We all know that Gary Patterson is master motivator, and it appears he was up to his old tricks again ahead of Friday’s initial fall depth chart release. Though a few things were confirmed - ie: Ross Blacklock is good - a couple expectations seemingly feel short, as a handful of players that had been spoken highly of this month find themselves buried on the three-deep.
With the release of the depth chart, Gary Patterson also let it be known that the offense was being revamped - not in what is run, but how it is done.
Kenny Hill is QB1, to the shock of no one, and backing him up is true freshman Shawn Robinson. The offensive line is virtually surprise-free, as seniors Joseph Noteboom, Austin Schlottman, Patrick Morris, and Matt Pryor all earn first team nods, with sophomore Lucas Niang rounding out the starting five. GP has worried about the depth on the offensive line, where there isn’t much experience behind the starting five. Injuries could be detrimental to this group.
“We’re not as a deep as I’d like to be, and we should have eight or nine offensive linemen playing at a high level, but right now we’re at seven,” Patterson said. “You need to be somewhere between eight and ten because of injuries.”
Kyle Hicks is TCU’s best offensive player, but as is often the case at running back, he is listed at the top of the depth chart but with an OR next to his name, preceding Darius Anderson and Sewo Olonilua, all three of whom are co-starters.
At the X, senior John Diarse wins the starting job over Emanuel Porter and Taj Williams, who are still battling for the backup role. Taj’s fall from grace has been precipitous - a year ago at this time he was days away from catching double digit passes and lighting up the Jackrabbits, and now he will be fighting to get on the field. He’s talented, but it’s a stacked field.
Speaking of stacked, take a look at the “H” receiver. Desmon White and KaVontae Turpin are co-starters at the moment, as Turp works his way back into GP’s good graces after missing most of the off-season with academic issues. But, I don’t think anyone believes that he won’t get the majority of the snaps in the slot. On the other side, in the Y role, Ty Slanina and Shaun Nixon are neck and neck as both round back into form after injury shortened 2016s. With very different skillsets between them, both fill significant roles in the offense and will be a boon to Kenny Hill and Sonny Cumbie is they can stay on the field.
The most interesting training camp tussle is the Z receiver, as Jalen Reagor has been pushing Jaelan Austin all August, and is widely considered a burgeoning star for the Frogs. Isaiah Graham came on in a big way late last year and should find his way to plenty of snaps this season, as will junior Jarrison Stewart and sophomore Dylan Thomas. Lastly, Cole Hunt beats out Charlie Reid to start at tight end, with Artayvious Lynn looming as well.
Missing from the three-deep is four star freshman WR Omar Manning, who has been banged up during camp, and freshman RB Kenedy Snell, who Patterson has spoken highly of on multiple occasions.
Defensively there are a couple surprises as well, as freshman DT Corey Bethley falls to third in the rotation behind Chris Bradley and Joe L.J. Collier, despite being chosen for several preseason players to watch lists. It’s of little surprise that Ross Blacklock won the job next to Bradley for game one, as the physical specimen looks the part and has received good reviews for his play in August, despite GP knocking him down a peg a time or two. He edges Joe Broadnax and freshman George Ellis. At defensive end, where TCU has been thinned due to injuries and transfers, Ben Banogu lines up on the left side with Mat Boesen or Ty Summers book ending the line. Summers will take the majority of snaps on the line in game one, but Patterson expects him to play linebacker against Arkansas. He has been hurt as well, but doesn’t anticipate missing time. Collier will also take reps at end, with Dennis Collins and Michael Epley rounding out what is not a super deep rotation. GP likes to sub a lot on the line, so this is a potential area of concern.
Patterson has talked often about how good Arico Evans has been in the middle, and he ends up as the starting MLB, beating out Montrel Wilson. Travin Howard, who was potentially looking at a switch to safety, stays the the SLB position for now, with Sammy Douglas behind him.
There is a lot of flexibility on the roster on the defensive line and at linebacker, with Patterson having a handful of players that can be moved around depending on the tendencies of the opponent. Needless to say, the always inventive GP is excited about his options.
“All of our linebackers run in the 4.5’s, and Montrel Wilson is a Daryl Washington-type,” Patterson said.”We have Travin [Howard]. Sammy Douglas can run. Arico [Evans] has moved inside and come a long way.”
“Ty [Summers] was in the 700’s in the squat, 400’s in the bench and that can cause people on the edge problems when rushing the passer,” Patterson said. “You might see Ty maybe play some linebacker in the Arkansas game because you need a bigger linebacker inside.”
Ridwan Issahaku, Niko Small, Nick Orr, Ranthony Texada, and Julius Lewis OR Jeff Gladney make up your secondary, with freshmen Garrett Wallow ad Kerry Johnson making the three-deep. Innis Gaines is backing up Issahaku, but was having a good off-season before a few bumps and bruises slowed his progress down over the last few weeks.
Disappointingly, the Frogs have yet to name a kicker, as Brandon Ritchie, Jonathan Song, and Cole Bunce continue to battle for the job. None of the three has consistently been the best in camp, and thus, GP doesn’t feel ready to name The Guy. That’s a problem, and brings back shades of 2016 and the special teams struggles. Turp, Graham, and White will share punt and kick return duties.
The Frogs are an experienced group - the secondary averages 16 starts across the board, and the two deep boasts 19 seniors. But there’s an influx of youth as well, with 11 freshmen/redshirt freshmen making the depth chart overall.
The Frogs open their season on September 2nd at home against Jackson State, with kickoff set for 7:00pm. We are oh so close to opening night.