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My numbers think TCU's a top-35 team in 2016. I disagree. They might be top-10.

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Seriously, this is a top-15 team that could be even better than that. This is Bill C's daily preview series, working its way through every 2016 team. Catch up on the Big 12 so far!

Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

Check out the advanced-stats glossary here. Below, a unique review of last year's team, a unit-by-unit breakdown of this year's roster, the full 2016 schedule with win projections for each game, and more.

1. The exception that proves the rule

Sometimes surviving is enough.

By the end of the 2015 regular season, TCU was playing without its two star receivers, its best defensive end, and seemingly most of its linebacking corps and secondary. The depth chart for the Alamo Bowl featured 17 freshmen and 12 sophomores. A backup strong safety had played middle linebacker for most of the year. Its star quarterback had missed time with injury and then got suspended for the bowl.

That Gary Patterson's Horned Frogs trailed Oregon 31-0 at halftime was only a bit jarring. Teams sometimes just run out of gas. As Ole Miss proved after getting shellacked by TCU the year before, then going 10-3 in 2015 (and doing the bowl shellacking itself), there is only temporary shame in getting blown out in the postseason. TCU's season just needed to end.

Lady Luck turned against TCU in every way imaginable. In a way, that made sense. As I wrote in 2015's preview, luck had played a large role in converting the Horned Frogs from an excellent team into one that nearly made 2014's Playoff. They dealt with fewer injuries than almost anyone in the country in 2014, and they had benefited from Houston-level good fortune in turnovers (plus-6.3 points per game of turnovers luck, per my numbers).

In 2015, they dealt with more injuries than almost anybody. Turnovers luck swung eight points in the other direction, to minus-1.8 points per game.

Still, they had gone 10-2, with a funky deflection to beat Texas Tech and a huge comeback to beat Kansas State. With their backup quarterback, they barely beat an absolutely dreadful Kansas. But their high points were ridiculously high (a 50-7 win over Texas, 40-10 over West Virginia), and even at the end of the regular season, when attrition was clearly taking a toll, they came within a missed two-point conversion of beating CFP semifinalist Oklahoma in Norman, then outlasted Baylor in a monsoon.

And then they unleashed a 31-point comeback against Oregon and beat the Ducks in overtime. All the bad luck and freshmen in the world, and they finished 11-2 and 26th in S&P+. And now all of those freshmen and sophomores are sophomores and juniors.

The S&P+ projections that I put out in February didn't take into account players returning from injury. I hadn't had enough time to compile that information yet. They don't take into account the stats of incoming transfers either. I will put out an updated projection sometime in August, and when I do, I'm figuring TCU will benefit.

The Horned Frogs' No. 31 projection in no way reflects what I assume to be their capabilities in 2016. As I was compiling the stats and tables below, I got the impression I was putting together the preview of a top-10 or top-15 team.

I like where I've taken the S&P+ projections through the years, but consider TCU the exception that proves the rule. The Horned Frogs are pretty used to that. They won the Rose Bowl in 2010 as a Mountain West team. They nearly made the 2014 Playoff a year after going 4-8. They don't follow college football's normal order. And I cannot wait to see what they do this fall.

2015 Schedule & Results

Record: 11-2 | Adj. Record: 11-2 | Final F/+ Rk: 19 | Final S&P+ Rk: 26
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Percentile
Performance
Win
Expectancy
vs. S&P+ Performance
vs. Vegas
3-Sep at Minnesota 55 23-17 W 70% 89% -3.1
12-Sep Stephen F. Austin N/A 70-7 W 95% 100% +18.6
19-Sep SMU 106 56-37 W 82% 100% -18.0 -18.5
26-Sep at Texas Tech 60 55-52 W 57% 68% -7.3 -4.0
3-Oct Texas 68 50-7 W 99% 100% +27.3 +28.0
10-Oct at Kansas State 81 52-45 W 70% 94% +10.5 -2.5
17-Oct at Iowa State 79 45-21 W 84% 99% +14.8 +3.0
29-Oct West Virginia 31 40-10 W 94% 100% +25.6 +16.0
7-Nov at Oklahoma State 40 29-49 L 10% 0% -24.4 -25.5
14-Nov Kansas 127 23-17 W 30% 72% -34.6 -39.0
21-Nov at Oklahoma 4 29-30 L 63% 48% +13.0 -1.0
27-Nov Baylor 14 28-21 W 74% 70% +10.4 +8.5
2-Jan vs. Oregon 23 47-41 W 56% 55% +3.7 +6.0

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 38.6 18 27.1 58
Points Per Game 42.1 7 27.2 64

2. A justifiable fade

Even with the near-upset of OU and the comeback against Oregon, TCU became a shadow of its former self. The Horned Frogs were ultra-resilient but flawed, thin, and young.

  • First 8 games:
    Record: 8-0 | Avg. percentile performance: 81% (~top 25) | Yards per play: TCU 7.7, Opp 5.1 (+2.6)
  • Last 5 games:
    Record: 3-2 | Avg. percentile performance: 47% (~top 65) | Yards per play: TCU 5.4, Opp 5.2 (+0.2)

When a team gets hot late, then returns the primary reasons for that hot streak the next year, we can take a small-sample rise as a hint of what's to come.

Alternatively, when a team fades late in the year but seems to have addressed the causes of the slump, it doesn't have to mean much moving forward.

TCU must replace a ton of senior difference-makers -- QB Trevone Boykin, RB Aaron Green, WRs Josh Doctson and Kolby Listenbee, three all-conference offensive linemen, safety Derrick Kindred. But through transfers and the depth caused by having to play so many guys last year, the Frogs seem more well-equipped than I anticipated of thriving after them. The offensive line is a concern, and while there are appealing candidates, we won't know that the quarterback position is settled until we see it. But the potential is off the charts.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.32 33 IsoPPP+ 116.2 26
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 47.9% 15 Succ. Rt. + 105.7 52
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 28.0 33 Def. FP+ 28.5 47
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity 4.8 39 Redzone S&P+ 101.3 71
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 19.8 ACTUAL 19 -0.8
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 3 28 52 26
RUSHING 24 70 71 70
PASSING 8 19 31 18
Standard Downs 29 54 21
Passing Downs 39 47 41
Q1 Rk 18 1st Down Rk 19
Q2 Rk 85 2nd Down Rk 34
Q3 Rk 29 3rd Down Rk 13
Q4 Rk 5

3. They kept Meacham and Cumbie

Texas' Charlie Strong tried to steal TCU offensive co-coordinator Sonny Cumbie. Fellow co-coordinator Doug Meacham interviewed for the North Texas head coaching position and was at one point considered likely to end up with the job.

Patterson has lost key assistants before, and with varying degrees of impact. Offensive coordinator Justin Fuente left after 2011, and the offense endured a two-year slump until Meacham and Cumbie came to town. Longtime defensive coordinator Dick Bumpas retired last winter, and while the defense mainly regressed because of injuries and youth, it still regressed.

Patterson did lose one-year defensive co-coordinator Demontie Cross to Missouri, but he kept Cumbie and Meacham for at least one more year. Patterson has a plan for everything, and he probably knows what he's going to do when these guys leave for head coaching jobs. But with a few new pieces to break in (and one hell of a receiving corps), keeping them for one more year could pay off beautifully.

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2016 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Trevone Boykin 257 396 3575 31 10 64.9% 12 2.9% 8.6
Kenny Hill
(Texas A&M)
6'1, 205 Jr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9090 214 321 2649 23 8 66.7% 14 4.2% 7.6
Bram Kohlhausen 55 88 720 5 2 62.5% 3 3.3% 7.8
Foster Sawyer 6'5, 230 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8891 11 27 155 2 3 40.7% 3 10.0% 4.9
Grayson Muehlstein 6'4, 210 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8550








Brennen Wooten 6'1, 188 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8575








Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Opp.
Opp.
Rate
Fumbles Fum.
Lost
Aaron Green TB 245 1272 11 5.2 4.5 42.0% 2 1
Trevone Boykin QB 111 671 9 6.0 5.2 47.7% 4 1
Kyle Hicks TB 5'10, 210 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9165 56 262 3 4.7 4.2 37.5% 0 0
Trevorris Johnson TB 5'11, 226 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8553 42 262 0 6.2 4.0 50.0% 1 1
Kenny Hill
(Texas A&M)
QB 6'1, 205 Jr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9090 38 269 0 7.1 7.1 47.4% 3 1
KaVontae Turpin WR 5'9, 153 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8505 20 116 0 5.8 3.8 50.0% 3 1
Colten Christensen TB 16 66 1 4.1 1.1 37.5% 0 0
Shaun Nixon TB/WR 5'10, 195 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9229 16 66 0 4.1 3.5 37.5% 0 0
Bram Kohlhausen QB 15 78 2 5.2 2.6 46.7% 1 0
Foster Sawyer QB 6'5, 230 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8891 11 62 0 5.6 2.1 54.5% 0 0
Sewo Olonilua TB 6'3, 225 Fr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9399
Darius Anderson TB 5'11, 194 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8715







4. Where did the big run plays go?

Quarterback is a question mark until it's not. At the end of spring ball, the race for the starting spot was a tie between two high-upside, potentially low-downside candidates:

  • Kenny Hill, who erupted over the first half of 2014 at Texas A&M, then faded, lost his job, and transferred.
  • Foster Sawyer, who completed just one of seven passes against Kansas and eight of 18 against Oklahoma.

Even with Hill's struggles in 2014, he still finished the season having completed 67 percent of his passes while rushing for 7.1 yards per non-sack carry. That is a staggering combination. Sawyer proved he could steal a few yards here and there with his legs, and if harnessed properly, he's got a strong arm and potential accuracy.

I felt like Hill got an unfair shake in College Station, blamed a disproportionate amount for a midseason A&M slump. He could be very good, and if Sawyer ends up beating him out, that says more about Sawyer than Hill.

Either way, TCU is going from seasoned QB to new starter. A good running game would be a boon for any new starter, but that might be a problem area. While the Horned Frogs were reasonably efficient on the ground, they didn't generate nearly as many big plays as expected. Those they did get seemed to come from Boykin and not the actual backs. We'd seen big plays from Aaron Green before, but few came in 2015.

If Hill wins the QB job, he'll provide a mobile element, but whoever starts at tailback, be it junior Kyle Hicks or sophomore Shaun Nixon (who temporarily moved to wideout last year), could help a lot by taking advantage of open-field opportunities. They might be hard to come by early, with the loss of four 2015 starters on the line.

But at the very least, TCU does return five players with starting experience up front, and with the return of tackle Aviante Collins from injury, along with 2015 starter Joseph Noteboom, the Frogs are set at both tackle positions.

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
Yds/
Target
%SD Success
Rate
IsoPPP
Josh Doctson WR-Z 107 79 1327 73.8% 21.7% 12.4 60.7% 65.4% 1.87
Shaun Nixon TB/WR 5'10, 195 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9229 69 47 501 68.1% 14.0% 7.3 62.3% 42.0% 1.50
KaVontae Turpin SLOT 5'9, 153 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8505 61 45 649 73.8% 12.4% 10.6 68.9% 49.2% 2.06
Kolby Listenbee WR-X 53 30 597 56.6% 10.8% 11.3 71.7% 50.9% 2.09
Deante' Gray
(2014)
WR-X 5'10, 183 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8700 50 36 582 72.0% 9.8% 11.6 72.0% N/A N/A
Ty Slanina
(2014)
WR 6'0, 195 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8731 46 32 383 69.6% 9.0% 8.3 56.5% N/A N/A
Desmon White SLOT 5'7, 160 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8089 31 19 258 61.3% 6.3% 8.3 67.7% 51.6% 1.45
Emanuel Porter WR-Z 6'4, 210 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8833 30 14 213 46.7% 6.1% 7.1 66.7% 43.3% 1.56
Jarrison Stewart WR-Y 6'0, 188 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8619 29 21 265 72.4% 5.9% 9.1 48.3% 62.1% 1.41
John Diarse (LSU) WR 6'1, 209 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9186 28 13 137 46.4% 10.6% 4.9 39.3% 35.7% 1.11
Aaron Green TB 24 16 117 66.7% 4.9% 4.9 62.5% 41.7% 1.01
Kyle Hicks TB 5'10, 210 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9165 22 13 104 59.1% 4.5% 4.7 40.9% 31.8% 1.32
Ja'Juan Story WR-Z 16 9 84 56.3% 3.3% 5.3 75.0% 50.0% 0.91
Jaelan Austin WR-Z 6'2, 200 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8600 14 10 137 71.4% 2.8% 9.8 35.7% 64.3% 1.46
Tony James WR-X
8 3 39 37.5% 1.6% 4.9 87.5% 37.5% 1.06
Charlie Reid TE 6'4, 235 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8600 3 3 24 100.0% 0.6% 8.0 33.3% 66.7% 1.29
Corey McBride WR 6'1, 187 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8501
Andre Petties-Wilson WR 6'1, 190 So. NR NR
Taj Williams WR-Z 6'3, 180 Jr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9115
Ryan Parker WR 6'2, 180 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9050
Isaiah Graham WR-X 6'1, 185 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.9115
Camron Williams WR 6'3, 210 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8791
Dylan Thomas WR 6'1, 186 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8686
TreVontae Hights WR 6'3, 180 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8569
Artayvious Lynn TE 6'6, 247 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8368

5. So many options

Whether Hill or Sawyer is at quarterback, the only thing that might slow down this passing game is a bad running game. If the new QB is facing too many passing downs, that could be a complication. But with this receiving corps, you or I at QB could make a few plays.

TCU got a head start on replacing Doctson and Listenbee when both got hurt last year. Considering backups Deante' Gray and Ty Slanina were already out as well, that forced Meacham and Cumbie to dip down the depth chart. The offense didn't fade as much as it could have. KaVontae Turpin was a stick of dynamite in the slot, fellow freshman Jarrison Stewart produced a 62 percent success rate, and then-sophomores Desmon White (efficiency) and Emanuel Porter (explosiveness) showed at least one-dimensional potential.

They're all back, as is sophomore Jaelan Austin, who caught four passes for 67 yards in the Alamo Bowl and was listed as the starting X receiver at the end of spring.

Add to this group LSU transfer John Diarse and two four-star JUCOs (Taj Williams, Ryan Parker), and you've got enough candidates to ensure that the top three or four receivers are of high quality.

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 99.5 3.27 3.52 43.8% 66.7% 15.9% 185.4 1.9% 6.0%
Rank 74 18 35 17 58 12 15 11 38
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. 2015 Starts Career Starts Honors/Notes
Joey Hunt C 11 37 2015 1st All-Big 12
Halapoulivaati Vaitai LT 11 31 2015 2nd All-Big 12
Brady Foltz RG 12 25 2015 2nd All-Big 12
Jamelle Naff LG 11 26
Aviante Collins RT 6'6, 305 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8398 0 23
Joseph Noteboom LT 6'5, 315 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8482 13 13
Matt Pryor RG 6'7, 350 Jr. NR NR 4 4
Austin Schlottman C 6'6, 300 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8220 3 3
Patrick Morris LG 6'3, 300 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8619 0 1
Bobby Thompson LG 0 0
Garrett Altman C 6'4, 272 Jr. NR NR 0 0
Ty Barrett OL 6'5, 316 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8767 0 0
Ryan Griswold OT 6'5, 270 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8227 0 0
Trey Elliott LT 6'4, 285 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7944 0 0
Sam Awolope OT 6'6, 292 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8713

Jozie Milton C 6'2, 310 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8569

Cordel Iwuagwu LG 6'3, 298 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8469

David Bolisomi RT 6'6, 315 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8409

Chris Gaynor RG 6'5, 300 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8559

Austin Myers OL 6'5, 302 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8932

Lucas Niang OL 6'6, 295 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8569


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Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.35 105 IsoPPP+ 109.6 38
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 38.0% 31 Succ. Rt. + 113.9 25
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 31.7 33 Off. FP+ 30.7 48
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity 4.7 91 Redzone S&P+ 119.7 14
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 24.4 ACTUAL 19.0 -5.4
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 63 28 25 38
RUSHING 81 39 45 33
PASSING 56 31 10 52
Standard Downs 26 28 29
Passing Downs 44 11 66
Q1 Rk 39 1st Down Rk 20
Q2 Rk 34 2nd Down Rk 47
Q3 Rk 12 3rd Down Rk 18
Q4 Rk 9

6. Injuries create depth

That TCU's defense was great in the second half makes no sense whatsoever. With this many freshmen, and with so few known entities, we could have assumed the Horned Frogs would come out with a decent game plan, perform well early, then fade as the opponent adjusted. Instead, it was the opposite.

Now just imagine what the Horned Frogs might do with actual depth. Every linebacker from last year's corps is back, along with 2014 backup Sammy Douglas, who lasted only one game last year before getting hurt. Six of last year's top eight defensive backs return, along with corner Ranthony Texada (hurt in Game 3) and safety Kenny Iloka (hurt in Game 2).

There's a little turnover to account for up front with the loss of ends Terrell Lathan and Mike Tuaua and tackles Davion Pierson and Tevin Lawson. But the return of James McFarland, a stud in 2014 who missed all of 2015, will help significantly.

Seriously, TCU got a combined six games out of McFarland, Texada, Iloka, and Douglas and won 11 games. That's just unfair.

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 113.1 3.02 2.40 37.6% 62.3% 15.6% 96 4.4% 10.2%
Rank 19 87 7 57 43 110 70 89 20
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Josh Carraway DE 6'4, 250 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7000 13 36.0 4.8% 11.5 9.0 0 2 1 2
James McFarland
(2014)
DE 6'2, 250 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8820 13 35.0 4.8% 12.0 7.0 1 3 3 0
Aaron Curry DT 6'2, 270 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8673 12 31.0 4.2% 4.0 3.0 0 0 0 0
Terrell Lathan DE 12 28.0 3.8% 6.5 4.0 0 5 1 0
Davion Pierson DT 10 25.5 3.4% 6.5 2.0 0 0 0 0
Chris Bradley DT 6'2, 275 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8174 13 20.5 2.7% 4.5 2.0 0 1 0 0
Mike Tuaua DE 10 17.5 2.3% 2.5 0.5 0 0 0 0
Bryson Henderson DE 6'6, 275 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8510 12 9.5 1.3% 2.5 1.5 0 0 1 0
Tevin Lawson DT
7 8.5 1.1% 1.0 1.0 0 0 1 0
Tipa Galeai DE 6'5, 235 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8495 7 6.0 0.8% 1.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Breylin Mitchell DE 6'4, 270 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8832 5 3.5 0.5% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Joseph Broadnax DT 6'0, 300 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8593 5 3.0 0.4% 1.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
L.J. Collier DT 6'4, 275 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8379
Casey McDermott Vai DT 6'4, 282 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8148
Mat Boesen DE 6'4, 235 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8680
Ross Blacklock DT 6'4, 326 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.9057








Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Travin Howard SLB 6'1, 210 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8315 13 84.0 11.3% 8.0 1.0 1 2 3 0
Ty Summers MLB 6'2, 235 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7744 13 64.5 8.6% 4.0 1.0 1 1 0 0
Montrel Wilson MLB 6'3, 210 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8445 12 45.5 6.1% 4.0 2.5 0 1 1 0
Sammy Douglas
(2014)
SLB 6'3, 215 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8469 13 14.0 1.9% 1.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Alec Dunham SLB 6'1, 213 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8572 12 10.5 1.4% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Mike Freeze MLB
1 6.0 0.8% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Paul Whitmill SLB 6'0, 230 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8768
Semaj Thomas LB 6'2, 230 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8593
Tyree Horton LB 6'0, 225 Jr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9081








7. James McFarland might not even start

Okay, fine, McFarland will probably start. But with the return of Josh Carraway and a nice spring from JUCO transfer Mat Boesen, he ended up listed as an *OR* starter with Boesen at the end of spring ball. That speaks volumes right there.

Tackle depth could be an issue. Aaron Curry and Chris Bradley are solid, and sophomore Breylin Mitchell had a nice spring. But compared to other areas of the defense, there appear to be fewer intriguing options in the middle. But maybe that's more of an endorsement of the rest of the defense than an indictment of the tackle position.

Linebacker is loaded. Travin Howard eventually took well to his new position after moving from safety, recording eight tackles for loss and still defensing three passes. Sophomores Ty Summers and Montrel Wilson had their moments, Douglas is back, and four-star JUCO Tyree Horton is on the way.

TCU went from brilliant to mortal against the run last year; with actual experience and depth, expect a shift back toward the former.

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Derrick Kindred FS 13 72.0 9.7% 3.5 0 2 3 2 0
Denzel Johnson SS 6'2, 210 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7926 13 66.5 8.9% 13.5 2 1 8 0 0
Nick Orr WS 5'10, 187 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8377 13 43.5 5.8% 3 1 1 9 1 0
Corry O'Meally CB 13 36.5 4.9% 0.5 0.5 0 10 0 0
Ridwan Issahaku SS 6'1, 193 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8294 13 32.0 4.3% 2 0 0 4 0 0
Ranthony Texada
(2014)
CB 5'10, 170 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8500 13 28.5 3.9% 3.5 1 1 7 0 0
Torrance Mosley CB 5'10, 160 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8382 7 18.0 2.4% 0 0 0 3 0 0
Kenny Iloka
(2014)
WS 6'2, 209 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8625 13 14.5 2.0% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Julius Lewis CB 5'10, 170 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8212 12 14.5 1.9% 2 0 0 4 0 0
Michael Downing WS 5'11, 175 Jr. NR NR 13 13.5 1.8% 0 0 1 0 0 0
Arico Evans SS 6'2, 204 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8176 12 5.5 0.7% 0 0 0 0 1 0
DeShawn Raymond CB 6'1, 188 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9001 11 3.0 0.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Niko Small FS 5'10, 180 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8482 12 2.5 0.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Steve Wesley CB 6'0, 198 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8796
Cyd Calvin CB 6'1, 175 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) NR
Tony James CB 5'10, 162 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8635
Jeff Gladney CB 6'0, 175 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8061
Markell Simmons FS 6'1, 200 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8680
KeShawn Somerville CB 5'10, 170 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8800
Innis Gaines S 6'2, 190 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8614

8. Don't even try

Texada was emerging as a standout cornerback when he got hurt. His injury meant CB duties went to Corry O'Meally on one side and a combination of Torrance Mosley and Julius Lewis (together: 2 TFLs, 7 PBUs) on the other. That O'Meally's gone hurts a bit, but with Texada back and Mosley and Lewis no longer a sophomore and freshman, respectively, things looked good on the edges heading into spring ball.

Lewis was lost for the season with a conditioning injury, however, which forced others like four-star sophomore DeShawn Raymond and redshirt freshman Jeff Gladney to step up. By all accounts, they did so.

The good news is that, even if corner is merely good, perhaps the best set of safeties in the country will be more than capable of helping out. Denzel Johnson combined 13.5 tackles for loss with nine passes defensed last year, and thanks to the return of Iloka, TCU has three seasoned pieces for the other two starting spots, plus JUCO Markell Simmons.

TCU's pass defense was as efficient as ever in 2015, ranking 10th in Passing Success Rate+. Inexperience led to a few more big-play glitches than normal; I don't expect that to continue.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Ethan Perry 66 39.0 4 22 27 74.2%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Jaden Oberkrom 92 62.4 56 1 60.9%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2016
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Jaden Oberkrom 59-60 11-14 78.6% 10-11 90.9%
Jonathan Song 5'10, 170 So. 1-1 0-0 N/A 0-0 N/A
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Returns Avg. TD
KaVontae Turpin KR 5'9, 153 So. 27 27.0 0
Kolby Listenbee KR 4 19.0 0
KaVontae Turpin PR 5'9, 153 So. 17 10.6 1
Category Rk
Special Teams S&P+ 18
Field Goal Efficiency 17
Punt Return Success Rate 68
Kick Return Success Rate 53
Punt Success Rate 85
Kickoff Success Rate 20

9. Losing Oberkrom hurts a lot

I can to some degree write off turnover on the offensive and defensive lines. I can explain why players like Boykin and Doctson won't be missed as much as we anticipated. But I cannot understate how important Jaden Oberkrom was to TCU. That he has graduated could hurt a lot.

You never know how good a new kicker will be -- it's almost a total crapshoot -- but Oberkrom was maybe the best long-ball kicker in the country (outside of Florida State's Roberto Aguayo, at least); TCU lost just three games in 2015-16, but that could have easily been five or six without him.

In KaVontae Turpin, TCU does return one electric special teams play-maker.

2016 Schedule & Projection Factors

2016 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. S&P+ Rk Proj. Margin Win Probability
3-Sep South Dakota State NR 27.8 95%
10-Sep Arkansas 17 -2.0 45%
17-Sep Iowa State 71 11.9 75%
23-Sep at SMU 98 12.9 77%
1-Oct Oklahoma 4 -8.8 31%
8-Oct at Kansas 112 18.7 86%
22-Oct at West Virginia 33 -3.0 43%
29-Oct Texas Tech 43 6.7 65%
5-Nov at Baylor 13 -10.2 28%
19-Nov Oklahoma State 23 0.6 51%
25-Nov at Texas 34 -3.0 43%
3-Dec Kansas State 67 11.2 74%
Projected wins: 7.1
Five-Year F/+ Rk 27.5% (18)
2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk 31 / 35
2015 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin* 0 / 4.6
2015 TO Luck/Game -1.8
Returning Production (Off. / Def.) 48% (29%, 68%)
2015 Second-order wins (difference) 10.0 (1.0)

10. This is a top-15 team

Every team has a list of ifs, the caveats that will make the difference between a disappointing season and an incredible one. Considering what TCU loses from last year's squad, I assumed the list of ifs separating the Horned Frogs from a conference title run would be pretty long. But it really isn't.

  • IF ... QB is between competent and solid ...
  • IF ... the offensive line is competent ...
  • IF ... injuries don't hit tackle and cornerback too hard ...

... then TCU is a Big 12 contender.

That's not a bad list, especially considering the potential at QB. And if the Frogs find another competent kicker to perhaps decide one or two close games, then they could be a Playoff contender again.

The numbers don't tell the same story. The way I create my S&P+ projections undersold how much talent TCU returns, especially on defense.

I used the numbers to introduce the idea that we might've been too high on TCU a year ago (and we were), but I'm going against them this time. Iffy projection or not, this is a top-15 team. The question is whether it can be even more.