It's easy to look at a 7-6 season in your first year in the Big 12, finish with the number one defense in the conference, beat Texas at home on Thanksgiving, and call the whole thing a success.
The end of the 2012 season left optimism and a prophecy that 2013 didn't even come close to fulfilling. With Casey coming back, the number one defense coming back, and guys like Aaron Green and Ja'Juan Story becoming eligible, it was easy to get excited; but it was just as easy to overlook the glaring weaknesses of our beloved Frogs.
2013 was nightmarish. Once again TCU had the number one defense in the conference, finishing first and third in rush and pass defense, respectively. But a team with that good of a defense generally doesn't finish seventh in its conference and miss its first bowl game in ten years. The Baylor game was the epitome of the season. Our defense played outstanding and was the embodiment of why Jason Verrett should've been a consensus All-American. The offense in that game, and all season, was like the first play for Peyton in the Super Bowl.
The season ended on a bitter note losing to the Baptists, but the next morning I found myself at peace because I knew Gary wasn't going to settle for this. I'm sure he knew it too. Rusty Burns and Jarrett Anderson weren't working. I not only forgot what a tight end was, but it got to a point in this past year where a first down felt like a touchdown. Hiring Doug Meacham was the first great step, then came Sonny Cumbie.
I don't know if all this change would've happened had we'd gone 8-4, 7-5 or even 6-6.
These hires all came allowing TCU to pick up what could arguably be our best recruiting, or rather, our most important class yet. Even with the highest number of Four-Star recruits we've ever got, it didn't have some of the gloss that the previous few years have had because there's no Devonte Fields or LaDarius Brown. But that's alight. Even with all the great position-player talent we have, and those we added with this class, it's easy to forget where it all begins, and where the game is really won. The trenches.
Take Alabama, FSU, Auburn or any other team that's won the National Championship the past ten years, and sneak a peak at their offensive line. How does Wisconsin some how find its way into the Rose Bowl most years? You don't get to those places without a great line. I think the 2010 Fiesta Bowl and the 2011 Rose Bowl proved that.
Let's face it... our offensive line was garbage in 2013. It was a suckhole to Hell. Whether it was Casey Pachall or Trevone Boykin, it was equally as uncomfortable to watch. Casey doesn't have near the mobility of Boykin and spent most of the game with this ass on the ground. Boykin, who's a great scrambler, probably got sick at some point of having to avoid rushing defenders coming at him every which way, and decided to throw it. Can't really blame the kid. A lot of them weren't great decisions, but he was probably just sick of nothing happening. Also, it'd take a miracle to have one of our talented backs break one off for more than three yards.
"It's part of the game, right?"
Sure. But not the entire game.
I'm as excited as anyone for new guys like Foster Sawyer, Emmaunuel Porter and Varshaun Nixon. I'm thankful that we'll still have Aaron Green, BJ, Jordan Moore and Kyle Hicks. And my soul is always in debt to Trevone Boykin. But most importantly, I'm thrilled for Ty Barrett, Frank Kee, Austin Schlottman and the return of Tayo Fabuluje. These are the true elixirs for turning a tragically nightmarish 2013 season into a justifiably promising 2014 campaign.
What really defines a Top-10 class anyway? How do you calibrate something so arbitrary? We may not have any Leonard Fournettes, but with guys like Barrett and Frank Kee, it's a perfect foundation to a new chapter in our history. Braden Smith would've been the cherry on top, but even without him, given what we need and given what we got, I'd say this is our best and most important class in history.
As we get closer to the start of the season, I'll talk more about why I feel that Boykin may be the perfect fit for a Meacham/Cumbie offense. I fully expect to get hunks of trash thrown at me when that time comes, especially from a certain DFW Sports writer (who I assume is a lurker of the blog) who'd love to ridicule me for not wanting a Freshman and potential All-American quarterback to lose confidence by being thrown into the fire and possibly ruin his career just as it begins. Foster has a great story, but that doesn't mean he's already our best quarterback and it especially doesn't mean he's ready for the limelight. But more on that in the future.
The bottom line is that it's no longer fun just being the adorable new guy with a great defense. It's no longer enjoyable to just be at the party. 2013 was a kick in the mouth, but at least we're making the right steps forward instead of just living in the past. I have full faith that the success of this new and improved offensive line will be the mitosis for the rest of our offense. So if the consolation prize for not going to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl is to completely reshape our offensive identity, and making legitimate progress at a Big 12 title in the process, I'll take it.