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TCU Football Round Table: May 11th, "A Dream of Spring"

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In the first edition of our regular round tables, Jamie, Melissa, and Marsh discuss the NFL Draft, Spring football, hopes and fears for 2015, and Boykin's successor.

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A new-ish tradition here at Frogs O'War: a regular round table. We've done these before, sure. But now, we're aiming to do this every week as a way to purge our general stream of consciousnesses, weekly frustrations, hopes, dreams, and more often than not: all of these things into one beautiful smorgasbord of Frog talk, and more.

So yeah, a little thing called The NFL Draft just happened. In early January, Paul Dawson was a first rounder, but come early May, he’s the 99th pick overall. What was the biggest surprise in regards to the draft? Who do you think makes the most immediate impact? Who are you most excited for?

Melissa: I think PD has a chance to be a game one starter, and an impact player for Cincy right away. He's a kid that already played with a chip on his shoulder; adding his third round slight, he is going to be a monster. I think Tayo and Hackett make the 53 man rosters, BJ and Chucky end up on Dallas' practice squad (but Catalon has a real shot to make the team as Dwayne Harris' replacement or the eventual injury replacement for McFadden). I could see Carter making a team based on his intangibles, and Anderson a practice squad based on his measurables. The biggest surprise for me was Hackett going undrafted - as the only other early entry, I figured he must have been rated out as a top 4 round prospect, so to see him fall all the way out of the draft was disappointing. It also made me really really wish he had come back.

Jamie: If we’re talking TCU specifically, I think the biggest surprise was that Chris Hackett went undrafted. I’m wondering if he regrets leaving a year early now. If we’re talking about the draft in general, the Dallas Cowboys must have replaced Jerry with a highly intelligent cyborg capable of pulling off brilliant moves. All hail Cyborg Jones.

What are your thoughts on the Big 12’s decision on a title game? We were all anti-Championship game, yes?

Melissa: I'm glad they weren't reactionary in making the change this year, because I still don't think we know what the right thing to do is. If the Big 12 gets - well screwed - again, then a change will need to be made. But for now, establishing clear tie-breaker rules (PSA: Dear Baylor, your coach and AD voted to award dual championships last year BEFORE THE SEASON) is the right move, though I don't think the conference is done making moves yet.

Marsh: Last year was a strange year to start the playoff. Now that I’ve had a few months to digest it, there’s no way an Ohio State team winning their Conference Title game weren’t going to go the Playoff. And it’s not about a conference championship game, it’s about money. Had any other team won the Big 10, with the exception of Michigan--and had the same record as either Baylor or TCU,  I think the Big 12 would’ve gotten in. The gamble of declaring co-Champions didn’t help, but I don’t think that was arrow to the knee.

Florida State is probably the real culprit. I watched just about every game of theirs, just hoping they’d lose. And they almost did on numerous occasions. This is a subjective committee sure, and FSU would probably lose the eye test to Ohio State, TCU, and Baylor. But they were the defending National Champion and were undefeated going into the Rose Bowl, and they got smoked. I think that helps the Big 12 next year, just because it was such a bad look on the ACC.

The Big 12 may or may not produce an undefeated team for the next ten years, but the round robin makes it unique and I like that. It’s also more unlikely than not that something like last year will happen. The way things are going now, I think the Big 12 makes the next 75%+ percent of the playoffs until the conference breaks up or merges, etc.

Jamie: I’m very happy they didn’t go with a championship game, it’s something that rarely works out for the first-time victor (just ask LSU), and it’s incredibly redundant. Adjusting the tiebreaker is the right move until the time the Big 12 realizes it can’t get by with just 10 teams and adds Memphis and Cincinnati.

In regards to Spring Football, the narrative is completely different. At this time last year, we--the collective TCU fans--were praising Matt Joeckel. Now it’s Boykin’s team. How does this team repeat, and then some, after their brilliant 2014 campaign?

Melissa: I've mentioned this a few different times, but last year was so uniquely special - aside from one bad quarter, EVERYTHING broke right for the Frogs. By the UT game, Boykin was basically playing streetball with his guys - throw it up and they will go get it - and it worked. The defense was so good, the offense was so explosive; and the coaches were almost always 3-4 steps ahead of the competition. We aren't going to catch anyone by surprise this year; and there are 13 games were of film on the guys on O now.

Boykin will have to have addressed his accuracy issues and become that 68% passer that can know when to go for the four-yard first down and when to air it out for the home run. The o-line might be even better this year - but who is going to get those tough yards inside and take the pressure off of Green - also known as can TJ stay out of GP's doghouse and will one of the potentially game breakers (Hicks and Nixon) have a breakout season? And the biggest question for the offense: can they play to the level on the road that they did at home? The WVU/KU games can't happen at OU/OSU/KState without the end result being an L.

The Frogs will have to be better on the road, immediately, as Minnesota won't be a cakewalk to say the least. And that's not even mentioning the defense... who is the leader? Who is the glue? Who is going to make plays opposite of Texada when teams decide to throw away from them? Who is going to be making plays in the opponent's backfield with Dawson and Chucky gone? Are we going to start TWO FRESHMAN at linebacker?! Man, there are a lot of things that are going to need to come together quickly, but this is where we as Frog fans have to trust in Patterson/Cumbie/Meach and oh no Bumpas is gone :( I think we are going to be just fine, but just fine won't #ProveThemRight. We need to be 12-0/11-1 to have any shot at making the Final Four.

Jamie: 2015 is going to be different for a lot of reasons, none bigger than the fact that TCU will have a target on their back. It’s easy to shock the world coming off of a 4-8 season (comparatively), but defending a conference title is much, much different. Boykin has to improve his accuracy downfield, or we’re going to see a jump in his interception totals from a year ago. Defensively, these young guys are going to need to grow up quickly. I don’t see TCU taking a step back in 2015 necessarily, but taking the next step forward is exponentially more difficult than people think.

Marsh: Jamie's right. TCU's certainty made more enemies. For better or worse, football is not like say baseball. Metrics are important in football, but it's much more of a team sport...

Completely hypothetical: Boykin doesn't get enough sleep after playing FIFA with Deante' Gray one Wednesday night, and that butterfly effects into a bad game the next Saturday. 2012 and 2013, especially the latter felt like TCU was just going through the motions offensively. Now with Meacham and Cumbie, there's a plan. There's an identity that I don't think the Frogs had even when Justin Fuente was there. Unlike 2012 and 2013, everyone's buying into a system and I think that continues in 2015. The quarterback questioU will once again come up next spring, but at least there's options. Two years ago, it was a mess.

Stannis HBO

Stannis HBO

What I'm getting at this: this team needs to stay salty--playing the kind of football, and with the kind of chip they were against Texas, Iowa State, and Ole Miss. Lucky for TCU fans, these kids don't think they're owed anything. They'd rather come back and prove it to everyone next year. Being right is infinitely better than 99.99% of things. And these players know that. TCU's more organized and better prepared than ever before. They just gotta stay motivated.

What are are you most excited for?

Marsh: I know we’re all going to say Boykin, as we should. But if you don’t get hyped when you see that receiving depth chart; seriously check your pulse. Josh Doctson and Kolby Listenbee are Boykin’s fire and ice and will be two of the most exciting receivers to watch in the Big 12 next. It’s hard to find a duo anywhere else with that kind of athleticism--I mean, just rewatch Doctson SportsCenter Top-Ten play against Minnesota, or Listenbee’s big play against Ole Miss. There were a few misfires last year with Boykin either slightly overthrowing or under throwing Kolby, so I expect Cumbie and Meacham, mostly Cumbie, to have that kink worked out. Looking elsewhere: the rise of Emmanuel Porter, Dante Gray’s craftiness, Ty Slanina speed and grit, and those primed to make a bigger impact like Jajaun Story, which I’ll get to below.

And obviously the four-headed monster; Aaron Green, Trevorris Johnson, Kyle Hicks, and presumably Shaun Nixon will give TCU a brilliant balance behind what should be TCU’s best offensive line ever. Someone talk about those guys. I’m too geared up now…

Melissa: I'm going to throw you a curveball here: Not Boykin. That doesn't mean I am not looking forward to seeing him ball out again, but for me, I can't wait to see how Patterson puzzle pieces this new defense together, who steps up, who becomes the 2015 version of Dawson, who becomes that guy that makes the play that sends the stadium in to a frenzy. Because we all love this new, exciting offense (A LOT), but for the last 15 years, we have been raised on defense. And I think deep down, that's still what most of us want to hang our hat on as a football team.

Jamie: I’m excited to see what Aaron Green can do with a full season as the feature-back. Dude is electric, and with him and Boykin in the backfield, the ground game is poised to be incredibly strong in 2015.

What are your biggest concerns for 2015? Which foe are most scared of?

Marsh: Real quick, my biggest concerns is the scheduling. Tough road games, lots of non-Saturday games, etc. The Frogs had a luxury of playing the sexier part of their schedule at home, and on Saturdays. It’s different than 2013, but having a game in Lubbock on a Friday won’t be fun. But at least it won’t come in a 3 game stretch in a 10 period that began with a draining loss to LSU.

I keep wanting to find a way to say that Baylor won’t be the scariest opponent, and finding a more creative, or less attravely; a contrarian answer. I’d initially want to say Texas, because their defense will be top notch, and the Big 12’s all about scoring, thus teams who limit scoring should will have a better chance against TCU than those teams that can’t. But the Horns have a long way to go on offense, and yes this is mostly a quarterback issue. Let’s just rapid fire this: Going to the spread will be good for Charlie Strong’s squad, it’s always hard to play in Lubbock, and you can never discount a team like Oklahoma--despite their quarterback dilemma; but the Big 12 in 2015 is still Baylor and TCU’s to lose. The quarterback identities in nearly half of these schools is suspended in a Cobb state of in-limbo. Baylor will be breaking in Seth Russell, but by the time Baylor plays TCU in their (BU’s) penultimate game of 2015, he should be well adjusted. Conversely, Baylor’s defense should be a little more banged up at that point, and should 90% of TCU’s offense be healthy at that point, and it being a home game, that game, as well as the conference is TCU’s to lose as well.

Of course, TCU will be breaking in a lot of new guys on the defense, however: (1) remember, this is a Gary Patterson team. By the end of the season, it’ll be hard to decipher the 2015 defense from every other defense Patterson’s ever put out, with the likely exception being the 2014 squad. Patterson’s building a more complicated, and adapted spread-proof scheme like the one he teased us with in Waco, so that should be exciting, as well as a headache for most teams. But a simpler answer is this: the Big 12 is an offensive league with few good defensive teams. The TCU offense is primed to be the best it’s ever been, and in a league with more questionable defenses than not; the Frogs should be scoring enough points to make their early defensive growing pains an easier adjustment.

Melissa: We were relatively injury free last year, and this spring has seen that streak end. With such a senior laden offense, we don't have a lot of experienced depth behind the starters. And on defense? Oof... even the starters aren't all that experienced. Can we stay healthy? That could be the difference maker for TCU. As far as foe? I will tell you who I'm not afraid of... (Hi Art!). I think our two trips to Oklahoma are concerning on paper; OU still hasn't established a true QB threat, though it seems we will see "Ol' Baker" under center in Norman. But OSU may end up being the other title favorite, and our two games in Stillwater haven't gone as planned.

Jamie: My biggest concern is the youth on defense. I picture this season mirroring 2011 in a lot of ways, and that includes a young secondary that has to group up quickly. Of course, that secondary wound up being one of TCU’s best ever (IMO), and while the book is hardly opened to the first page with most of these guys, they’ll need to write quickly to catch up.

As for foe I’m most scared of, give me West Virginia. The road team has won each of the first three matchups, and there’s no doubt the Mountaineers will remember that TCU snuck out of Morgantown with a W last season. Couple that with the fact that it’s a Thursday night game, and TCU traditionally underperforms on non-Saturday games, I’ve got this one circled as a biggie.

Who are some under-the-radar guys that will step it up in 2015?

Marsh: Offense: Jajaun Story. Defense: Denzel Johnson. I’ve waited for Story to break out ever since I heard his insane workout numbers. He has a chance to be a great power receiver and option for Boykin in the endzone. I’m just waiting for this guy to destroy the likes of a Big 12 defensive back. And speaking of defensive back, get used to Denzel Johnson. Deshawn Raymond, who’s a corner--so it’s a little different--will get some solid experience as a freshman, and his time will come. But this is Johnson’s year to shine. He’s extremely fast, and instinctive in the best possible way. I think Hackett truly had one more year of college, and would’ve been a frontrunner for GP’s third fourth consecutive Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, and that may go to Davion Pierson next year, or a darkhorse like Derrick Kindred, but DJ will undoubtedly make the secondary a force, along with Ranthony (Texada).

Melissa: I'm excited to see what early-entry Mike Freeze does at linebacker; he might be the next great GP defender. I also think Deante' Gray is primed for a Listenbee like jump at WR. I also am keeping an eye on the sophomores in the secondary - there is some young talent opposite Texada with Orr, Mosely, Wesley, Howard, and Baltimore.

Jamie: Give me Big V on offense, sliding to left tackle to replace Tayo, and I’ll take Alec Dunham on defense. True freshman in the 2-deep who isn’t being talked about because of Mike Freeze, but this dude can ball.

Like Amazon Pantry,we’re getting a bulk of Presidential bids these days. It’s never too early for predictions so here are two questions: What’s happening with Kenny Hill (Trill)? And who wins the job in 2016?

Marsh: I’m sticking with Muehlstein. And maybe that’s a Machiavellian tactic to motivate Sawyer. And not to go Gordon Gekko; but the competition will bring out the best in both of these kids. And hell, maybe even Kenny Hill. But I’m sticking by Muehlstein right now.

Melissa: All signs point to Mr. "Trill" (I just threw up a little typing that) showing up on campus in the fall. But I think it's one of our redshirts taking over in 2016 - and the early leader in the clubhouse seems to be Foster Sawyer. I won't be a Hill believer until I see if he can buy in to the team aspect of being at TCU, and put his nose down and grind for a year with no chance to see the field. I think Mule and Sawyer will be neck and neck, with the determining factor being pinpoint accuracy vs athleticism. I think Foster just slings it too well to sit the bench, but there will be a Mule package in play. And they might just be keeping the seat warm for Brennan Wooten, who is making a name for himself out in the camp circuit, where he has been blowing up as a prospect.

Jamie: Trill will be here in the fall, but nobody will roll out the red carpet for him or guarantee him the starting job. If he has any doubts about that, he can call Matt Joeckel. I think Foster Sawyer will probably be the favorite to land the starting gig in 2016, but I think it’ll be wide open heading into next spring, and I can’t wait to see the kind of competition that inspires.