Talent and youth are key attributes for the stable of running backs that TCU Horned Frogs enters the fall with. There are a lot of fresh faces that will add depth to an offense that struggled on the ground last season. Finding the strengths and weaknesses of each of these players will help form the overall identity of the running offense for the Horned Frogs. As August quickly approaches, establishing the depth chart for this position will create opportunities for Gary Patterson and his new offensive coordinators to frequently rotate personnel in the backfield.
Before analyzing the running backs that will be battling to line up behind our to be announced quarterback, I will quickly talk about who has departed. Waymon James will no longer be suiting up for the Frogs. Even though James finished his TCU career as the all-time leader in yards per carry (6.42), his time as a collegiate athlete was cut short due to injury and off the field issues. James was suspended from the team indefinitely before the Iowa State back in November 2013, and his 2012 season was cut short when he suffered a knee injury versus Kansas.
Last season James and B.J. Catalon were supposed to split carries for the Frogs, but Trevone Boykin and Catalon ended the season with more that half of the rushing attempts. The 2014 season will be different as Catalon appears to be the favorite to carry the workload for the TCU ground game. As a sophomore, Catalon's quickness and agility helped him lead the team with 569 rushing yards and an average of 5.3 yards per carry. Even though the total yards were low, he tied for 4th in the Big 12 Conference in yards per carry.
Other than Catalon, the others players competing for time on the field are: junior Aaron Green, redshirt Kyle Hicks and Trevorris Johnson, and true freshman Varshaun Nixon.
Green, the former transfer from Nebraska, will be suiting up for TCU for the second season this fall. Green started two games last year and rushed for 232 yards. He will look to take advantage of the spring and summer practices in hopes of making a larger impact on the upcoming season.
Hicks, a local 4-star recruit from Arlington, will come off of his redshirt season with the ability to be an every down back for TCU. As a top recruit in 2013, Hicks is known for his ability to score from anywhere on the field.
I believe Johnson, the other redshirt freshman, will play a key role that has been overlooked. Johnson will be a force in short yardage situations, as he is listed at 221 pounds, which is 20 more than any other running back currently on the roster. Although he doesn't have the speed and quickness of the other backs, look for him to at least be a contributing factor.
Nixon, another 4-star recruit from Texas, will look to make an immediate impact with his versatility and ability to break through tackles.If you want to continue to get to know this new running back, go check out the Frogs O' war article posted by Jamie Plunkett ("Talking Shaun Nixon").
B.J. Catalon already is ahead of the pack in terms of experience and versatility. His array of athletic talent will put him ahead of the competition and he will continue to thrive as a starter. With a new style of offense and the probable use a transfer quarterback (Matt Joeckel), do not be surprised if another running back emerges and becomes an intricate part of the Horned Frog offense. I think Nixon could be a strong backup for Catalon this season, and Johnson will be their go to guy when it comes to short yardage situations. TCU's offense scored 14 touchdowns through the air and 20 on the ground in 2013, so look for the rushing offense to continue to "AMP IT UP" this year play a balanced part of the overall offense.