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2016 TCU Football Preview: Impact Freshmen

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The Frogs relied heavily on true freshmen a year ago, yielding several breakout stars. Who will play that role in 2016 for TCU?

NCAA Football: Baylor at Texas Christian Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

It’s the deepest and most talented class on paper that TCU coach Gary Patterson has signed. Rife with four star talents and freshmen that look like seniors from the MWC days, the roster is littered with players that should see meaningful snaps - and unlike 2015, not out of need, but because they’ve earned it.

A season ago, a combination of injuries and sheer ability led to several first year players seeing the field. Guys like Emanuel Porter, Jaelan Austin, Jarrison Stewart, Shaun Nixon, and of course, KaVontae Turpin, became stars at wide receiver, while Foster Sawyer, Ty Summers, and Montrel Wilson played crucial roles in TCU wins. As we inch closer and closer to the season, it’s time to take a look at the incoming freshmen that could fill those roles this fall.

Isaiah Graham, WR - The four star wide receiver is one of the most decorated at that position to sign with the Frogs out of high school, having been ranked as the #3 player at his position in Louisiana. At 6’1” and 185 pounds, the early-enrollee will need to bulk up his frame a bit, hopefully without losing his impressive speed. But his footwork and play-making ability certainly set him apart; though he is competing for snaps at possibly the most crowded position on the depth chart, Graham is going to be hard to keep off the field.

Darius Anderson, RB - At 5’11 and 194 pounds, the elusive Anderson cuts an opposing figure to opposing defenses. The speedster was a bit of a late bloomer in high school, amassing several offers from top schools in the winter after de-commiting from Missouri. But he stuck with the Frogs, and his decision may pay off, as TCU is looking for an impact player to help make up for the loss of Aaron Green (graduation) and Shaun Nixon (injury). Though Kyle Hicks is poised to be the lead back, and Michigan transfer Derrick Green will also receive his fair share of snaps, Anderson and another true freshman have a chance to become household names toting the rock.

Ross Blacklock, DT - This is Ross:

Ross is a true freshman.

You aren’t going to want to line up against Ross.

The four star defensive tackle out of Missouri City, TX is one of the biggest names to be inked by TCU, choosing the Frogs over the likes of Alabama, A&M, LSU, and other blue-bloods at the US Army All-American game. I watched Ross’ commitment from a bar in Houston ahead of attending the Chiefs/Texans playoff game that night. I turned to my friend after and said “TCU recruiting has just been forever changed”. And I don’t think I was exaggerating. The #22 overall player in Texas, Blacklock clearly looks the part already, and while time will tell if he can crack the lineup in a deep defensive group, early reviews are glowing. With a handful of studs ahead of him (Aaron Curry, LJ Collier, Chris Bradley, Joe Broadnax, etc), Blacklock will be in a battle for snaps. But GP has always loved to torture an opposing QB with fresh legs on the DL, and it’s going to be increasingly hard to keep Blacklock off the field.

Brandon Bowen, DE - A late summer gift, Bowen was a highly-touted defensive end out of Trophy Club who initially decided to sign with a team that doesn’t play defense. But a series of events, of which you are all well aware, gave Bowen a chance to change his mind, and he matriculated to TCU to join one of the best defensive programs in the country. Another behemoth of a young man, Bowen clocks in at 6’4” and 235 pounds, looking like your picture perfect pass-rushing punisher. With James McFarland and RS freshman Tipa Galeai off to hot starts in fall camp, and incumbent Josh Carraway slotted in one starting position, Bowen will be battling transfer Mat Boesen and former linebacker Semaj Thomas for snaps. But much like the aforementioned Blacklock, I don’t think he will stay on the sidelines for long. Also worth mentioning here is another highly touted four star recruit at DE, Isaiah Chambers out of Houston MacArthur. At 6’4” and 258 pounds, he might be slightly undersized for a collegiate season, but if he doesn’t end up redshirting, he certainly has a chance to make an impact.

Austin Myers, OL - There is a trio of incredibly talented true freshmen on the offensive line this fall; in addition to Myers, Lucas Niang and Kelton Hollins have unlimited potential and should help anchor the position for years to come. And while offensive linemen are generally redshirt candidates (five such players had that distinction from the class of 2015), if there is one that could stay in the rotation this fall, it’s the 6’5” 300 pounder out of Manvel. A top 200 player nationally, Myers could provide a spark late in the season when the bumps and bruises mount up and fresh legs become even more of a premium.

Sewo Olonilua, RB - The early enrollee dazzled during the Frogs’ spring game, rushing for the offense’s only score. A two way player in high school, Sewo is expected to be an offensive player at TCU, but it would come as no surprise if he were to follow the pathway paved by other similar players ahead of him - guys like Jerry Hughes - and transition to the defensive ball at some point in his career. A robust 6’3” and 225 pounds already, Olonilua has the body to hold up at linebacker, or possibly to be a two way player a la Myles Jack, which many Frogs fans are clamoring for. But, in his freshman campaign, expect to see Sewo used in goal line and short yardage situations, where he will compete with Trevorris Johnson for snaps early. Don’t let his size fool you though, the running back has some serious jets, and can run by defenses after running them over.

Vernon Scott, CB - Patterson is notoriously tough on his corners, and for good reason - the men manning the outside have to know the ins and outs of the 4-2-5 defense well enough to react in a heartbeat, or risk getting beat. It’s rare that a true freshman steps on to the field unless he has to at the position, but Vernon Scott has a chance to do just that. Tall and rangy, the 6’2”, 200 pound freshman out of Mansfield has made an early impression, leaving GP singing his praises heading into the fall. With Ranthony Texada still working his way back from an ACL tear a year ago, Scott will have a chance to play, competing with a host of other youngsters at the position to pick up snaps in critical moments.

Redshirt Freshmen: We would be remiss to not mention some of the young players that have a year in the playbook and the weight room under their belts, and should be seeing the field this fall. Punter Adam Nunez has had a good camp and he looks to fill the role vacated by the graduated Ethan Perry. Dave Bolosomi (OT), Sam Awolope (OT), and Jozie Milton (C) could all see time on the offensive line, where the Frogs love to rotate guys often to keep their legs fresh for a strong fourth quarter. Semaj Thomas, who was recently moved from linebacker to defensive end, has had a strong camp, and Jeff Gladney was one of the highlights of the spring at the corner position. The depth these players give the Frogs, as well as the versatility they provide, should serve the Frogs well, as we saw a year ago.