Twenty four players deep (I am operating on the assumption that James McFarland, Deante' Gray, and Kenny Illoka will all return in 2016 after being granted medical redshirts), these Frogs will put a bookend on their TCU career in just a few short days, as they suit up against the Oregon Ducks for one last change to wear the purple and white (or gray... please not gray).
There are many on the list of graduates, or soon to be graduates, whose name you won't recognize. Men who have toiled away on the practice fields and scout teams, fighting for their chance to suit up on Saturdays, doing the dirty work without much shot at glory. There are others who's name is most often followed by a groan or a question of what could have been, who never quite reached their potential or fell short of their expectations. Then, there are the stars. The guys who debuted early, played off, and left us gasping or grasping for words to describe the indescribable, who led the Frogs to new heights, to new goals, and laid the foundation for a future laden with higher expectations in the Big XII.
Each of these 24 players, where ever they fall on the spectrum of collegiate success, played a major role in TCU's transition in to the Big XII, a conference title, and a New Year's Six Bowl win. They racked up 33 wins in their four years, with hopefully one more to go, including 22 over the past two seasons. They moved the Frogs past the Andy Dalton era and the Mountain West, and into the Big XII and the playoff hunt. They are All-Americans, Heisman contenders, Davey O'Brien and Biletnikoff Finalists, Earl Campbell Winners, All-Conference performers, and TCU legends. Let's take a look back at the class of 2015/2016.
The Unsung Heroes:
Devin Killpatrick - A transfer out of Balcone College, Killpatrick made his bones on the practice squad, one of the corners tasked with challenging TCU's talented crew of receivers during the week. Though he did not see game action, his contributions are appreciated by TCU's fans.
Colten Christiansen - Colten had carries in only two games this season, putting up his best stats, and scoring his first career touchdown, against SFA, and picking up double-digit yards against UT.
Ja'Juan Story - One of the nation's best wide receiver recruits out of high school, the former four star prospect matriculated to TCU by way of Florida, where he was best known for his pregame ritual rather than his on field production. With a rare combination of size and speed, big things were expected of him upon his arrival in Fort Worth, but he was never able to pass Doctson or Listenbee on the depth chart. While he made few starts in his career, he became a valuable end zone commodity, and seemed to have finally found his role on the Frogs - until he was sidelined by an injury against Iowa State that ended his season.
Luke Benuska - A rotational player along the offensive line, Benuska was mostly used in mop-up duty and special teams over the course of the last three seasons.
Dominic Merka - TCU hasn't exactly been known for their use of the tight end the past two seasons, but Merka took advantage of the few opportunities he had, making a name for himself when he returned a blocked punt against WVU for a touchdown in 2012, scoring a momentum changing touchdown against SMU this fall, and pulling down two clutch catches in the monsoon against Baylor to close the season.
Bobby Thompson - Another rotational player on an offensive line that stretched its depth due to injury this past season, Thompson has appeared in 24 of 25 games over the past two seasons.
Brady Foltz - The younger brother of TCU legend Blaize Foltz, Brady made his own name in Fort Worth as a standout on the O-line. Foltz appeared in 22 games in his first two seasons after redshirting, before taking over the starting guard spot in 2014, where he would remain all of 2015, save Oklahoma State, where he sat out due to injury. The Foltz name has been synonymous with TCU over the course of the past six years, and there's a chance we might get one more - the youngest Foltz has been accepted to TCU as well!
The Depth Chart Chargers:
Corry O'Meally - love him or hate him, the cornerback's name won't soon be forgotten. O'Meally's name will likely always be followed with the words "TURN AROUND" by Frog fans, as the oft-penalized defender was victimized by opposing QBs throughout the last two seasons. But the JuCo transfer out of Miami had some nice moments late in the year, with a couple of clutch PBRs against Kansas State and OU, among others. O'Meally was thrust into the fire as injuries mounted, and outside of a couple really bad games (SMU and Tech come to mind), acquitted himself well.
Bram Kohlhausen - Houston Lamar to the Houston Cougars, L.A. Harbor to TCU, Bram came *this close* to forever writing his name in TCU lore in Norman a few weeks ago, the brush of a fingertip being the only thing in his way of pulling off a monumental upset over the Sooners. Bram became a bit of a cult hero last year, as he took snaps in several blowout games, becoming the Frogs' version of a human victory cigar. This year, he was pressed into duty when Boykin went down with his ankle injury, with mixed results; pulled in the second half of the Kansas game after throwing in an interception, he was inserted in the second half against OU, leading the Frogs on a stirring comeback that fell just short. Bram was the consummate backup and obviously well-liked by his teammates. He will be missed.
Aviante Collins - He looked like a future star at tackle for the Frogs as a true freshman, starting in all 13 games and being named an honorable mention Freshman All American in 2012. A TCU legacy, who's father and brother both starred for the track and field team, Collins was a steady presence on an offensive line that has been one of the best in the Big XII over his time on campus. Whether starting or coming off the bench, Collins' versatility and size were key cogs in the transition from being a run first team to an Air Raid offense. You might not know him by name, but the 6'6", 300 pounder won't be forgotten.
Jamelle Naff - Another big body on a very good offensive line, Naff has been a mainstay at guard for TCU over the last four years, seeing action in every game since his sophomore year, until suffering a season-ending injury against Kansas this season.
Terrell Lathan - He helped open the floodgates to a Louisiana pipeline that has become a true core of recruiting for TCU, another in a long line of studs out of West Monroe High. Primarily a rotation player, Lathan was a true spark plug off of the bench for Patterson's D, as his motor and energy led to big plays in the backfield, more often than not. Perhaps the most indelible memory for Frog Fans was his fumble recovery and return against Texas in 2014 - it was TCU's first touchdown of the evening, and opened the floodgates for a Thanksgiving romp that ignited the playoff debate.
The Prime Time Players:
Davion Pierson - As what was supposed to be one of the deepest and most talented position groups on the roster crumbled around him, as he himself had to recover from a preseason injury that caused him to miss three games, as he watched the leader of that group go out for the season before it began, Davion Pierson kept fighting. After redshirting as a freshman, Pierson became one of the steadiest players along the D-Line, playing in 46 games in four years with nearly 40 starts. A space eater in the middle, Pierson played his best when his team needed it most, closing his career at TCU with his best ever game against Baylor, as the DT racked up 13 tackles, 3.5 TFLs, a sack, a fumble recovery, and a QB hurry in his last home game. Lightly recruited out of high school, Pierson now has a chance to be a late round prospect in the NFL Draft, and with his motor and work ethic, will have a very good shot to stick on a roster.
Trevone Boykin - There is so much that can be said about this young man who has given so much to TCU; a kid who has exemplified what it means to be a leader on and off the field, who has never complained or pouted or done anything but put his head down and go to work. But, frankly, Sam already said it better. I don't know what his pro future holds; is he a QB? A Receiver? Something in between? But I have no doubt he will make it, where ever he eventually lines up. We love you, Deuce.
Mike Tuaua - Mike is one of the most likable guys on the roster, a young man who seems to always have a smile on his face and a special joy about him. It was shocking to most Frog fans when he got himself in to some trouble early in the season, because it's Mike, and that seemed so out of character for him. I won't get into the details of what happened or why, that's not what this article is about. But, suffice it to say, he seems to have learned from the experience, and when he had paid his due and was given a second chance, he was even more earnest and aware of what a gift the game of football is. A JuCo transfer out of California, Tuaua has played in all but four games over the course of his three year career at TCU. As well-known for his flowing locks as his disruptive play along the defensive line, Mike has been a fan favorite and an impact player in his time in Fort Worth. While he doesn't appear on many draft boards, he might have a shot at a camp invite, and if not, I could definitely see coaching in his future.
Ethan Perry - Nobody likes a punter, right? Well, that's not exactly true for TCU fans when it comes to Ethan Perry. A forgotten man in 2015, as it seemed he was rarely called into duty, Perry actually set an all-time NCAA record by helping to hold opponents to -9 punt return yards over the course of the season. Negative. Nine. That seems almost impossible, doesn't it? A former freshman All-American and All Big XII recipient, Perry has been excellent at pinning opponents deep in the red zone over the course of his four years as the starting punter. The Frogs relied on playing the field position game early in their transition to Big XII play, before the explosive offense of the last two seasons took over. It was a credit to Perry's punt game that so many games came down to one score then, and his ability to put long fields in front of offenses this season, while the young D struggled, helped TCU survive some scares this past season.
Kolby Listenbee - "Speed, baby." It's one of the most famous utterances in Gary Patterson press conference history, and still one of the most important tenants of TCU Football today - on both sides of the ball. And no one in TCU history, or college football for that matter, possesses more of it than Kolby. A track champion, Olympic Trials invitee, and a darn good wide receiver, Listenbee electrified Frog fans in 2014 as one of the greatest deep threats in the game. There are few things Trevone Boykin does better than loft the long ball, and visions of him catching a streaking #7 down the sideline haunted Big XII foes all fall. While he struggled through an injury this past year, he still had a bevvy of highlights, and no wide out in TCU history drew quite the ohhh from the crowd as the the speedster from Arlington. With sub 4.3 time and decent size, Kolby will likely draw a combine invite. But, with the Olympic Trials on the horizon this summer, he has a pretty good backup plan, too.
Josh Doctson - Is there a better story than Doc's? There is not a football player on the planet who more exemplifies his school than Josh Doctson does TCU. You know the story by now - Bleacher Creature as a boy, lightly recruited as a high schooler, head's out into the wild of Wyoming to get his shot, comes home to say goodbye to his grandfather, Walks on to his hometown school - that employs his mother - because he wants to be close, earns a scholarship, sets every major receiving record, and works his way into being a likely first round draft pick. He is the greatest receiver in school history and one of the greatest on and off the field representatives the Frogs have ever had. We all feel robbed by the injury that cost him most of his final four games, a chance at the Biletnikoff Award, an opportunity to set a few more records. But mostly we feel robbed of the chance to see him sky for the ball at unimaginable heights, make a dazzling one handed catch, or pull in that end zone fade one last time. We all hope, for his sake (and ours) he suits up in San Antonio. We want that catch record for him, but mostly we just want to see him play once more in purple.
Aaron Green - There's no place like home, even for a former five star recruit. After leaving the friendly confines of Texas for the promise of Nebraska, Aaron Green came home - or close to it - landing at TCU. His first season after redshirting, he made a few plays, but was relatively unknown and unappreciated behind B.J. Catalon and a host of other running backs. In 2014, he burst on to the scene, averaging a ridiculous 7+ yards per carry as he split time with Catalon early in the season. When B.J. was lost for the season, he became the workhorse, ensuring teams couldn't play coverage without risking being gashed by Green for huge hunks of yardage. His signature play was the 65 yard cutback run under the lights against Kansas State, a momentum shifting run that set off a route. Green is a pro - his production slowed down some in 2015 as the Frogs failed to identify a solid #2 option behind him, and injuries forced them to put the rock in his hands more - so he doesn't have the cache of a Derrick Henry or Dalvin Cook. But he still averaged more than 5 yards per carry, showed his breakaway speed, and proved he can catch the ball out of the backfield and be a suitable blocker in pass pro. He will likely be a late round pick, but I would be shocked if he doesn't end up a #2 back for a good team somewhere down the line.
Jaden Oberkrom - #CollegeKickers is trending on Twitter just about every Saturday, and generally not in a good way. And as we watch short kicks sail left, right, and off the uprights, TCU fans appreciate our rock solid senior, who made almost all the plays he was supposed to make, and a lot of the kicks we didn't think he could. A four year starter, Oberkrom erased the memories of the ghosts of kickers past, as he said accuracy records, make records, and distance records seemingly with ease. He did the impossible against K State as a sophomore, only to see it topped, he won a game in Morgantown under terrible conditions to forever right his name in TCU lore, and his steadiness in a driving rainstorm to close the season against Baylor ensured the Frogs would hold on against the Bears. He is the greatest kicker in TCU history, he has one of the greatest nicknames (Legatron), and he is by all accounts, and all-around good guy. He never once wavered under pressure, and while he didn't make every kick, he seemed to never miss the ones that mattered most. He will assuredly kick on Sundays, and soon.
Derrick Kindred - Ah, Peanut. While it seemed like every defender on the roster went down with injury at one point or another this season, Kindred stood tall and steady, never missing a start - despite playing through pain himself. The leader of an increasingly young defense, Kindred was truly the coach on the field for GP, and I shudder to think what would have happened had he not taken ownership of the players and the calls in the secondary. He has been a dynamic playmaker in the secondary throughout his career, but made the two signature plays of his career in his final stanza; the pick six against Kansas State early in the second half that turned the tide and put TCU in position to mount a furious comeback; and a hit so hard against Iowa State that it turned Trevone Boykin into an emoji.
Joey Hunt - More than just a luxurious head of hair, center Joey Hunt was the anchor of an offensive line that has been very good throughout his tenure in the middle. A starter since his sophomore year, Hunt has been an Academic All Conference nominee on multiple occasions, a Rimington Trophy watch list member, and was an All Conference selection in 2014 and 2015. While he may be a bit small by NFL standards, Hunt is one of the ten best draft eligible prospects at the position, and could be a late round draft pick this spring.
Halapoulivaati Vaitai - Big V... the big teddy bear has been a fixture in Funky Town for what feels like forever, as he has seen significant action along the offensive line since his true freshman season. A two time second team All Big XII tackle, despite missing two games this season, Big V has the prototypical size the pros covet, but will have some work to do to earn a roster spot this summer - and may need to move to guard to get a serious look. Whatever his future holds, his consistency in protecting Tre, and his ever present smile, will be missed by Frog fans.
Do you have a favorite memory from one of these special seniors? Leave it in the comments and let's reminisce over the greatness of these great men.