Pre-Snap Read's take on TCU

Paul Myerberg says few head coaches have done more for their programs than Gary Patterson. That's almost unassailably true.

Paul Myerberg has published an excellent review and analysis of TCU’s 2011 and 2012 seasons, at his must-read blog Pre-Snap Read. Let’s dissect it.

2011 recap: "T.C.U.’s rebuilding season would have been a banner season for the overwhelming majority of the F.B.S." Yes, it would have been. And it would have been for much of TCU’s history, as well. You know this ain’t your father’s TCU when 11-2 to feel a little underwhelming.

About the coach: "Few head coaches in football mean more to their respective program." Absolutely. If CGP pilots TCU to the top of the Big 12 before retiring, TCU needs to rename the stadium after the coach. He was key in putting an exciting enough team to generate the boosterism for it, he was key in fundraising for it, and he’s been absolutely key in maintaining a high level program across three complete roster turnovers. A fourth is underway.

"Thirteen games later, Pachall is a Heisman contender." Really? Pachall is gonna have to double his production from 2011 to approach the Heisman. Is that even remotely likely?

"Pachall’s evenness as a first-year starter makes him one of the up-and-coming players in college football – not just at quarterback, but across the board. So what does he do for an encore? He’ll be even more polished as a passer; his numbers should increase in the more pass-heavy Big 12, even if the Frogs will want to retain the offense’s recent balance."

Let’s hope that’s accurate; it probably needs to be for TCU to win 9 or more games this season.

"All Pachall needs to do is get his head straight, ridding himself of the off-field distractions," that’s kind, "before joining the nation’s elite class of players at his position. Pachall’s one of the new guys, but I’d put him no lower than fourth on the totem pole of Big 12 quarterbacks." And that’s why I don’t see the Frogs’ signal caller even as a dark horse Heisman candidate—there’re three more in the same conference. TCU is going to have to knock off some big teams with heroics from Pachall, a la RG3, to win Pachall a trip to New York before the bowls. Possible? Maybe. Likely? I’m less certain about that.

"T.C.U. is young, proven and explosive both in the backfield and at wide receiver." Yes, and yes. These two squads on the team generate most of the high starting poll positions for the Frogs, and almost justifiably so. More on that almost below. Myerberg doesn’t highlight LaDarius Brown more than, "Keep an eye on Brown, who will be special." It’s a careful endorsement that reminds us Brown is yet unproven. But it leaves the door open for an, "I told you so," later. Clever.

Offensive tackle is Myerberg’s problem position for TCU. It’s hard to argue with that—I’d say linebacker is as big a problem.

"With [tackles] Horn and Dunbar gone, offensive line coach Eddie Williamson is down to junior Bobby Thompson and redshirt freshman Eric Tausch at right tackle – unless Dunbar gets his schoolwork in order, one of the two will be taking on a huge role for this offense."

Which is close to the facts on the ground. Thompson is a redshirt freshman—which is potentially worse than what Myerberg has—and the freshmen are really pushing the older players.

At left tackle, Myerberg is high on Tayo; again, no mention of the freshmen. Big V is the backup, we think, at this time. All told, that’s a young group of tackles, and while that’s good news for 2013, I’m not sold that this group can keep Pachall upright in 2012.

"The line’s saving grace is a strong interior." This is true, as long as we’re talking about the first team. But we hear of freshmen backing these gents up, and without Tausch at center, the center-quarterback exchange has been dicey. Again, this line looks built for 2013.

And that’s frightening for the short term.

TCU's plan to emphasize the tight end more escapes mention in this season's review. It's not unrelated, I think, to TCU's youth at tackle, and it may augur a bigger-looking season from Casey Pachall. Because we can say so little about the change, other than that we can't wait to see it play out, commentary suffers.

Myerberg highlights TCU’s defense’s multi-year decline against the run, beginning in 2009. It’s not been noted much elsewhere, probably because the meltdown in the secondary last season, but it is real, and a perceptive starting place for discussing the defense in 2012. "T.C.U. must get back to its dominating ways up front to help this secondary combat the Big 12’s offensive potency in the passing game." That’s correct, and although Myerberg is correct to state that, "this defensive front is still very young." and also correct that, "Bumpas has enough weapons at his disposal [at defensive end]." He does; Matt Anderson, John Koontz, and Devonte Fields all are good backups for Maponga and Forrest; there’s every reason to expect better pass rush from this group than last year.

Inside the personnel is less proven. Myerberg calls tackle David Johnson "the most impressive youngster on this team over the second half of last season." Perhaps; Jon Lewis was the most impressive in the first half of the season, I’d say, and with Chuck Hunter and a full year of development, these three are going to be solid in the middle. Hopefully Ray Burns doesn’t tail off again, like last season; and suddenly the issue is not ones or twos, but threes. We hear good things about some freshmen tackles, which Myerburg misses. He does get the main idea, however,

"Based on youth and potential, this line has the pieces to eventually lead T.C.U. back to its high standard; I just wonder how long it will take, and whether T.C.U. will, at some point this season, regain its place among the best run-stopping teams in the country."

I think TCU’s defensive line (and offensive line, see below) are going to perform at all-conference levels, next year. There will be growing pains this year, especially on offense.

Myerberg skips the linebackers on the way to the secondary, which he introduces with this bracing stat: "T.C.U. gave up 23 touchdowns through the air last fall – five fewer than the Frogs did from 2008-10 combined." And then the hopeful news, "T.C.U. lost four starters, including all three starting safeties in this defense’s 4-2-5 base set. Now watch the pass defense improve." And that’s exactly my feeling—the replacements this year are going to outshine their graduated senior leaders last year.

Myerberg hasn’t heard that Travoskey Garrett is out for the year, and also that Zach Jackson is turning heads. But this is forgivable.

I would highlight the attrition at linebacker more than Myerberg. He doesn’t seem concerned; I am. It’s been good to hear Paul Dawson is doing well; and that Joel Hasley and Danny Heiss are not mistakes; and that the freshmen are progressing... but there is still exactly one proven linebacker on the team. One. That’s a big, scary deal.

The summary is bracing. "The young linemen, linebackers and defensive backs really need to come together before October." Which is another way of saying the entire defense must improve, and quickly. Which is true, and ought to give Frog fans pause before planning a Thanksgiving night celebration of the team’s first win in Austin since LBJ was president.

Myerberg lauds the special teams, and doesn’t mention Oberkrom or Perry. Weird.

Here’s the summary for the whole review,

"In all, T.C.U. is one of five teams I can see winning the Big 12. To do so, the Frogs would need to put forth a vintage defensive effort to go with this potentially explosive offense – and the offense needs it own line to gel. Bringing in coaches like Glasgow and Shannon will help the defense, but that won’t be enough: T.C.U. is very good, potentially 10-win good, but not yet ready to move past Oklahoma, Texas and rest of the league’s top group and earn a B.C.S. bowl bid. And if you don’t think it can get there, well, you don’t know T.C.U."

That’s what respect means to me, and it may be the best summation of what Gary Patterson has built.

There’s a lot on the line in TCU’s inaugural Big 12 season. The crew the Frogs will field in these games has a lot of upside; I think they will capture more of it in 2013 than in ’12, but it’s not impossible that they’ll capture enough of it this season to win 9 or 10 games. Given that Myerberg ranks the Frogs 22nd, I think he agrees.

All told, it’s an exciting time to be a Frog fan.

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