How much can you take away from a 60 minute contest where half of your key contributors don’t play? Melissa and JT take a deep dive into the State of the Horned Frogs to find out.
Melissa: Another spring practice series has come and gone, and while most college football fans across the country welcome this time of year with unabashed optimism of just how good their favorite team can be, Frog fans seem to be following the Gary Patterson school of “we aren’t any good, we can’t be any good, and we may never be any good”. Is this a fair assessment of where you sit post-spring game?
JT: Yes and no. Mostly, no. I have seen a lot of people use thing spring game to harken back to 2014 when the offense was scoreless and yet went on to have one of the best seasons in TCU history. I don’t think the comparisons are exactly parallel, but the point remains the same: Spring games are seldom revealing of the talent, potential and ability to execute in the fall. Despite the fact that our offense was unable to find a rhythm, I do not think we need to sound the alarm. As it has been said, this is in essence the most basic variety of our offense against the most basic variety of our defense playing each other. After seeing this repetition for fourteen practices, the advantage will always go to the defense. We cannot put too much stock into this game. It simply does not mean that much.
Melissa: Completely agreed. Everything you need to know about how GP feels about the Spring Game can be seen between the play calls, the fact they won’t allow it televised, and the warnings fans and media get about recording anything during play. He doesn’t want anyone to know anything, and he’s good at making that happen.
Melissa: There were a lot of questions going into last Saturday’s glorified scrimmage, but it seems we got few answers. What was the biggest thing you were looking to get out of the game and which questions remain unanswered?
JT: For me, it is how good is our defense. This happened last year. Our defense had a tremendous outing and it gave fans a lot of excitement going into the fall. They looked very good on Saturday. The flip side to not giving the spring game any weight is that it can also not speak for our defense. Last year, we had a spring game that was similar in the sense that it featured anemic offense and a stalwart bulwark of a defense. This can be misleading, though, as it was last year. We thought that our defense was going to be tremendous because of their ability to slow our offense and the reality was that our offense was marginal at best, which made our defense look stout. The harsh reality is that we are unable to make accurate judgements about the team as an aggregate. What we can speculate, and rather wildly at that, is the positions themselves, and the revolving door of people who hold them.
Melissa: I was incredibly impressed with the pressure the defense was able to consistently generate on whichever QB was taking sacks. The defensive line looks salty as hell, and Boesen, Banogu, and co look like the real deal.
Melissa: Are you as sick of hearing about the problems with the kicking game as I am? John Song didn’t play, and Patterson sent out Cole Bunce - more of a kickoff specialist than anything - to attempt the lone extra point of the day, and be promptly doinked it. There weren’t any field goals, and none of the other placekickers got close to the field. Is this some gamesmanship by the head honcho, or is he trying to protect his guys from more scrutiny?
I will say this, however. It seemed as though there was a cruel and divine sense of humor at play that in our one kicking opportunity, it was missed. I hope this was merely homage to the lackluster kicking efforts last year, and not an ominous foreshadowing of things to come. It was one kick. It was windy. And it was from a person who will most likely not be kicking in meaningful moments in the fall.
Melissa: Drops remain a problem for TCU receivers, who, despite better reports out of spring camp, still seem unable to hold onto the ball. Is there someone in this group that can step up, or are you counting on the freshmen to put the screws to the vets and take over?
JT: DROPS FOR DAYS. I think it will be a bit of both. I think we will have some leaders emerge from our current receiving body. I think Shaun Nixon, Isaiah Graham and John Diarse will provide leadership both on and off the field. They are our most reliable receivers and will continue that trend in the fall. I will say that I think our freshman receivers coming in will have every opportunity to see the field in the fall. Look for Reagor to have his hands on the ball. A lot.
The depth chart has now been released. Melissa and JT will speculate wildly about the importance or lack thereof of the spring depth chart.
The plot thickens. The drama continues. Shawn Robinson is now listed as the number two quarterback on the depth chart. What does this mean and what are your musings on the quarterback Position?
JT: (Read this entire section with Tupac playing in the background (Specifically changes) because this exactly how I am writing it.) This is dope. People have been giving hot takes about Shawn Robinson every since he was a sophomore in high school. I have been one of them. I frankly don’t think he is finished climbing the depth chart before the season starts. I genuinely believe that he could be the starting quarterback by August. Keep in mind that he could be sitting in class at DeSoto High School waiting to walk across the stage and receive a diploma, and yet here he is sitting as the backup to Kenny. Even in the spring game, it felt as though they were wanting to give him the most reps out of anyone to see if this would truly be a possibility. It is evident that there is still work to be done, but I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibilities that he will come into fall camp ready to usurp the number one spot.
Melissa: As I mentioned in my spring game quick takes, I have mixed feelings about Shawn at no. 2. If you think he’s legitimately better than Kenny Hill, by all means, start him. But if it’s close, you have to sit him in my opinion. His talent is undeniable, but nothing we saw Saturday told me he was ready for the Big Leagues… yet. The best thing for Shawn, and TCU, appears to be a redshirt year. Personally, I am of the belief that the Frogs should not burn his RS year to be the backup, barring injury. I am also disappointed than none of the more experienced guys were able to present more of a challenge to the true freshman, even as naturally talented as he is.
Outside of quarterback, what is the most surprising facet of the depth chart?
JT: We had mentioned earlier in another spring football article how we would see some members of the 2016 recruiting class make some waves. It appears that our premonition has come to fruition as many of those players are listed on the depth chart. Most notably is Lucas Niang and Ross Blacklock, both of whom are listed as the number one player at their respective position. Other members of that class like Austin Myers, Innis Gaines, Vernon Scott, Isaiah Chambers, and Brandon Bowen are all listed as the backup in their position. While I am not surprised by the strength of their class in the depth chart, I am surprised by the number of players that are already impacting the team in such a dramatic way.
Melissa: Innis Gaines may have been the most impressive surprise Saturday, as he was all over the field defensively. He’s my early pick for breakout player of the year. Blacklock and Niang taking starting jobs is great news for TCU - Niang was my breakout candidate last year - and I think Chambers, Bowen, and Banogu (a transfer) will be names we hear over and over again this fall. The 2016 class should be huge factors into 2017’s success.
Are there any places where you think the depth chart will look different in the fall? Is Patterson merely using this as a mechanism to push his players to be better or does this list seem to be legitimate?
JT: One change that I think could possibly be made is that this depth chart does not account for those who are not on campus yet. This includes the vast majority of the class of 2017. I think it is possible for some of them to come in and make an immediate impact where the depth chart is concerned, specifically in the arena of receiver. Look for Reagor, Manning and Snell to make waves in fall camp. I also think Patterson has put some people at the two position in order to light a fire under them to maximize their ability. Only the fall will tell if this strategy works.
Melissa: The wide receiving group is certainly the most intriguing, as the three guys you mentioned should all push for playing time. I also expect Austin Schlottman and Turpin to regain their starting spots, and Jon Song to have a firm grip on place kicking duties. It seems every year there’s at least one true freshman who steps up and becomes a big time player - Wes Harris could be a candidate for that role on the offensive line. Lastly, I expect Julius Lewis and Chris Bradley to both be starters by the Arkansas game, if not sooner.