With the 2020 TCU football season officially over, we can look forward and predict how the Horned Frog depth chart will shake out when the 2021 season kicks off next fall. The first of a two-part series examining all three phases, let’s examine how the TCU offense could look next season with offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Sonny Cumbie moving on.
Seeing Max Duggan suit up for his sophomore season after his heart procedure before the season was a blessing for Horned Frog fans, who were genuinely concerned with the lack of depth at the position. Fortunately, Duggan stepped up, stayed healthy and accounted for 20 touchdowns while leading the team in rushing yards. While we’ve yet to see him take the next step as a passer, 2021 could be the breakout season for Duggan, who will have a more talented supporting cast and offensive line behind him.
TCU’s quarterback room will have some new faces in the mix next season. Four-star prospect Sam Jackson from Naperville, Illinois (as a native of the Chicagoland suburbs I feel obligated to highlight this) and German quarterback Alexander Honig will join the program, while Oklahoma transfer Chandler Morris, son of Auburn offensive coordinator Chad Morris, recently announced his commitment to the Horned Frogs. Matthew Downing will return after earning limited experience this season. JUCO transfer Stephon Brown and freshman Eli Williams are currently in the transfer portal.
Zach Evans? Darwin Barlow? Kendre Miller? All three backs made cases for being the starter next season. Evans and Miller each averaged over 7 yards per carry and Barlow ran for nearly 6 yards per carry. TCU’s three-headed backfield attack doesn’t even feature four-star redshirt freshman Daimarqua Foster, who missed time with an injury.
When healthy, all four backs were featured in the offense, but will this be healthy moving forward, especially with all four backs being so young? The Horned Frogs ideally need to establish at least two leading rushers for the 2021 season, with a third back coming in to spell the other two. Let’s not forget about Emari Demercado either. TCU’s most experienced running back, Demercado had his most productive season in 2020, totaling 309 yards including 110 receiving yards on 10 receptions.
Four-star freshman Quentin Johnston has emerged as TCU’s biggest deep-ball threat and a legitimate No. 1 option for the future. Taye Barber has been a steady producer over the last three seasons, but we’ve yet to see him really take off in the slot. Putting Johnston and Barber aside, who can the Horned Frogs count on to develop on the outside? TCU lost four wideouts to the transfer portal in Te’Vailance Hunt, Dylan Thomas, Al’Dontre Davis and John Stephens Jr. during the 2020 season.
Savion Williams, another four-star freshman, could be a candidate to step up and earn more work opposite Johnston. With Johnston at 6 feet 4 inches and Williams at 6 feet 5 inches, the twin towers would present challenges for opposing defenders. Perhaps TCU takes the JD Spielman route looks for transfers like Kansas wide receiver Andrew Parchment for immediate production? TCU will have a pair of young receivers returning in 2021 including redshirt freshman Blair Conwright and sophomore Mikel Barkley.
The H-slot appears to be the biggest logjam as far as personnel goes. Barber, Spielman and special teams dynamo Derius Davis all line up in the slot. Could TCU move someone like Barber to the Y-slot position to create more opportunities for Davis and Spielman, who was solid before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury? Maybe the Horned Frogs move Davis outside to capitalize on his downfield speed? We’ll find out more when camp resumes.
With Pro Wells and Artayvious Lynn opting for the NFL Draft, TCU will look for Carter Ware to shoulder the load at the tight end position. Ware largely assumed a hybrid fullback/tight end role, but with Cumbie leaving the program for Texas Tech, Ware could benefit if the Horned Frogs continue running the ball with limited spread looks. Another player who could be an immediate contributor from the 2021 recruiting class is four-star freshman D.J. Rogers, who flipped from California to TCU during Early Signing Period.
Losing offensive line coach Chris Thomsen clearly hurt this unit during the 2020 season, as there were several games where Duggan was under duress due to the lack of pass protection up front. Losing multiple starters in Lucas Niang, Anthony McKinney and Cordel Iwuagwu hurt as well, but there were many rotating pieces this season as TCU looked to find any semblance of consistency in the trenches. One bonus will be the return of starting right guard Wes Harris, who was arguably TCU’s best lineman before a season-ending injury.
Colorado State graduate transfer T.J. Storment and redshirt sophomore John Lanz closed out the season as the starting left tackle and left guard, looking solid along the way. Should Storment return for one more season, he’ll likely retain his role. Steve Avila and Coy McMillon rotated at center, with Avila kicking out to right tackle when starter Andrew Coker went down with an injury. Coker and Brandon Coleman both struggled on the near side, so it will be interesting to see who claims that position in 2021.
One player to watch will be four-star freshman Garrett Hayes, who earned some reps toward the end of the season. A tackle in high school, Hayes could compete with Coker and Coleman for the starting right tackle position in 2021. Another player who could step up is Blake Hickey, who filled in admirably at right guard after Harris suffered his injury.