Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: TCU Horned Frogs

TCU Horned Frogs
The Horned Frogs have taken a bit of  a step back from the elite clubs in the Big 12 as of late, and they may be just on the outside of elite status once again in 2017. Gary Patterson is too good a coach to allow the Frogs to sit out of the conference title chase for too long, and we could see the blocks to building back up emerge in certain areas this fall.
What To Be Excited About: Offense
Kenny Hill returns at QB after an up and down season in 2016. Hill did manage to pass for 3208 yards and 17 TDs, but still tossed 13 INTs. We have seen Hill at his best in the past when he was still at Texas A&M, and you have to believe that some of that swagger is in there somewhere, but he has lost confidence. If he can get it back, he could be one of the better play makers in the nation. He just has to flip that switch. Hill did manage to score ten more times on his feet, and that aspect of his game cannot be ignored.
Kyle Hicks should get a bigger load to carry in 2017 to take some pressure off of Hill at QB. Hicks was very good at times last fall, as he rushed for 1042 yards and 12 TDs, while averaging 5.13 yards per carry. He needs to increase his carries from just over 15 per game to around 20 per game to become more effective in keeping the offense on the rails.
Darius Anderson had limited experience as a freshman last season, but has some serious big play ability, as he averaged 8.48 yards per carry on just 27 touches. He should start to see more time as a sophomore. Sewo Olonilua, and Trevorris Johnson both return as well to add depth.
Taj Williams,KaVaontae Turpin, Ty Slanina, and Emanuel Porter all return to start at WR from the bowl game, as does John Giarse, who finished second in receiving last fall. Williams racked up 702 yards on 39 catches, and is a big time deep threat who averaged 19 yards per catch. Hicks is a big time threat as a receiver out of the backfield as well, catching 47 balls a last fall. In total, six different Frogs caught at least 20 passes a year ago, and the top seven receivers in total all return.
The line returns four senior starters this fall as well in LT Joseph Noteboom, LG Patrick Morris, C Austin Schlotmann, and RG Matt Pryor.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
With Kenny Hill at QB, you just do not know what to expect. He has been a hot starter during his career who fades as the season wears on, and you just don't know where his confidence level is from week to week. I believe that he has the tools to succeed at the position and in this offense, but he has to believe that as well. Foster Sawyer did not impress last fall in limited backup duty, so if Hill cannot go, there is really nobody proven with any experience behind him.
The RT spot is open, and the primary candidate for the job will by far be the kid on the block. Lucas Niang, a sophomore, was the understudy last fall, and is in line for first crack at the spot.
The PK job may be a battle in camp as well. Brandon Hatfield was not exactly getting it done last fall, as he only hit 13/19 FG attempts. That opened the door for Ryan Graf, who hit 5/6 attempts. Graf may have the inside track to win the job in camp this fall as a sophomore.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
TCU normally has had the trademark of being a defensively staunch team, but this unit has suffered much like defenses across the Big 12 in recent times. TCU allowed 28 points per game last fall, which is something that needs to be shored up this season.
Improvement will have to start with the LBs in the 4-2-5 set that TCU employs. Both backers return in 2017 in Montrel Wilson at MLB, and Travin Howard at SLB. Howard led the team with a whopping 130 tackles last fall, as the defensive front got worn down and allowed plays to continue onto the second level. Howard finished with three TFLs on the year, and 72 of his tackles were solo jobs. Ty Summers, who was not listed as a starter, and likely will be when camp role around, finished second on the team with 121 tackles. Sammy Douglas will also be heard from after a 60 tackle effort last fall. Alec Dunham and Paul Whitmill, return to add depth as well.
The five member secondary returns four starters this fall, and should have one of their stronger units in some time. Niko Small is back at FS, while Nick Orr is back at WS. Orr finshed with 86 tackles last fall, good for third on the team, while Small finished with 83 tackles. They also combined for 15 PBUs on the season to go with six combined INTs. Ranthony Texada and Julius Lewis also both return at CB. Texada finished with seven PBUs, while Lewis played in just six games, collecting 16 tackles. Texada added 46 tackles as well. Five key reserves will return in the secondary as well, giving the Frogs one of the deepest defensive backfields in the nation.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
The defensive line wore down plenty last fall, and that unit is an area of concern once again, as only one of four starters returns this fall. Joseph Broadnax, a DT, is the lone returning starter. He finished with just 23 tackles last season, and was not much of a force in the backfield. Tipa Galeai and Brandon Bowen are in a battle at one DE spot, while Mat Boesan and Isaiah Chanbers are battling at the other. With Aaron Curry gone at DT, look for the battle to rage in camp between Chris Bradley, Ross Blacklock, and LJ Collier to replace him.
Adam Nunez was the starting Punter as a freshman last season, but did not blow the doors off of Amon Carter Stadium with his work. He averaged just over 39 yards per punt, and will need to show more success this fall if the defense has the ability to wear down once again. They will need all of the real estate that they can get their hands on.
2017 Schedule: 9/2 Jackson State, 9/9 at Arkansas, 9/16 SMU, 9/23 at Oklahoma State, 10/7 West Virginia, 10/14 at Kansas State, 10/21 Kansas, 10/28 at Iowa State, 11/4 Texas, 11/11 at Oklahoma, 11/18 at Texas Tech, 11/24 Baylor
Final Overview
TCU has enough on offense to make some noise in Big 12 play this fall, but the schedule is rather brutal. A three game stretch with Arkansas, Oklahoma State, and West Virginia, with the first two being on the road, will help define what kind of team this will be, and that SMU game in the middle may be no joke as well. If TCU can get to the midpoint of the season in one piece, and not too much worse for wear, they could really be a dark horse, but giving up 28 points per game, or more, will not get it done, nor will an erratic Kenny Hill at QB. This season can either go very well, or quite poorly, depending on those two major areas of concern.

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