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2017 TCU Position Preview: Defensive Line

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This group has the BEEF.

Iowa State v TCU Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

It became obvious over the past few seasons that TCU needed to get bigger along the defensive line. The Frogs’ run defense struggled in 2016, finishing 73rd in the country, allowing 185.8 rushing yards/game at 4.18 yards/carry and 23 rushing touchdowns.

The scary part of those numbers, was that they were marginal improvements on the 2015 season, when TCU gave up 182.6 yards/game, at 4.22 yards/carry and 27 rushing touchdowns.

The result? TCU has been acquiring beef. A lot of beef.

Included in TCU’s 2016 recruiting class were two 4-star defensive linemen: DE Isaiah Chambers (6-4, 258 pounds), and DT Ross Blacklock (6-4, 326 pounds). The addition of a defensive end bigger than most TCU had on its roster at that time, as well as the first 300+ pound defensive tackle, signaled that the Frogs had recognized the need to get bigger.

2017 saw the Frogs add more beef, as not one, not two, but three massive defensive tackles signed with TCU. Corey Bethley (6-2, 302), George Ellis III (6-2, 290), and Ezra Tu’ua (6-2, 315) also immediately gave the Frogs far more size in the middle of the line than they had had in recent memory. Those additions over the past two years, along with a few other bodies, will make up the revamped defensive line this season.

Post-Spring DL Depth Chart

DL Depth LE DT DT RE
DL Depth LE DT DT RE
1st String Ben Banogu Ross Blacklock L.J. Collier Mat Boesen
2nd String Isaiah Chambers Joseph Broadnax Jr. Chris Bradley Brandon Bowen
3rd String Gary Overshown

The Starters:

Ross Blacklock is a redshirt freshman, and he’s a massive, massive human being. Standing at 6-4 and coming in around 330 pounds, Blacklock is exactly what Patterson wanted when he said the line needed to get bigger. A guy like Blacklock can do a variety of things for a defensive line, not least of all is fill up a big hole in run defense. But with his strength, mobility, and size, Blacklock can also collapse a pocket and force a quarterback to move.

While L.J. Collier is “smaller” (idk if 280 pounds is “small”), he has two seasons of production under his belt. Collier recorded 4.5 sacks a season ago, and his experience and understanding of what’s needed from the DT position is invaluable for a line like TCU’s. Collier is quick off the ball, and uses leverage well to get through blockers to the ball.

Meanwhile, on the ends, it seems like Mat Boesen and Ben Banogu will get the first opportunity. Boesen is coming off of a solid season a year ago, where he recorded six sacks. The Long Beach CC transfer is great in passing downs, but needs to work on his rush defense. His size means that sometimes he can get pushed around a bit against the run, but his speed helps him make up for some of that.

Banogu, a transfer from Louisiana Monroe, sat out last year due to transfer rules. His redshirt freshman year at ULM, he recorded 45 tackles, including 14.5 tackles for loss and 5 sacks.

The Rotation:

At defensive tackle, Ross Blacklock and L.J. Collier were listed atop the depth chart after spring ball, but this will surely be a position where we see a lot of rotation. Guys like Joe Broadnax and Chris Bradley are both incredibly experienced players and freshmen Corey Bethley and George Ellis III have both impressed and are pushing for early playing time. Broadnax, Bethley, and Ellis all check in at 300 pounds, so the beef is present in the depth of DT. And, lest we forget, that’s not to mention transfer Ezra Tu’ua, who checks in at 6-2, 315 pounds. After fielding just Broadnax last season as a 300 pounder, TCU has the chance to rotate between six 300-pound DTs this fall. That’s exciting.

Of those guys, I’m most excited to see what Broadnax brings to the table this season. He saw significant playing time a year ago, and hopefully he can improve on what was a decent sophomore campaign.

Defensive end depth is where things get a bit tricky, though. Patterson recently revealed that Brandon Bowen was out for the season, after suffering an injury and having surgery. That leaves just Isaiah Chambers and Gary Overshown, two redshirt freshmen, behind them as guys with program experience.

Fortunately, TCU also got a transfer named Michael Epley, from Tyler Junior College, who can help provide depth at the end position. He was a force at the JUCO level, and will look to provide the same type of impact at the D1 level this season.

One of the most interesting possible solutions, though, is the shuffling of things at linebacker so Ty Summers can slide to DE. According to Patterson, Summers has been getting significant reps at defensive end, and has been rather effective from the edge.

With Arico Evans stepping up at the other linebacker spot, it appears as if this is a legitimate possibility. Would Summers move to DE full time? I’m not sure, but he seems to be capable of providing depth to an otherwise thin position.