Things didn't go to plan in 2013 for TCU. Injuries, suspensions, and the Big Bad Big 12 all took their toll on the Frogs. Gary Patterson is too good to be kept down for long. Expectations are tempered in Fort Worth, but that's when TCU is at its most dangerous. Let's figure out how. The bell's ringing get to class, it's summer school in Cowtown.
Questions that need answering...
How are the Air Frogs coming along?
The biggest editions to the 2014 TCU campaign come in the form of three newcomers, co-offensive coordinators Doug Meacham and Sunnie Cumbie, along with Texas A&M transfer Matt Joeckel. Meacham and Cumbie bring a pass first identity to the Frogs. Meacham comes to Fort Worth after stints at Oklahoma State and Houston, Cumbie helped run Tech's offense under Kliff Kingsbury.
For things to run smoothly during the transition to the new offensive system, the Frogs will need better quarterback play. That's where Joeckel comes in, allegedly. Joeckel was a spot starter last season while Manziel dealt with some off the field issues, and he was pretty serviceable in a system that is very similar to what the new OC's will install.
For those of you scoring at home, if Jamiell Showers continues to start at UTEP, Matt Davis starts at SMU, and Joeckel wins the job at TCU there will be three former Aggie signal callers starting in the Round-Up. We call this the Manziellian effect.
Joeckel will have competition, assuming Trevone Boykin stays at quarterback and doesn't move to receiver. Boykin has started off and on for the past two years but his effectiveness at the position is limited. The Bud would hope that things turn out well for Boykin, he's been put in some tough spots after being called on to start while Casey Paschall went into rehab in 2012 and after splitting time with Paschall last season while playing receiver, sometimes down to down.
Let's assume Joeckel nails down the starting position, as a senior transfer, he serves as a bridge to 2015 when any of three QB's might be ready to assume starting duty. If that can work, then Boykin can dedicate himself to his new position out wide and Meacham and Cumbie have their experienced hand for 2014.
We're assuming a lot, but hey, the Frogs can dream can't they?
Is Devonte Fields ready to be back?
Here's what's scary about 2013 TCU, they were pretty big and bad on defense without arguably the best defensive player in the Big 12. Devonte Fields went from suspended to injured. In his stead, players like Chucky Hunter, Davion Pierson, Terrell Lathan and James McFarland came on. They all return for what will be a salty defensive crew. With defensive geniuses Gary Patterson and Dick Bumpus on the staff, TCU won't get out-schemed by anyone.
If Fields returns to the 2012 form that made him the newcomer of the year in the Big 12, TCU could be downright dominate. If he doesn't then TCU will still be really good. Fields came out of the spring as the 2nd string end on the right side behind Lathan. The Bud doesn't see him sitting second fiddle.
The concern would be the off-field issues and the lack of production in the little playing time Fields had. We can chalk the lack of production up to the foot injury. Fields was suspended for two games the for the vague "Violation of Team Rules" in 2013. In January he was robbed at gunpoint at his home near TCU's campus, however he refused to press charges against the three assailants. That...seemed...odd.
Oh well, to each his own. If Fields returns to form, he'll be a handful. If he doesn't, he may not last in the Patterson dog house or he'll be a decent rotation guy.
Can the offensive line, you know, block?
TCU ranked 114th in power success rate, 102nd in standard down line yards per carry, 75th in sack rate, and 89th in stuff rate. I don't know what all that means but it sounds pretty bad.
Three starters return for 2014 plus a 2012 starter that transferred briefly. That's either great news or a sign of continued mediocrity.
At tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai and junior Aviante Collins are penciled in. Vaitai had 7 starts last season and he'll be pushed by high regarded redshirt freshman Joseph Noteboom. A name to watch is Tayo Fabuluje a senior who started in 2012, then transferred to BYU last season and now returns. He'll challenge Collins on the left side.
Brady Folz and Jamelle Naff are your starters at guard out of the spring. Frank Kee is a large unit at 6-4 345 who'll have a say in the depth chart as well. Folz is a Swiss army knife up front having seen action at each interior spot. He's settled at right guard where he'll be back up by junior Bobby Thompson.
Speaking of center, Joey Hunter and his 13 starts return at center. The Rimington Trophy watch list member is the glue of the front for TCU. The junior from El Campo is the best of the bunch and if you're looking for a bell cow, having one at center is preferable.
The new offensive scheme will help the line thanks to the pace and quickness that the ball gets out of the quarterback's hand. Still, if TCU can't move people off the line in the run game it will be another tough year for the Frog's offense.
Who's that guy?
Ty Slanina WR So. 6-0 193 East Bernard
Slanina comes out of the spring as the starter at the "H" receiver slot. We don't know what that means, but we do know that Slanina will get lots of chances to catch balls in the Meacham offense.
Slanina's catch rate when targeted was close to 70% and with the loss of Ladarius Brown and question marks surrounding Brandon Carter, he'll get more targets. Slanina was a do everything player for East Bernard and has legitimate playmaking abilities. The new offense will certainly suit him.
His buddies will like it too. Josh Doctson, David Porter, Deante' Gray, Ja' Jaun Story and a slew of other receivers have to giddy about the prospects of Air Frog. Another guy to watch is Jordan Moore a big time burner who moved to receiver this spring. Oh and Boykin who would benefit from a season as a wide receiver rather than a season as a slash and dash guy.
Slanina could follow in the footsteps of other great slot receivers in this system like Wes Welker and Eric Morris. The fact that those are both undersized white guys is purely coincidence. Total coincidence.