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2022 TCU Football Recap: Defense

The Horned Frogs featured a new base alignment this season, transitioning from Gary Patterson’s 4-2-5 to a 3-3-5 under defensive coordinator Joe Gillespie.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 15 Oklahoma State at TCU Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The TCU football team saw a significant change to its defense this season, with the Horned Frogs moving away from former head coach Gary Patterson’s 4-2-5 base defense and shifting to a 3-3-5 scheme under new defensive coordinator Joe Gillespie. Gillespie was hired by new head coach Sonny Dykes after spending seven seasons at Tulsa and three seasons as the defensive coordinator for the Golden Hurricane, who recently saw linebacker Zaven Collins selected in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

TCU hit the transfer portal hard and recruited new players to fit the new 3-3-5 base defense. Several newcomers including strong safety Mark Perry (Colorado) and cornerback Josh Newton (Louisiana-Monroe) as well as outside linebacker Johnny Hodges (Navy) earned starting roles and made a significant impact right away. Other transfers including defensive linemen Caleb Fox (Stephen F. Austin) and Lwal Uguak (UConn) found rotation roles on the TCU defense, which saw mixed results during the 2022 season, finishing tied for 90th nationally in scoring defense with 29.0 points allowed per game. The Horned Frogs conceded 158.87 rushing yards per game (79th nationally) and 249.3 passing yards per game (97th nationally). TCU’s 408.2 total yards allowed per game ranked 95th overall.

While the total defense and scoring defense metrics leave room for improvement, TCU found ways to generate key stops and force crucial turnovers throughout the season. The Horned Frogs recorded 30 sacks (47th nationally) and 86 tackles for loss (31st nationally) while totaling 16 interceptions (10th nationally) and 88 passes defended (fifth nationally). TCU’s 72 pass breakups ranked fourth nationally behind only Penn State, MTSU and Fresno State. The Horned Frogs will lose two of their three starters on the defensive line including sixth-year senior Terrell Cooper and fifth-year senior Dylan Horton, who led TCU with 10 sacks this season. Uguak will also depart after announcing his declaration for the draft.

Freshman nose tackle Damonic Williams (12 tackles and 1.5 sacks) shined in his first season at TCU, earning the starting role and giving Horned Frog fans plenty of optimism for the future. Rotation linemen Caleb Fox and Tymon Mitchell (10 tackles and three sacks) are also eligible to return next season, but the Horned Frogs will have multiple rotation spots open. Four-star prospects Markis Deal, Avion Carter and Zachary Chapman could earn immediate playing time next season, while East Carolina transfer Rick D’Abreu as well as three-star edge rushers Keviyan Huddleston and Jonathan Bax will enter the mix for the 2023 season.

Senior linebacker Dee Winters (48 tackles and 7.5 sacks) anchored the middle of the TCU defense this season, earning Defensive MVP honors during the team’s Fiesta Bowl win over Michigan. With Winters declaring for the draft as well, TCU will look to middle linebacker Jamoi Hodge (45 tackles and 4.5 sacks) and Johnny Hodges (45 tackles and two sacks) to command the Horned Frog defense next season. Senior linebacker and former five-star prospect Marcel Brooks missed nearly all of the 2022 season with an injury, but could return next season with COVID eligibility. Another linebacker to watch for next season will be sophomore and former Texas A&M transfer Shadrach Banks (29 tackles and one sack), who showed flashes while Brooks and Hodges missed time with injuries during the season. Incoming four-star freshman Max Carroll and former Texas transfer Terrance Cooks Jr. are two more names to keep an eye on as TCU prepares its linebacking corps for next season.

While TCU will lose the 2022 Jim Thorpe Award winner in Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson (40 tackles, 15 passes defended and three interceptions), who declared for the draft earlier this offseason, Josh Newton (26 tackles, 13 passes defensed and three interceptions) will return after earning All-Big 12 First Team honors in his first season at TCU. The Horned Frogs will have an open competition for the second cornerback spot next season, with several candidates including JUCO four-star prospect Channing Canada, Florida transfer Avery Helm and former four-star recruit Keontae Jenkins vying for the role. TCU will lose a pair of depth pieces including sixth-year senior Noah Daniels and redshirt junior Kee’yon Stewart.

Mark Perry (59 tackles) will return at the strong safety position, while free safeties Bud Clark (35 tackles and five interceptions) and Abe Camara (43 tackles, six passes defended and one interception) are also eligible to come back next season. Although TCU lost former four-star recruit D’Arco Perkins-McAllister to the transfer portal, several talented defensive backs will be on the roster for the 2023 season including four-star freshman Chace Biddle as well as incoming four-star recruits Randon Fontenette, Javeon Wilcox and Jamel Johnson. Senior Millard Bradford (41 tackles and eight passes defensed) filled Gillespie’s nickelback position this season and could use COVID eligibility to return for one more season.

TCU’s defense was opportunistic this season, creating turnovers and getting necessary stops despite conceding considerable points and yardage. With only four starters departing and a wealth of talented young players returning, however, TCU’s defense has a chance to take a significant leap forward as the program moves into its second year under Gillespie.