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TCU Football Midseason Report Card: Defense

Here are the grades for TCU’s defense halfway through the season.

NCAA Football: West Virginia at Texas Christian Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

TCU’s defense has had a resurgence in 2017. Here’s TCU’s national rank in several key categories.

  • 5th in red zone defense, allowing opponents to score just 62.5% of the time
  • 11th in rushing defense, allowing 98.3 yards per game and 2.92 yards per carry
  • 17th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 17.3 points per game
  • 22nd in 3rd down defense, allowing a first down just 30.3% of the time
  • 31st in total defense, allowing 336.3 yards per game

Overall, the defense has been a revelation for the Frogs this season, and they aren’t showing any signs of slowing down. Here are the midseason grades for each defensive unit.

Defensive Line: A+

I would argue that the defensive line has been the best part of the defense through six games this season. Eight sacks, four from Ben Banogu, and 22.5 tackles for loss, eight from Banogu, four forced fumbles and two interceptions are a signal of the kind of pressure the line has created so far.

We all knew that the defensive tackles were studs, and Ross Blacklock has been exactly the kind of hole-plugging monster we expected him to be. The Frogs have had very solid play from Corey Bethley, Chris Bradley, and Chris Bradley as well. While they don’t pile up numbers on a stat sheet, the tackles have been largely responsible for keeping the linebackers free, and the defensive ends in one-on-one situations, allowing them to feast on run defense.

Speaking of defensive ends, Ben Banogu has been absolutely dominant so far this season with 25 tackles, eight tackles for loss, four sacks, two forced fumbles, and six quarterback hits. The Louisiana-Monroe transfer is making a name for himself as the next great TCU defensive end. On the other side of the line, Mat Boesen continues to improve against the run, while being a force in the pass rush just like a season ago. Like Banogu, Boesen has forced two fumbles on the season, with multiple sacks, and 28 tackles.

Plus, between LJ Collier, Michael Epley, and Ty Summers, there seems to be a little bit of depth at end as well.

Linebackers: B+

There are some things we can always count on in this world. The sun will rise in the east, water will be wet, and Travin Howard is the leading tackler for TCU. Howard has 46 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, and an interception on the season, and he’s flying to the football as he always has. Alongside him, a rotation of Montrel Wilson, Arico Evans, Sammy Douglas, and Ty Summers have stepped in at various times to help fill the other linebacker spot, and give Howard a breath.

While there’s plenty of depth at linebacker, Howard is head and shoulders above the rest. His speed allows him to hang with receivers in coverage situations, and his strength makes him a force against the run.

The B+ comes from the struggle for Wilson/Evans to cover in the passing game. They’ve both been out of position several times this season, and have given up passes on underneath routes when the secondary had locked everyone else down. Same goes for Ty Summers in his limited time at linebacker this season. All three, though, have been fantastic against the run.

Cornerbacks: A

Ranthony Texada has been Ranthony Texada this season, and he’s a big reason TCU’s secondary is stronger than it was a season ago. Losing Julius Lewis for the season prior to the Oklahoma State game was a massive loss, but Jeff Gladney and Tony James have stepped up admirably in Lewis’ absence. TCU cornerbacks have nine passes defended, eight pass breakups, and an interception.

The occasional big play is what keeps them from getting an A+, but when you’re on an island 90% of the time, sometimes you’re going to get beat.

Safeties: B+

Ridwan Issahaku, Nick Orr, Innis Gaines, and Niko Small have all had big moments so far this season. Issahaku’s pick six against Jackson State, Orr’s interception of Will Grier, Innis Gaines hitting [insert anyone’s name here] so hard he sent in back in time, and Niko Small throwing his body into the fray for a goal line stand against Arkansas are all memorable. TCU safeties have 12 passes defended, three interceptions, 6.5 tackles for loss, and five sacks.

However, some broken coverages, specifically by Small and Orr, have held this unit back a bit. TCU’s defenses are always susceptible to the big play, but it’s a little worrisome how many big plays they’ve allowed to this point in the season. Sure, offenses like Oklahoma State and West Virginia are going to get theirs, but those big plays need to be minimized moving forward.