The line was a serious question mark for TCU at the start of last season as behemoth LT (and half of TCU's weaponized name crew with Tank Carder) Marcus Cannon went off to the NFL leaving a pair of Freshmen competing at right tackle to compliment All-MWC Guard Blaize Foltz and senior center James Fry. Foltz is gone this year after making second team All-Big 12 and being picked up as an undrafted free agent for the Saints and Fry is graduated as well, meaning this could be a year of transition for the line.
Or it could be better than last year. Despite his all-conference nod, the lasting mental image I have of Blaize Foltz is his unnecessary hold which called back what would have been Trevone Boykin's game tying touchdown run against Oklahoma. That's probably not entirely fair, as Blaize did have a great TCU career, but I don't think the line will be significantly weaker without him. The same could not be said for James Fry, as I am always a tremendous fan of having a senior at center- the position on the line with the most responsibility and the most difficult line position to learn. Gary Patterson may share my love of senior centers though, as LG Eric Tausch moves over to take the center spot and the role of leader of the line. Although he hasn't played much center before, he has had three prior years in the TCU system which should make him well versed in all of the line responsibilities and lets backup center Joey Hunt take another year to learn the system before he steps into the starting role as a junior next year.
The cliche goes that "The best thing about Freshmen is that they become sophomores" will be tested elsewhere on the line, as Sophomores will be filling three spots on the line (and are the main backups at two more)- Aviante Collins has moved over to left tackle after starting and playing well at right tackle last year, and sophomore Jamelle Naff is the current depth chart leader to take over Blaize Foltz's position- though don't sleep on junior Michael Thompson who is huge but is likely carrying a bit of bad weight. If he drops down to 330ish by fall practice and shows the ability to pull he may end up being the guy there. The closest position battle is on the left guard side, where Blaize Foltz's little brother is currently trailing after fellow Sophomore Joey Hunt. Foltz does have the size advantage though, as well as an extra year in the system redshirting, so don't look for the LG position to be settled for certain until the last depth chart pre-LSU.
On the right side of the line we have TCU's trio of spectacular names, who have all of the Big 12 playcallers holding their breaths that they won't do anything so spectacular or catastrophic that they have to risk pronouncing their many syllables. Tayo Fabuluje is your junior starter while the massively powerful but still raw sophomore Halapoulivaati Vaitai is the backup and Eason Fromayan completes the triumvirate. Fabuluje was good at tackle for the Frogs last year and should benefit from the lesser pass rushing powers who defenses tend to line up against right tackles.
One of the big comments going into the Rose Bowl which all frog fans remember is the size of the Wisconsin line, and there was much fretting about whether or not the Frogs would have any success against a line that averaged over 300 pounds. Well this year the projected starters for your TCU offense measure in at an average of 304.2 pounds, which jumps up to 307.2 and every man on the line weighing over 300 pounds if Foltz beats out Joey Hunt for the starting nod. TCU's line is big, beefy and nasty this year- all the more impressive since this is only TCU's second year in an BCS- AQ conference and line is typically the area where you see smaller schools be a bit undersized (it was certainly true of TCU back in the SWC as well). If nothing else the line should be better at run blocking this year, and with the stable of running backs that TCU is rolling out this year we could see another year of three 700+ yard rushers or have Waymon James be the Doak Walker winner if he gets enough carries. On pass blocking it's harder to say, as Collins has had issues with speed rushers getting outside on him in the past, but with a year of experience under his belt he may have shored up that weakness some. At least we can be reasonably sure that when the pressure comes it won't be coming up the middle- we're just too big for that this year.
Bottom line is the line is young, but big and talented- that's generally the recipe for a few mistakes, but also a punishing running game. Color me optimistic about this group right now, but we'll know a lot more when we face the young but equally behemoth D-line of LSU.