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Frog Film Room: Receivers in Space

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TCU can throw the long ball, that's for sure. But with their best deep weapon sidelined for the past several weeks, the Frogs have specialized in turning short passes in to big plays.

Great graphic work here.
Great graphic work here.
A loyal FOW reader

Josh Doctson has been a man among boys in 2015, destroying his opposition on his way to a record-breaking start to the season. As he has piled up the yards and the touchdowns, opposing defenses have tried their best to take away his game-breaking ability, but to no avail. Teams fail to contain Doctson because he's not the only weapon for TCU, even with Kolby Listenbee, Ty Slanina, Deante' Gray, and Emanuel Porter out - and it's the guys that have filled those voids that have kept this offense dangerous, despite the absences piling up.

If you have been around the TCU Football program for any length of time, you have probably heard the interview that Gary Patterson gave after holding the potent Tech offense to three points a decade ago, where he famously said "speed, baby". While GP's mantra hasn't changed, it has adjusted; a weapon that was primarily used to allow an overmatched defense to compete with the big boys has now become the chosen tool of the offense, much to the chagrin of Big 12 defenses. The straight line speed of Listenbee is complemented with the quickness of the guys in the slot - KaVontae Turpin, Desmon White, and others - small in stature players that can turn a five yard dump off in to a 50 yard score.

One of the misconceptions about the Air Raid offense is that it is inherently complex. But that's just not the case. What makes the Air Raid, or at least the Sonny Cumbie/Doug Meacham iteration of it, so successful is that it is predicated on simple schemes being cleanly executed and putting the ball in the hands of your best players to let them do what they do well. That is where the TCU O, and Trevone Boykin, have flourished - by getting the ball in to the hands of their playmakers and letting them make plays. I can't find the exact quote, but after the Tech game, Trevone talked about how Cumbie and Meacham preach to him to throw 'to the green', basically saying find an hole in the defense, get the ball in your receiver's hands within it, and let them do the heavy lifting. That philosophy has worked pretty well over the past 18 games.

Take KaVontae Turpin, a true freshman that has specialized in turning short passes in to long gains so far this season. On this 61 yard score against SMU, he turns a slant pass into a foot race, something he is going to win more often than not:

Saturday against Texas was more of the same, as the diminutive Turpin scored four times - two on short passes that he turned in to 49 and 50 yard scores respectively. On this long strike, Boykin's ball travels in the air less than 15 yards, but Turp manages to haul it in, make a nifty cut on the sideline, and turn on the afterburners for another easy score.

While Deante' Gray has been sidelined this season, he is the epitome of what makes this offense work - and his ability to find the green, make one cut, and explode makes him one of the most dangerous receivers in the Big 12 when healthy. On this play from last year's game against Texas Tech, the Frogs are backed up against their own goal line at the snap. TCU sets up in an empty formation, with five receivers split out:

Gray is on the outside, and runs a curl route seven yards deep, something he is able to do because of how deep the defender is lined up off of him at the snap - so Boykin 'finds the green'. On the catch, Gray has one guy to beat and a lot of grass ahead of him if he does:

After shedding the first tackle, he splits the next two defenders, and it's off to the races:

Here's the play in full:

TCU doesn't do anything all that crazy, save the occasional halfback pass, but they execute at an incredibly high level and do an excellent job of putting their players in a position to succeed. Cumbie/Meach have an exceptional grasp on just who their players are and what they do well, and a QB that has developed a great touch on both the short and long ball. Hopefully we will see Listenbee back soon - he tweeted something to that effect - but even as Boykin has seen his favorite targets cycle in and out of the lineup, young players have stepped up with both their hands and their feet to keep one of the country's best offenses rolling.