246 days. That’s how long the wait has been. Less than a calendar year’s worth, but it has felt like a lifetime.
I’m sure others are like me. It wasn’t long after the spring game that I was going back through the 2017 TCU slate, watching every game (okay, most every game) again, remembering the seniors who have since moved on, looking for hints that their backups, and the returning guys, can shoulder the load in 2018.
There were plenty of hints. In fact, at some point, the evidence shifts from being a hint to being an obvious truth, and there are some significant truths about this 2018 TCU squad, but arguably the most important one is this:
Darius Anderson, Sewo Olonilua, Jalen Reagor, KaVontae Turpin, Jaelan Austin, Lucas Niang, Corey Bethley, Ben Banogu, Ty Summers, Innis Gaines, Niko Small, just to name a few. If TCU is to do anything, and go anywhere this season, these will be some of the significant players that get them there.
But it’s not just in the veterans that we see shocking amounts of talent. Shawn Robinson is the real deal, according to many people around the program. So is Terrell Cooper. Noah Daniels is fighting tooth and nail for a starting corner spot, and the Frogs have so many safeties, even with the loss of Nick Orr, that a possible starter (Markell Simmons) was listed as a third stringer on the depth chart for this week.
Kellton Hollins has taken to the starting center role like, well, a really good center. Position battles along the offensive line, wide receiver, and in the secondary aren’t because of a lack of talent, but because of a Midas-like wealth of it.
These Frogs are talented, and while inexperience is a question mark, talent may have more to say about where the Frogs wind up in the end.
Talent will certainly bear out on Saturday, where the Frogs host FCS-level Southern, a middling SWAC school looking to replace key players on both sides of the ball.
When Southern is on offense
Sophomore John Lampley takes over the starting QB role from senior Austin Howard, and while Lampley flashes some of the same abilities as Howard, experience is his big question mark.
Inexperience isn’t the issue for lead running back Devon Benn, who played the No. 2 role to Herb Edwards a season ago, and is looking to continue carrying the ball at over 5-yards a clip this season. Benn is going to be a feature in Southern’s offense Saturday, and he’ll be a good test for the rotation TCU has set up at defensive tackle.
Corey Bethley, Terrell Cooper, George Ellis III, Michael Epley, and Joe Broadnax Jr. will all rotate in at the DT spots, with Bethley taking the lionshare of reps at one spot, while the others try and fill the shoes of Ross Blacklock at the other, while also spelling Bethley at times.
This will be a good opportunity to see who starts to take the lead in the battle for one of the corner spots, between Noah Daniels and Julius Lewis. With Jeff Gladney the incumbent at the other spot, TCU is still looking at both Daniels and Lewis on the other side. Daniels provides TCU with size and versatility, while Lewis has the veteran wisdom and experience. Yes, Lewis is still mentally recovering from a knee injury last season, but he’s got an undeniable talent when he’s on the field.
When TCU is on offense
Southern is replacing their two leading tacklers, their leading defensive back, and their leading defensive linemen heading into this season. That’s never a good spot to be in, but it’s even worse of a spot to be in when you’re an FCS school playing a Top 25 team in week 1.
This will be a good opportunity for TCU’s newly constructed offensive line to get reps together, and it’ll also be a good chance for some of the depth guys at running back to get significant carries. Darius Anderson and Sewo Olonilua have both been banged up this fall, so it’s likely that they’ll see limited action before ceding to Kenedy Snell and Emari Demercado.
The same will probably be said for Jaelen Austin, Jalen Reagor, Jarrison Stewart, and KaVontae Turpin, who will see enough playing time to get a significant lead for TCU, before giving way to some younger guys.
Shawn Robinson and Michael Collins will both see early playing time as well, as the coaches try to give them both game experience with the ones on Saturday.
Of course, all of this is contingent on TCU doing what’s expected of them Saturday - i.e. take a big lead early and not look back. If that’s not the case, then there will be more significant questions we have to ask once the game is over.
TCU wins this one easily, as they should, and the Frogs get good looks at some depth guys as they begin preparing for a Friday night contest in Dallas, against SMU.