Spring ball is in full swing at TCU, with the annual spring game happening Saturday morning. As we look ahead to that, and the depth chart release thereafter, Melissa and JT have thoughts on where TCU football stands right now, and where they'll be come August.
JT: The spring game is just days away. I remember this time last year. We began to diagnose the issues that befell Kenny at A&M and decided that a fresh start was the key to his success. We believed TCU would offer a remedy to his previous ailment and looked upon with bated breath. We saw freshman receivers have their coming out party during the second half of the Alamo Bowl and prematurely crowned our receiving corps as both talented and numerous. We bemoaned our injury prone season and thought that our health would be a strength as we had tenure on our side. All of these thoughts swirled in my head as I attended the spring game last year.
I recall being extremely impressed with the hands of Isaiah Graham. I remember watching Tipa Galeai return an interception for a touchdown. I remember Mat Boesen looking like a real presence as a continually found his way into the backfield. I remember Gary Patterson moving about the crowd as the game rolled along. But mostly, I remember feeling as though this year could be special.
Perhaps the beauty of spring ball is that with every year, and with the inevitable turn over, I continue to maintain the status of one that is hopeful. Despite our less than desirable performance over the season, the signal of spring ball ushers in a clean slate where the past is behind us and the road ahead is filled with exciting uncertainty. I look forward to seeing what the spring has to offer, in all of its tumultuous positions swappings, position jumpings and other fruit basket chaos.
Gary Patterson generally plays things close to the best, preferring to keep opponents in the dark for as long as possible. But each year, we are treated to a surprise or two coming out of spring in the form of a breakout player or freshman that makes a move. Any predictions on who that might be in 2017?
JT: I think two things will happen. First I think the class we took in 2016 will have a lot of names called this year. I think we are going to have a lot of talented redshirt freshman and sophomores that are playing. Look for Isaiah Chambers, Isaiah Graham, Darius Anderson, Sewo Olonilua, Ross Blacklock, Vernon Scott and Innis Gaines, to name a few, to make a splash this spring. Oh… and Lucas Niang…. I think he’s gonna be huge. (I mean that both literally and figuratively.)
The second thing that I think will happen is that we will see a return to a salty defense with the aid of our most recent classes. I think our secondary is going to look very, very good.
Melissa: I am still anxiously awaiting the breakout of Deshawn Raymond, the cornerback out of Louisiana that arrived as an early-enrollee and one of the best defensive players in Louisiana, but has never fulfilled that promise on the field. Injuries and issues with the playbook kept him from reaching his potential, but he seems healthy and ready to make his mark in 2017. TCU could certainly use cornerback depth, so I am looking for Raymond to show out Saturday morning.
Also, there is talk of Ty Summers playing some defensive end… ummm… yes. Please. I hope we see him line up on the edge this weekend.
JT: I heard that as well. I think this will be very interesting to watch during the spring game to see what position changes Gary has made throughout the semester. I also heard Shawn Robinson has been working with the 2’s. I say this only because I don’t think I can write an article without bringing him up.
We all know the question marks surrounding the QB situation, but that's not the only place where the Frogs need to see some serious improvement. Which position battles will you be keeping an eye on when the depth chart comes out?
JT: Defensive end, no question. This I think is the position where we lack the most amount of depth. We lose both James McFarland and Josh Carraway to graduation, and Tipa Galeai is also no longer with the team due to assault charges. We gained a transfer from ULM named Ben Banogu, who can come in and fill a need after sitting out last season due to transfer rules. I think Isaiah Chambers is going to see some action in the spring, and am hoping he will also be able to alleviate the tension of the players lost. I also would like to keep an eye out for Brandon Bowen who was released of his LOI from Baylor and chose to come to TCU. Although he currently is injured, and a bit undersized as the DE position, he is incredibly athletic and has extremely high potential.
Melissa: Defensive end is definitely the biggest question mark heading into the season, but I am also really curious about how the wide receiver depth chart plays out. TCU has no shortage of talented players in that position group, but none of them stepped up and became ‘the guy’ last season. Drops, poor routes, and inconsistency plagued the unit a season ago, so I am hopeful to see guys like Graham and Williams to show us something this weekend.
Which position will we see the most improvement in the 2017 season?
JT: I think our receivers will be the most improved, simply by virtue of the fact that they underachieved last year. The reality is that we had a very young receiving group last year. I think the return of Shaun Nixon will be monumental this year as he was second (or third) in receptions two years ago. We have an outlandish amount of talent at that position and yet led the league in dropped passes. I think we will have some players step into leadership roles. I also think we have some young talent that could see some immediate playing time. That level of competition will challenge everyone in competition and will eventually enhance the receivers as an aggregate.
Melissa: WR is a great call - and I do believe they will be better. I also think the running back group really came on late, and with Shaun Nixon returning and Darius Anderson and Sewo Olonilua likely taking on bigger roles, it could be one of the deeper units in the conference. That being said, a good running game is only as good as the offensive line, and I am hopeful that what is now a veteran group will be much improved this fall.
JT: I also think the question of whether Turpin would be sidelined or not gave me a little cause for concern. But I have heard that he returned this week and so it appears that this issue has been resolved. This will only serve to improve the receivers in the fall.
After being one of the younger teams in the conference a year ago, with just a handful of seniors in the rotation, TCU should be one of the most veteran groups around in 2017. How does having a more experienced group affect your expectations for the coming season?
JT: It obviously plays a big role. I think we can sometimes fall into the trap of experience equaling results; that because we returned so many players last year that we would be very good. That is not necessarily always the case. I think we will be more experienced this year, and I think we have made some moves in order to improve our offense this year. Where I think we will see the experience help us the most is on the defensive side of the ball. I think returning our defensive backs will help immensely. We currently are a little thin at cornerback, but that doesn’t unnerve me so much. What worries me is the D-Line. I think we will have to grow up some players quickly, but we have the talent, and we have the anchors behind them to give them the tools to succeed. Offensively, we return quite a bit, however it was always a question mark as to which offense would show up. Candidly, we just have the improve on the offensive side of the ball, and again, we have the talent to do so, but we need to execute and not merely show up.
Melissa: Honestly, the thing that seemed to plague TCU Football last season most was immaturity. Inconsistency, questionable work ethic, and a sense of entitlement in the locker room all played a role in the Frogs falling off from their normal level of success. One only has to rewatch the K-State game (please don’t make me) to see that the team quit in the second half of that game. When you only have a handful of seniors - and only a couple of whom are contributors - it’s hard to establish a sense of order in the locker room, and the coaches can only do so much. Guys like Ranthony Texada, Kyle Hicks, Matt Pryor, Chris Bradley, Austin Schlottman… and the 34 total seniors listed on the 2017 roster (holy s^*t)... will make sure that guys do their jobs and hold up their expectations on and off the field.
JT: That is a great point. I think regardless of one’s class designation, one can be immature. It was evident last season, especially in the second half. And what I think I hear you saying is that we should take a Saturday in the spring and do a double feature where we all watch the Oklahoma State and Kansas State game back to back. I’ll take twitter.
Melissa: No. Not the man who came up with #wetanus, please.