TCU football began practice on Sunday, in preparation for the 2017 season, which means Frog fans are close to having some of their biggest offseason questions answered. Here are a few that we will know more on in the coming weeks.
1. How different will the offense look?
With Doug Meacham in Lawrence, Sonny Cumbie takes over playcalling duties, while running backs coach Curtis Luper gets a title bump to co-offensive coordinator. Cumbie is cut from the same cloth as Meacham, so there shouldn’t be a massive deviation from the offense we’ve seen in recent years.
However, we all remember the #GiveKyleTheDamnBall movement from last season. Kyle Hicks, as well as Darius Anderson and Sewo Olonilua behind him, have all shown elite abilities out of the backfield, and getting them more invloved could help minimize the pressure on the quarterback, whoever it may be. Which leads to the next question.
2. Is there really a quarterback competition?
Heading into spring practice, true freshman Shawn Robinson was on record as hoping to redshirt this season, giving him a chance to ease into things at the college level. That won’t be the case, though, as he stepped on to campus and, by the end of spring, was taking more snaps in the spring game than any other quarterback.
Of course, the job still belongs to Kenny Hill for now, but could another season of inaccuracy and interceptions push the coaching staff into making a change at signal caller? It’s possible. Robinson is currently running with the second team, and he’s done nothing but impress people since getting to TCU.
3. What freshmen will break into the two deep?
Shawn Robinson is already there, as he currently looks to be Kenny Hill’s primary backup. Beyond Robinson, though, there are a few kids who could see the field early and often as freshmen.
First up is the dynamic receiving duo, Jalen Reagor and Omar Manning. Reagor’s elite speed makes him an obvious choice, but his receiver skills set him apart from receivers in previous classes. Omar Manning is equally impressive, especially when it comes to his ball skills and abilities in one-on-one situations.
The current depth at safety means that a freshman like Garrett Wallow could step in and see time right away, too. Wallow is expected to move to linebacker at some point, but he’s a natural strong safety.
From a redshirt freshman standpoint, the obvious pick to make an impact is DT Ross Blacklock. Listed at 6-foot-4, 326 pounds on TCU’s roster, Blacklock could be the impact run-stopper TCU desperately needed a season ago. Blacklock, along with Isaiah Chambers and Gary Overshown, will be three redshirt freshmen along the defensive line expected to make an impact. With the injury to Brandon Bowen (out for the season after having surgery to repair a shoulder injury), Chambers and Overshown will have ample opportunity on the end of the line.
4. Will the defense be a true “TCU” defense?
Injuries to key players hindered TCU’s defense early in the season, and the Frogs never quite got back on their feet. But now, guys like Ranthony Texada are completely healthy. Pair Texada with Jeff Gladney at cornerback, and add in depth like Julius Lewis and Keenan Reed, and TCU has some very talented cornerbacks.
Safety has its own experience too, with Nick Orr and Niko Small anchoring things in the secondary. Guys like Ridwan Issahaku and Markell Simmons also have valuable experience, but the depth beyond them is rather unknown. Vernon Scott, Innis Gaines, Michael Downing, and Garrett Wallow will be called upon to step into key roles here. They’re absolutely talented enough to get the job done.
Linebacker and defensive tackle may be the strongest two units for the Frogs defense. Led by Travin Howard and Ty Summers, this linebacker unit has the potential to be one of the best in the country. They’ll be working with vastly different set of defensive tackles to help against the run, too. Ross Blacklock, Ezra Tu’ua, and Joe Broadnax are all over 300 pounds, making this the literal biggest defensive line TCU has had in a long time. Guys like L.J. Collier and Chris Bradley are also great talents with a lot of experience, to help that DT rotation.
The only big question mark really lies at defensive end. With Bowen out for the season, the depth is questionable behind Mat Boesen and Ben Banogu. Isaiah Chambers and Gary Overshown will need to step up in a big way, and there’s a rumor that Ty Summers could slide down to DE from time to time to help add depth at the position. That would be an interesting solution, but with the depth at linebacker, it makes sense.
5. Who will kick?
No one knows. I’m of the assumption that it’s Hatfield’s job to lose, but that’s total speculation. There are six possible kickers currently listed on Go Frogs. Surely one of them can be consistent?