They’ve come for Gary Patterson before. Texas, Baylor, Texas Tech, they’ve all turned over their coaching staffs at least once, some twice or three times while Patterson stays in Fort Worth, taking on all comers. If you’re waiting on the clock to strike midnight, you might be here a while.
After a 4-8 2013 season, Patterson’s Frogs rebounded to tie for the league title and posted a 12-1 record. After finished 6-7 in 2016, the Frogs went 11-3. Now it’s time for another rebound — this time after a 4-5 Big 12 finish. Patterson’s finished below .500 in the league three times, two times his Frogs finished the next year with seven or more conference wins. The Frogs finished a combined 23-4 in those two seasons.
If the Frogs are going to resurrect themselves again, they’ll need to do it in a new Big 12. Oklahoma is a national title contender; Texas is back, Oklahoma State is hard to handle, Baylor is improving, hell, even Iowa State fashions itself a contender. They’re coming for Gary again; he’s got ‘em right where he wants ‘em.
TCU will start one of four quarterbacks. Four. Last year’s starter for most of the season, Shawn Robinson transferred. For now, it seems Kansas State transfer Alex Delton might have the inside track for the job. It’s early yet, and getting any real information out of Patterson’s program is akin to getting launch codes from the Soviets.
Last year’s failings started with the failure to take care of the football and ended with overall inefficiency. Robinson, among 161 qualified passers last season, finished 138 in interception rate. Overall TCU finished -5 in turnover margin. Against Big 12 opponents, the Frogs converted just 35% of third downs, dead freaking last in the league, a ten-point dip from 2017’s conversion rate. The combined TCU quarterback rating dropped 30 points from the previous season.
Regardless of the starter, TCU needs new life at quarterback. In Patterson’s rebound years quarterback play has been a premium commodity with Trevone Boykin, and Kenny Hill playing at elite levels. When the quarterback play plummets back to average, TCU struggles. A name to watch is Justin Rogers, the former four-star recruit out of Bossier City. Rogers suffered a traumatic knee injury his senior season, in 2017, and he’s still limited to some degree two years later.
Max Duggan is another four-star signee, a true freshman from Counsel Bluffs, Iowa who could work his way into a starting role. If he found a way to get there before the opener, he’d be the first true freshman at quarterback to start a season under Patterson’s reign. I’m not sold on Delton. He couldn’t nail down the job at Kansas State, and in his three-plus years in Manhattan, he failed to complete better than 57% of his throws. He completed five touchdowns to four interceptions.
Statistically, Michael Collins played the sharpest of the 2018 quarterbacks. If you projected his numbers out over a twelve game schedule, he’s a top 50 quarterback. That’s ahead of players like Kellen Mond and Michael Brewer and light years ahead of where Robinson ended up in 2018.
If TCU can find a trigger man, the rest of the offense is reasonably well-stocked. Darius Anderson and Sewo Olonilua give the Frogs a Thunder and Lightening vibe in the backfield. Anderson is a homerun threat from anywhere on the turf if he can stay healthy, a big if, watch out.
Olonilua ran into a spot of bother in the offseason with a drug charge out of Walker County. That case is still pending. TCU is taking a wait and see approach with his status. He led the Frogs in rushing in 2018, and he’s a real downhill thumper at 6-3, 240 pounds. If depth becomes an issue, true freshman Daimarqua Foster is a big-time talent out of Wichita Falls who rushed for 100 touchdowns during his high school career.
At receiver Jalen Reagor is special. If he’s not the best receiver in a stacked Big 12, he’s not far off that pace. The Frogs have some misses at the receiving position. Bryson Jackson, Omar Manning, Kenedy Snell, and Chase Van Wagoner are all former TCU receivers of varying regard who are applying their services somewhere else. Still, there’s talent on the roster a wideout; if TCU can translate that potential into some form of production, they’ll be fine.
A name to watch in the receiving corps is Dylan Thomas. The Fort Worth product played in just one game last season, but OC Sonny Cumbie thinks he’s a difference-maker if he’s on the field.
TCU’s biggest offensive weapon might be an experienced offensive line. They led the Big 12 in fewest sacks allowed (16) and third-fewest tackles for loss allowed (73). Lucas Niang and Anthony McKinney are All-League caliber tackles and players like Austin Myers, Coy McMillon, and Kelton Hollins give the TCU lots of experience, versatility, and competition on the interior.
What does Sonny Want?
Cumbie helped transform TCU’s offensive attack a few year’s ago with his Air Raid principles merging with the dual-threat explosiveness of Boykin. A few seasons later and TCU might have the best running back duo in the league and a talented offensive line to boot. The biggest question might be whether Cumbie is willing to let the Frogs running game do the heavy lifting and take some pressure off the starting quarterback.
That approach would play into the hands of a TCU defense.
As a play-caller, Cumbie can fluctuate. He’s gone more run-heavy before, in the 2015 season for example when Boykin and Aaron Green were in the backfield. The defense dictates so much of Cumbie's approach. I wonder if, given the strengths of this team, whether Cumbie will come out and try to dictate to the defense.
From a biblical perspective, the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Last season the Lord plagued the Horned Frogs with a rash of season-ending injuries on the defensive side of the ball. This season he’s giving some of those players back.
The Frog must replace seven of their top eight tacklers from 2018 including All-Big 12 performer Ben Banogu who ran through the league’s tackles like Godzilla rampaging through Tokyo and multi-year contributors like Ty Summers. The good news is TCU gets a few seasoned defenders back. First and foremost safety Innis Gaines who appeared on his way to an All-Conference season before missing the final seven games due to injury.
Safeties seem to grow on trees around the TCU campus, or at least Patterson has some secret sauce that helps develop them. Vernon Scott isn’t a returning starter, but the senior from Mansfield Summit is no newcomer to the position. Trevon Moehrig played lights out at special teams last season, and he’ll compete for the other safety spot. A corner at Smithson Valley, Moehrig gives Patterson’s 4-2-5 coverage flexibility.
Another significant return is the big man himself, junior Ross Blacklock, who missed all of 2018 due to a dreaded Achilles injury. The freshman All-American and Big 12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year in 2017 is back to his old self according to early returns from camp. Blacklock pairs with Honorable Mention All-Big 12 performer Corey Bethley to make the interior of the defense formidable.
That’s the good news; the bad news is the Frogs are starting over at defensive end after losing Banogu, Summers, and L.J. Collier. Technically, Summers moved back to linebacker during the season, but whether at linebacker or defensive end, Summer’s absence is significant. South Carolina transfer Shameik Blackshear could help along with Ochaun Mathis a rangy redshirt who played in four games last year.
At linebacker Montrel Wilson missed all but one game in 2018 due to injury. He started thirteen games over his career, but injuries have had a significant impact on his time in Fort Worth. He and Garret Wallow could be one of the more dynamic linebacker duos in the conference. Wallow looks like the next great TCU conversion linebacker after moving from safety last season. If you want to find the ball, follow Wallow.
The cornerback position took a hit when Noah Daniels went down with an injury this week. Daniels was competing to start alongside All-Big 12 performer Jeff Gladney. Gladney is a lockdown guy, so the opposite corner will be under a microscope. The good news is Julius Lewis, and Keenan Reed are both seniors with lots of live-action under their belts. Lewis started all 13 games last year and held his own.
The depth in the secondary is very young, but again, Patterson knows what he’s doing so we’ll defer to the most tenured member of the Big 12 coaching fraternity. Redshirts like Atanza Vongor and Nook Bradford are highly regarded athletes and should be the next crop of secondary playmakers.
The 2018 defense led the Big 12 in total defense, passing defense and finished second in points allowed and yet this team fought to win seven games. The reality is unless the Frog offense can get its act together, the Frogs can have a similar defensive output with the same win total. If, however, a quarterback can emerge, this defense makes the Frogs a title contender.
Jonathan Song returns after connecting on 75% of his kicks last season. Cole Bunce was set to lend support, but he is recovering from an offseason car accident and might not be available to contribute in 2019. Bunce handled kickoff duties last season.
The Frogs went to Australia for a punter, as is the custom these days. They came back with Aussie style punter Jordy Sandy, the number 1 kicking prospect from the land down under.
The Purdue game should scare Frog fans. Jeff Brohm’s Boilers will look to make their reputation off a non-conference win over a Texas-based squad.
October is a telling month for Patterson and the Frogs, they open with a trip to up and coming Iowa State, get a bye week to get healthy, take on Kansas State, then an epic showdown with Texas. Last season Texas claimed proof of concept with a win over TCU in Austin, this season the game is about more than that as the Horns look to restore further what they view as the proper view of things with a win Fort Worth.
If TCU can beat Texas in a marquee home game, they can stifle Texas’ perceived momentum against their rivals, and the Frogs can knock Texas out of conference title contention. A loss to Horns and the rest of the season gets interesting. Baylor is on the come, and a roadie to Oklahoma State could take the wind out of TCU’s sails.
A win over Texas might propel this team to a Big 12 title game and a possible New Year’s Six date. There’s a lot at stake which is how it should be.
If things break right, TCU can see another rebound year with at least nine wins. If the season takes a turn, TCU might have a six-win ceiling.
|8/31/19||Arkansas-Pine Bluff||SWAC||W||The annual SWAC opener.|
|9/14/19||at Purdue||Big Ten||W||A bear trap game in West Lafayette.|
|9/21/19||SMU||American||W||The dominance of the skillet continues.|
|9/28/19||Kansas||Big 12||W||It's Kansas after all.|
|10/5/19||at Iowa State||Big 12||L||This is an early litmus test for both programs.|
|10/19/19||at Kansas State||Big 12||W||Manhattan isn't so scary.|
|10/26/19||Texas||Big 12||L||Texas is circling this one.|
|11/2/19||at Okie State||Big 12||W||Another pickem game on the road.|
|11/9/19||Baylor||Big 12||L||Baylor has the edge, but can they seal the deal.|
|11/16/19||at Texas Tech||Big 12||W||Road teams have won the last 4 in the series.|
|11/23/19||at Oklahoma||Big 12||L||Norman is never kind.|
|11/29/19||West Virginia||Big 12||W||Frogs looks to avenge last year's blowout.|
Checking our Work
So you’re asking yourself, yeah, but what do you know? You’re right, not much, so in the interest of full disclosure, let’s look at our predicted wins in years past vs. the actual wins. We hang our hat on transparency and grammatical indifference.