The 2010 Frogs have 11 players in NFL camps this fall; the names of these ex-players are on many pundits' tongues as they try and parse the forecast for the 2011 Frogs. But two ex-player that are not being talked about this off-season may have as great an impact on the '11 team as any of the '10 grads—Jurrell Thompson and Sir DeMarco Bledsoe.
Thompson was on the team last season, as a second-team safety, and projected starter this year. Bledsoe was dismissed from the team prior to the 2009 season, and resurfaced at Youngstown State shortly thereafter. Bledsoe probably would have been on the field a lot in 2009, if not a starter, and would certainly have been a starter in 2010 and '11.
Count them—two highly talented safeties that would have been highly experienced starters for the Frogs this season, but are not. Instead TCU has two experienced safeties new to starting roles this fall, and a host of very inexperienced players to fill the two-deep at safety. This dearth for proven starters is the effect of Thompson's and Bledsoe's departures, and threatens to cap TCU's streak of nation-leading defenses at three.
Fret not, Frog fans-- all is not bleak in the secondary. But much is unproven, and that must be putting gray hairs on Gary Patterson's pate.
He has plenty of good material to work with in the new-look defensive backfield: enough that the team moved Antonio Graves, who stood out at safety during spring drills, to receiver. (More on that development later.)
But if the Frogs suffer a substantial dropoff in pass defense this season, inexperience likely will be a major reason, and the reason for that reason will be mostly found in the premature departures of Bledsoe and Thompson from the team in the last few years.