TCU enters 2018 with several questions, but if they find sufficient answers, the Frogs might contend for a Big 12 title. They kicked off spring practice this week to start looking for said answers; we have a few thoughts.
QB Battle, the Prequel
Shawn Robinson will get plenty of reps this spring, the rising sophomore from DeSoto backed up Kenny Hill last season, and he's the odds-on favorite to start next year, provided four-star incoming freshman Justin Rogers doesn't step in. Rogers is participating in throwing drills after a devastating knee injury cut his senior season short. He's expected to be full speed by fall camp.
In the meantime, TCU focuses on Robinson and a backup battle between veteran Grayson Muehlstein and transfer Michael Collins. Collins came to campus after a stint at Ivy League member Penn. Early reviews are favorable for Collins and might mean that TCU's quarterback depth is better than its ever been.
That's all well and good, but one of those players has to trot out and take snaps this fall. Robinson started once last year, against Texas Tech. Sonny Cumbie narrowed the playbook for Robinson in that outing TCU attempted its fewest passes since 2012, but Robinson has all the tools to run TCU's offense competently.
He's a more gifted and willing runner than Hill, not as fast, but he's a load. He's got a big-time arm as well. He'll need to work on his accuracy, but he makes all the throws necessary and put them on target if his footwork improves.
Rogers, if healthy, could be a game changer. TCU coaches are certainly thrilled with his addition. He's a better athlete than anyone else on the roster, provided his knee cooperates. The fall might offer some surprises, but TCU will be able to figure out how Collins fits into the mix this spring.
Rebuilt Up Front
Whoever's taking snaps for TCU, the offensive line will be almost entirely reconstructed. Joseph Noteboom, Austin Schlottmann, Matt Pryor, and Patrick Morris are gone, leaving three to four openings on the offensive front.
Cordel Iwuagwu is back at guard with sixteen starts under his belt, and Lucas Niang is back at right tackle with ten career starts, all last season.
The Frogs have talent waiting, but it's mostly untested. David Bolisomi and Austin Meyers are both young talented tackles. Bolisomi moved to the U.S. from Africa in the sixth grade and by the time he left Denton Ryan 24/7 rated him the ninth best tackle in the state. Meyers chose TCU over Clemson, OU, and just about anyone else you could think of.
Inside Kelton Hollins will get a shot at center, he's played tight end in specific packages. At 6-2, his length might be an issue, but recruiting services rated him the best center in Louisiana as a high school player. Trey Elliot's seen action at guard, injuries cut last season short, but he made two starts in 2016. After that TCU will be auditioning a lot of youth to fill out the depth chart for fall camp.
Travin Howard continued the lineage of great TCU linebackers under Gary Patterson. His longevity was remarkable, with 318 career stops, the most under Patterson. Gone as well is Sammy Douglas who provided depth and stepped up in a pinch in most situations.
Ty Summers' move back to linebacker helps, he moved around last season, including at defensive end. He'll slide into the strong side position Howard vacated. After Summers the Frogs are relying on Montrel Wilson to stay healthy. If he's able to do so, TCU should be fine. If not, Patterson will have to use his old tricks, namely moving a safety inside, to provide depth. Garret Wallow might be the most likely candidate for a change.
TCU has to replace two significant contributors, Ranthony Texada and Nick Orr. Both were All-Big 12 last season with Texada one of the best cover corners in the league. Those two are responsible for over 80 starts over the previous three years.
Behind them are a couple of young players and not a ton of depth. Tony James started twice in 2017, and he heads into his senior seasons with a chance to step right in, but you can't just plug and play a replacement of Texada. Texada's absence will open up half the field for opponents.
Orr was as steady as death and taxes. He was always there. Finding that consistency is a stretch, but Markell Simmons and Vernon Scott will give it a shot. Scott is a bigger version at safety while Simmons, a senior, has a bit more experience.
A name to watch is true freshman Atanza Vongor from South Grand Prairie. He's a four-star recruit with length, a lot of dog in him, and a ton of upside. He'll get on the field somewhere this fall either at safety or perhaps linebacker. Bama, Clemson, and Georgia all beat a path to his door.
In the Big 12 you can either cover/contain, or you get toasted. These fifteen practices are essential to figure out if TCU can do either.