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2013 Fierce-40 Previews: #26

by DJ Boyer on Jul. 21, 2013

2013 Fierce 40 Previews

 

#26 TCU Horned Frogs

 

2012 Recap:

A 7-6 record is not what TCU has been accustomed to over the last 10 years but it was their first as a member of the Big 12. The defense finished in the top 20 nationally as they seem to do every year and there are plenty of bright spots on offense to leave fans thinking the second year in the Big 12 will go even better than the first.

Coaching:

Gary Patterson has been at the school for 12 years and has 116 wins to show for it but he knew there would be about a 2-3 year adjustment period. TCU is recruiting even better players now that they are members of a big time conference. Patterson is one of the best in the nation catering his schemes to the strengths of the players on his roster.

 

Offense

Quarterbacks/Running Backs:

If you want to know the value of quarterback Casey Pachall just look at last season. Pachall was the highest rated passer at the FBS level through 4 games and TCU was off to a great start at 4-0. Pachall however got into some legal trouble with a DUI and sought treatment for substance abuse, missing the last 9 games of the season. TCU limped to a 3-6 finish clearly missing their most effective offensive weapon. Pachall has been starting since Andy Dalton left for the NFL, so he has plenty of experience along with enough mobility to keep opposing defenses true and honest with their schemes. Pachall has the tools to be an NFL quarterback but you have to wonder how far the off the field issues will affect his draft status. Pachall wasn’t the only injured player on offense at a skill position.

Waymon James was injured in the second game of the season after leading TCU in rushing during 2011. James is also back in the fold and it will help a very strong running attack. B.J. Catalon led the team in rushing last season after splitting time with Matthew Tucker, so this should be an even stronger rushing attack. Look for TCU to use plenty of two back sets and also have Catalon split out as a receiver from time to time.

Best Draft Prospect: Casey Pachall QB 7th Round /UFA 2014.

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

TCU lost its leader at the wide receiver spot but nearly everyone else is back, so depth is not an issue. What TCU seems to lack is a true #1 target that they can go to when they need a big catch or the game is on the line. Brandon Carter and LaDarius Brown show potential and were great compliments to the departed Josh Boyce but the technical aspects of the game for both these players needs to improve. Route running and blocking is inconsistent but speed is there and both players can flat out fly, making them short threats over the middle and deep threats down the field. Deante Gray is a receiver who can also fly and will be seeing more time and possibly even starting as TCU will use three receiver sets predominantly.

Stephen Bryant and Griffin Gilbert will be the tight ends and it looks like they will be called upon to do more blocking then receiving with a thin offensive line. This will ensure that TCU gets back to pounding the football with authority. I don’t see an obvious receiver draft pick on this team at this time but with the speed the receivers possess that could change in the coming years if we see overall games become more polished.

Best Draft Prospect: N/A.

 

Offensive Line:

TCU has produced solid yet unspectacular lineman for the NFL on a consistent basis. The line for this season seems to lack a big play star and the usual depth we see is not there. Tayo Fabuluje certainly has the mechanics and the size to be an NFL prospect and I have him listed as a 6th rounder for 2015. What we need to see from Fabuleje is better conditioning. He seems to wear down in games or just gets lazy with technique, standing too high, attacking rushers too high, not getting full arm extension, and losing balance and leverage. Things like this will happen to all players, especially as a game wears on but it seemed to happen too often to Fabuluje for coaches to feel comfortable and it is something I hope he worked hard on this season because he does have the tools needed for the NFL. Eric Tausch is a great center who could be first team All Big 12 and should at the very least get an NFL camp invite as an undrafted free agent if he is not drafted outright. The biggest concern is at the guard spots where TCU has a pair of first year starters in Michael Thompson and Joey Hunt. The line is a little thin and undersized behind the starters and again a reason for some concern and why the tight ends will do more blocking than catching for this team.

Best Draft Prospect: Tayo Fabuluje OT 6th Round 2015.

 

Defense

TCU ranked 16th in total defense in the FBS for 2012 and they were top defensive unit in the Big 12. Devonte Fields is not only an NFL prospect, he is a potential franchise type player that I relish watching on tape. At only 240-245 pounds, Fields will have to bulk up if he wants to be a defensive end at the next level or if he will wind up a linebacker. Fields has the ability to play wherever needed with the team that will take him. Fields looks like a fringe 1st/2nd round prospect for 2015 if he declares early and he may decide to come back a s senior if he wants to cement his status as a 1st rounder and possible first end player off the board in his draft class. Jon Koontz gets the unenviable task of following Stansly Maponga, who has taken his talents to the NFL.  It will be easier with a talent like Fields on the other side and the returning starters in the middle, Chucky Hunter and Davion Pierson. This looks like a chance for Koontz to step up and make some big plays while many teams will be focused on the big names surrounding him.

Best Draft Prospect: Devonte Fields DE 1st/2nd Round 2016 (possible 2015 early entrant).

                       

Linebackers:

Joel Hasley was second on the team with 79 tackles and is the top returning tackler for the defense, bringing back nine starts overall. Hasley had 8 tackles for loss and although he does have limited range his instincts are genuine and he shows leadership characteristics on the field that seems to rub off on his teammates. TCU plays with only two linebackers in its primary formation and uses five defensive backs with a three safety set. Hasley will work with Marcus Mallett in most formations. Mallett is not as polished as Hasley but he seems to have a knack for creating turnovers and is always trying to strip the ball or make a big play. This is sometimes at the expense of making the simple tackle though. Jonathan Anderson will be a backup at both spots and moves in from the secondary where he was used as a blitzing specialist who would move around the field. Anderson is also in to help in pass coverage as Hasley and Mallett are more adept to stopping the run.

Best Draft Prospect: N/A

 

Secondary:

Jason Verrett would have been taken in the first two rounds last year but he was not guaranteed a 1st round draft grade, something that seems more likely this season with a weaker overall cornerback class. Verrett put up 6 interceptions and another 22 pass breakups meaning he was not only one of the best cornerbacks in all of FBS but had the statistics to show it as he made the most of his opportunities. The only knock on Verrett is his rather small stature at 5’10” and 180 pounds. No question Verrett will have to work on his upper body strength for the next level but he has shown remarkable durability and by all accounts is one of the easiest athletes to coach on the team. The other four starters in the secondary totaled 235 tackles last season, so big game situations is something that TCU has plenty of experience with. Free safety Elisha Olabode is the only other senior in the group aside from Verrett and he looks like he has a chance at making an NFL roster. Defensive End Devonte Fields was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2012 and in 2013 his primary competition for the award will probably come from teammate Verrett.

Best Draft Prospect: Jason Verrett CB 1st Round 2014.

 

Special Teams:

Deante Gray showed promise as the punt returner last year in his first season, and he may have that role on kickoffs this season, but he will likely split time with Brandon Carter. Carter was the starter last season but since he is now a starting wide receiver his workload should be reduced. Jaden Oberkrom and Ethan Perry both performed well at kicker and punter and were just freshman  With another big year Oberkrom could be a prospect for 2016 at the kicker spot.

Best Draft Prospect: N/A

 

Schedule:

October looks like the toughest part of the schedule for TCU with games against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas with both games against the Oklahoma schools coming on the road. Also the August 31st game against LSU is at a neutral site and a tough test to start the season. 8 wins looks like something TCU can do easily and reaching double digits is not out of the question if Pachall returns to form and the defense performs at its steady high level.

 

Draft Outlook:

There aren’t as many prospects on TCU as many of the teams around at this point in the countdown but TCU does have a pair of definite 1st rounders on this squad that have a chance to be very special at the NFL level.

 

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