Less than 40 days now remain until TCU football begins its latest quest for a Big 12 Championship and more. While questions loom over the Horned Frogs’ revamped offense heading into the 2018 campaign, Gary Patterson’s defense — a unit which has consistently set the benchmark in the conference — is poised to be among the best the Big 12 has to offer once again this fall.
On Monday, we provided you with a sneak-peak of the defensive line — one which has potential to be the best in Fort Worth since Patterson became head coach in December 2000. It’s now time to shift to the secondary as we take a look at the cornerbacks.
Gone is DFW-native Ranthony Texada, who emerged as one of the best cornerbacks we’ve seen in recent memory at TCU. Replacing the shut-down force that Texada was - with 62 solo tackles and 21 defended passes over the past two seasons - won’t be an overnight task, but the Horned Frogs aren’t without depth. TCU returns an 11-game starter from a year ago in the form or junior Jeff Gladney, and Julius Lewis could compliment him in the secondary if healthy by Week 1. Scroll further down the roster, and even newcomers such as Trevon Moehrig-Woodard and Atanza Vongor could make a splash after being recruited by TCU as elite prospects in the Class of 2018.
Nothing is set in stone just yet, but here is our best prediction of how the Horned Frogs’ depth chart will look at cornerback this fall.
1st String: Jeff Gladney | Julius Lewis
As touched on, 2018 is Gladney’s opportunity to take a leadership-position among the cornerbacks following the departure of Texada. He’s the most experienced member of the group with 11 starts and playing time in all 13 games during the 2017 campaign, which he finished with 23 solo tackles, 5 pass breakups and 2 interceptions. One of those went for a 94-yard pick-six vs. Texas Tech, a game which Gladney tallied a season-high 7 total tackles.
The Horned Frogs could have two juniors starting at cornerback if Lewis gets the nod alongside Gladney, but injuries have plagued the Mansfield, Texas native each of the past two seasons. Lewis saw considerable playing time out of the gate with 12 appearances and 4 starts as a freshman in 2015, but was limited to just six appearances due to an achilles injury in 2016 before a second injury of such knocked the Horned Frogs’ No. 2 cornerback out for the season in September 2017. With his recovery-time lingering into spring practice earlier this year, it wouldn’t come as a shock if Lewis is bumped to the second string or even moved to safety as the defense looks to replace Nick Orr, who graduated along with Texada.
2nd String: Tony James | Keenan Reed
James might not be exactly a household name in TCU’s secondary, nor is the nearby Bowie High School (Arlington, Texas) product the largest at 5-foot-10 and 159 pounds. But as a senior, he is among the most tenured cornerbacks on the Horned Frogs’ roster and took a considerable leap forward in 2017 after appearing in all but one contest on the season. With experience as a receiver in high school, James has speed, and that could propel him to the first string if he impresses in fall camp.
The depth chart is rather fluid beyond the trio of Glandney, Lewis and James, but former JUCO transfer Keenan Reed is a likely candidate to flank either of the latter two at second string. The junior saw an increase in playing time late last season, appearing in each of TCU’s final six contests of 2017 after appearing in just two prior the entire fall. With that experience in mind, this could be the year where he takes his game to the next level in the secondary.
3rd String: Devin Buckner | Trevon Moehrig-Woodard
Buckner comes to TCU as an Arkansas transfer, so yes, he already has one career victory on the field at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Though he sat out the 2017 season, the Razorbacks are known for producing physical players, and that’s a trait that certainly won’t hurt the secondary if coaches determine that Buckner is ready to receive a healthy dose of playing time in 2018.
When it comes to the freshmen, Vongor, Moehrig-Woodard and Noah Daniels (RS) all have the makings of future stars on TCU’s defense, but with Vongor and Daniels seemingly trending in the direction of safety, Moehrig-Woodard could be the newcomer who emerges alongside Buckner at third string. At 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, he’s the versatile athlete that can excel early in his collegiate career. He has some hands too, as seen in the San Antonio Sports All-Star Game this past January.
Smithson Valley DB/ATH and TCU signee Tre'von Moehrig-Woodard had a blast playing in the @SA_Sports All-Star Game. He primarily played defense, but caught a 65-yard TD pass. @TheReal_Tre44 @SV_RangerFB @valleyventana @TCUFootball #KSATsports pic.twitter.com/dIXtcGBgF7— Larry Ramirez (@LRam2) January 7, 2018
Simply put, there’s a reason the Spring Branch, Texas native earned a 4-star rating from 247Sports as the No. 4 cornerback from the Lone Star State in the Class of 2018. Regardless of how much playing time he does earn this fall, you can bet that big things are to come from him down the road.