Paul Myerberg, at his excellent blog Pre-Snap Read, previewed TCU for 2011 on August 15. Here are excerpts and commentary on Myerberg's writeup.
Gary Patterson gets all of Myerberg's attention for TCU's coaches, which is almost OK, but not quite. Something happened when Rusty Burns came to town to coach the receivers, in the same offseason that Mike Schultz left, and Justin Fuente and Jarrett Anderson took over the offense. The offensive compliment to Patterson's tenacious Ds was what had been missing in Fort Worth since LT left in 2000. The result has been nothing short of magical, and a blurb on TCU's coaches that leaves all of this unsaid is incomplete.
Myerberg on Pachall:
"all he needs to do is replace a four-year starter in Andy Dalton... Pachall landed barely a taste of playing time as a freshman last fall... What I like about Pachall: most of all, he’s very Dalton-like in his size, throwing arm and running ability."
That's a little odd, because watching Pachall run, after four years of watching Dalton run is like the color coming back into a black-and-white broadcast. Pachall is so much faster on his feet that I don't know what Myerberg means by the comparison. Maybe "clutch" or "deceptive?" Only, we haven't yet seen Pachall run the Slice; and certainly we haven't seen him in meaningful parts of a game yet, so I think the jury is out on Pachall's skill as a runner.
" That T.C.U. opens with a pair of tough road games, however, won’t be great for Pachall’s confidence.... He’ll get things going in time, but Pachall will be learning on the fly."
Amen. Fewer sentences (the elision helps) encapsulate TCU's 2011 outlook better.
The verdict on the runningbacks is unimpeachable, If the o-line is up to it, which Myerberg correctly calls TCU's "position to watch."
"once again, T.C.U. will have one of the best group of running backs in the country... Have issues at quarterback? Then run the ball, run it again and run it again. T.C.U. can do that."
About that o-line, Myerberg is duly wary.
"T.C.U. is putting a lot on the plates of the additional three linemen with past starting experience."
True. But Myerberg's description of Kyle Dooley, the only deeply experienced returning starter on the line, is off key.
"Dooley has played in the shadows over his first three years, behind several N.F.L.-caliber linemen, but will step into a key role in 2011."
Starting for two seasons is "in the shadows" of... whom, exactly? Of course Dooley hasn't won the Rimington—he's not a center—and hasn't been drafted—he's still in school—so I'm not sure what more to expect from the stalwart left guard other than outstanding performance, game after game. And that's what Dooley has given TCU.
Pre-Snap Read's post about TCU went up a week or two before news that Olson was moving over to left tackle. Myerberg does note the emergence of Robert Deck at tackle, and finishes the paragraph about the line with this resoundingly true note:
"More than anything, actually, the new T.C.U. offensive line needs to develop a rapport, developing the sort of unity all good fronts seem to have. As at quarterback, this will only come with time."
Myerberg doesn't shy away from the receiving corps. After typical lauds for Josh Boyce, Myerberg hits the nail on the head with Hicks:
"Injuries played a role, but the Horned Frogs need more from Hicks."
Yes, they do. Pre-Snap Read doesn't miss Dawson, or the freshman, although it doesn't know which of them to expect. That's a forgivable omission; as August has progressed, it's only become clearer that Carter and White lead the quintet of new receivers.
About the defense:
"anyone looking for a significant decline from the T.C.U. defense had better look elsewhere: the Horned Frogs will still rank among the nation’s best, even if this year’s group is unable to extend the program’s three-year streak of leading the F.B.S. in total defense. In my mind, T.C.U. could break in 11 new starters are still push teams around; this is because the system and coaching ...is more important the players.... [U]nlike the offense, you can say with 100 percent certainty that T.C.U. will be as tough defensively by November as anyone."
What's missing in this otherwise excellent assessment is the talent upgrade that has been occurring on defense for the last year or two. It really kicks into high gear this year as multiple redshirt and true freshman from TCU's best recruiting classes see the field—tackles Chuck Hunter and Jon Lewis, corner Jason Verrett, and safeties Sam Carter and Chris Hackett.
Curiously, Myerberg expects Greg McCoy to be the:
"breakout star of this defense in 2011... If McCoy can recapture his late-season form, he’ll be the greatest weapon this raw secondary can have."
It's not odd to expect shut-down performance from McCoy, but the stars of TCU's defense usually appear among the safeties, and there's no need to expect differently this season. Sam Carter, Elisha Olabode, Chris Hackett are all new faces in the secondary, but have been very impressive in fall drills.
About Tank and Tanner in the middle?
"Here’s what T.C.U. has at linebacker: ... Brock and Carder. Carder and Brock. Tackle after tackle, big play after big play. No one does it better. T.C.U. is absolutely terrific on the second level."
At the line, Myerberg hasn't heard of tackle Ray Burns. But he will, and will have good things to say come re-ranking time.
Myerberg calls TCU's "five biggest games" Baylor, AFA, BYU, SDSU, and Boise. I think SMU belongs on that list, probably in Baylor's place.
"In a nutshell Last year’s group would have done no worse than 11-1 with this year’s schedule. This year’s team might have a hard time getting back to double-digit wins... Good thing that this program is built for the long, long, long haul. ... the T.C.U. you see in September won’t be the same T.C.U. you see in November and December. The Horned Frogs will get better and better each week, you can bet the farm on that."
Well put. Myerberg does say the team's ceiling is 12-0 and a third trip to the BCS, which is high praise from the clear-eyed commentator. What's the floor?
"[F]or the first time since 2004, T.C.U. wins less than eight games."
How far has TCU come that winning less than eight games is a melt-down?