Today we look at TCU's Special Teams, or as I like to call them, the "Zero to Hero Squad." A well-placed punt to the 1-yard line or a successful field goal in the final seconds of a game will have Frog Fans ready to hoist the Hero onto their shoulders and parade him around Fort Worth. But one fumbled snap or incorrect placement can have fans throwing toddler-style tantrums outside the Amon and holding a grudge for the rest of the season. Patterson said that the Special Teams group was not where they needed to be after the Mock Game this past Saturday. With all the talent the team brings to the table, we ever-so-politely beg to differ. I like to think they're just working the final kinks out. And they've got a week to do it (no pressure, guys).
Last season, we had a great Special Teams crew, and most of them are returning this year (see what I did there?). Oddly enough, the big name that's not returning...was one of the best returners on the field. The exit of Cameron Echols-Luper threw everyone for a loop (I'm seriously on a roll today). Even though we were all surprised that CEL was leaving, there are actually plenty of candidates available for returns this season. Ranthony Texada, who we mentioned in our Cornerback preview, had some experience last season with 2 returns that averaged 54.5 yards. One of those returns was for 65 yards during the Peach Bowl, so clearly the pressure was no issue for him. Safety Derrick Kindred is another name we could see in the return game; he returned one of his four interceptions last season 44 yards for a touchdown against Iowa State. Tailback Kyle Hicks had two kickoff returns last season, as well. He's got a good set of receiving hands and had 12 receptions last season for 118 yards. He had 38 yards on seven carries in the Texas Tech game, and had 160 yards rushing. All three of these guys are sophomores, which is nice, since we'll be losing quite a few players from the Special Teams crew at the end of the season.
Patterson does a great job giving younger players a chance to play when it's not too risky, so depending on the game we may see some youngsters trying their hand at returns (really, I'm just on fire today with these special teams puns). Kavontae Turpin's name has been mentioned as possible returner. The freshman wide receiver has a 40-dash time of 4.44. Players like Niko Small and Arico Evans may also make appearances. Small is short, but quick, which can make him extremely difficult to cover. Evans was a QB in high school and ran for 1,076 yards, so he's clearly got a talent for reading coverage and avoiding tackles.
One of our favorite Hero Frogs is Jaden Oberkrom. His field goal in the final seconds of the West Virginia game last season to give us the win is the stuff movies are made of. He continues to improve every year, as evidenced by his stats.
Courtesy of GoFrogs.com
In 2012 and 2013, he received All-Big 12 Honorable Mention. He's been First Team Academic All-Big 12 for the past two years. And he was a semifinalist for the Lou Groza award in both 2012 and 2014. He made 76 of 77 extra point attempts (a school record for both PATs and attempted PATs) and made 22 of 27 field goal attempts last season. He was the #1 kick scorer in the nation and set four additional TCU records in 2014:
- 142 season kicking points
- 100 consecutive PATs made
- 10 single-game PATs
- 10 single-game PAT attempts
Behind Obercrom are three underclassmen: Ryan Graf, Jonathan Song, and Brandon Hatfield. None have any game experience, yet, but they definitely have a strong leader and role model to show them what to do this season.
Ethan Perry is back punting for his senior year. He posted his longest punt in 2014 with 67 yards against Minnesota. 45.3% of his punts landed inside the opposing 20-yard line, which made him 8th in the nation.
Courtesy of GoFrogs.com
The team's other punter is freshman Adam Nunez, with Hatfield listed as a possibility for both place kicker and punter. Surely they'll be taking plenty of notes from Perry throughout the season.
The Special Teams squad is geared for another great season, and we're sure they'll be more "Hero" than zero. As we near the one week mark before 2015 football season begins, Patterson says he wants less focus on a national title and more focus on getting past Minnesota. The game-by-game mentality has brought TCU up through the ranks over the years, so maybe he's right. As excited as we are, let's all don our favorite purple shirts, subscribe to every sports channel possible, travel to the Amon, and support our Frogs against each individual team. We know they have the talent and ability to get past every opponent and win a championship. But let's keep that ourselves for now and let the Frogs Prove Them Right, one game at a time.