebacking corps is supposed to. And safeties Derrick Kindred and Chris Hackett did a nice job of playing both near to and far from the line of scrimmage.

Kindred's back, as are all but one lineman. Ends James McFarland and Mike Tuaua made for an active duo, and Nebraska transfer Aaron Curry joins senior Davion Pierson at tackle. But only one returning linebacker had more than six tackles, and in the post-spring depth chart, three of the top four linebackers were either true or redshirt freshmen. If he maintains his spot on the two-deep, the first play of Mike Freeze's career will be as the starting middle linebacker for a top-10 team. Considering the impact last year's LBs had, that's pretty scary.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Paul Dawson SLB
13 108.5 14.9% 20.0 6.0 4 5 2 0
Marcus Mallet MLB
13 78.5 10.8% 11.5 1.5 1 2 3 0
Jonathan Anderson MLB
13 25.5 3.5% 4.5 0.5 0 0 0 0
Sammy Douglas SLB 6'3, 215 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8469 13 14.0 1.9% 1.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Paul Whitmill SLB 6'0, 230 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8768 12 6.0 0.8% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Ty Summers MLB 6'2, 230 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7744
Mike Freeze MLB 6'3, 220 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8453
Alec Dunham SLB 6'1, 213 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8572
Semaj Thomas LB 6'2, 225 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8593








Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Derrick Kindred FS 5'10, 210 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7000 13 71.0 9.7% 4.5 0 4 5 1 1
Chris Hackett WS
13 63.0 8.6% 3.5 0 7 6 1 0
Kevin White CB
13 47.5 6.5% 4 1 2 11 0 0
Sam Carter SS
13 42.5 5.8% 0.5 0 4 5 0 0
Ranthony Texada CB 5'10, 170 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8500 13 28.5 3.9% 3.5 1 1 7 0 0
Kenny Iloka WS 6'2, 209 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8625 13 14.5 2.0% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Denzel Johnson SS 6'2, 205 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7926 13 14.0 1.9% 1 0 0 1 0 0
George Baltimore SS 6'0, 205 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8609 13 6.5 0.9% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Geoff Hooker FS
13 5.5 0.8% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Nick Orr CB 5'10, 166 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8377 12 3.0 0.4% 0 0 1 0 0 0
Torrance Mosley CB 5'10, 160 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8382 5 1.5 0.2% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Corry O'Meally CB 6'0, 170 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7959 8 1.5 0.2% 0 0 0 1 0 0
Travin Howard SS 6'1, 190 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8315
Steve Wesley FS 6'0, 175 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8796
Cyd Calvin CB 6'1, 175 So. 3 stars (5.5) NR
Ridwan Issahaku SS 6'1, 180 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8294
DeShawn Raymond CB 6'1, 180 Fr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9001
Niko Small S 5'10, 187 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8482

8. Just so much to replace in the back 7

The turnover doesn't stop at linebacker. Kindred's return gives TCU a potential All-American at free safety, a player capable of both contributing to big-play prevention and making tons of havoc plays. Corner Ranthony Texada was a revelation as a freshman, and upperclassmen like Kenny Iloka and Denzel Johnson saw some reps last year.

But in losing Hackett, Carter and White and replacing them with some combination of career reserves (Johnson, Iloka, Corry O'Meally) and unproven youngsters (corners Torrance Mosley and Nick Orr; safeties Travin Howard, George Baltimore and Ridwan Issahaku), TCU is likely to regress in pass defense. [Update: George Baltimore will miss the season with a shoulder injury.] And if the run defense falters at all without killer linebackers, or if new co-coordinators Demontie Cross and Chad Glasgow need time to get their sea legs, one could see this defense temporarily falling out of the Def. S&P+ top 15.

There are no long-term issues here. As long as Patterson is the head coach, the TCU D will be fine. But when you lose seven impressive contributors and your coordinator, you're probably going to take a step backwards in the short-term.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Ethan Perry 6'4, 230 Sr. 64 39.2 5 27 29 87.5%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Jaden Oberkrom 6'3, 187 Sr. 78 61.0 30 1 38.5%
Ryan DeNucci 31 63.2 17 1 54.8%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2015
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Jaden Oberkrom 6'3, 187 Sr. 76-77 16-18 88.9% 6-9 66.7%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Cameron Echols-Luper KR 6'0, 190 Jr. 9 11.4 0
B.J. Catalon KR 8 31.8 1
Cameron Echols-Luper PR 6'0, 190 Jr. 33 10.6 1
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 8
Field Goal Efficiency 10
Punt Return Efficiency 24
Kick Return Efficiency 68
Punt Efficiency 34
Kickoff Efficiency 25
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 123

9. Tilting the field, then tilting it some more

TCU had a pretty much perfect field position team. The Frogs got some breaks in that department, but an efficient offense, a crazy-efficient defense and phenomenal special teams unit sealed the deal.

TCU's field position margin was plus-9.9, easily the best in the country. Only one other team was better than plus-9 (Memphis, coached by Patterson's former protege Justin Fuente), and only three others (Georgia, Ohio State, Nebraska) were better than plus-6.5.

Luck will probably turn, and the defense will probably be a little less efficient. But the Frogs still have Ethan Perry's unreturnable punts, Jadem Oberkrom's kickoffs (and big-legged place-kicking), and Cameron Echols-Luper returning punts. The Frogs maybe need a new kick returner, but this unit will still be a strength, and even with bad luck, TCU will still be a good field position team.

2015 Schedule & Projection Factors

2015 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. S&P+ Rk
3-Sep at Minnesota 42
12-Sep Stephen F. Austin NR
19-Sep SMU 117
26-Sep at Texas Tech 53
3-Oct Texas 36
10-Oct at Kansas State 33
17-Oct at Iowa State 86
29-Oct West Virginia 40
7-Nov at Oklahoma State 43
14-Nov Kansas 95
21-Nov at Oklahoma 10
27-Nov Baylor 14
Five-Year F/+ Rk 31.0% (17)
2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk 49 / 38
2014 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin* 18 / 1.6
2014 TO Luck/Game +6.3
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 14 (9, 5)
2014 Second-order wins (difference) 11.4 (0.6)

10. Landmines galore

TCU probably won't benefit from six points of turnovers luck and minimal injuries this year. The defense will still be mostly sound but will probably suffer a few more glitches. A few more of Boykin's passes that bounced off of defenders' hands last year might stick. A road upset bid from a Kansas State or Texas Tech might succeed.

It's going to be really difficult for TCU to match last year's run at the College Football Playoff, in other words. As high as I usually am on TCU, I fear expectations might be a little high considering the turnover on D, the tricky road schedule (five road opponents projected 53rd or better) and the likely change in random fortune.

That said, TCU is still going to be top-15 good, perhaps top-10 good. Again, this isn't unfamiliar territory for a team that dominated in the late portion of the last decade, The depth of experience on offense and on the defensive line should assure that, even with more bad bounces, TCU's in position to win nine or 10 games and perhaps take down Baylor in the season finale to still win the conference.

But as I wrote in the Baylor preview, I don't think the Frogs are the safest bet this year.