Let’s just get this out of the way - 2023 was a horrendous year for the TCU secondary. The defense as a whole was bad, but the Horned Frogs ranked 110th in passing yards allowed per game at 253 yards against per game. To add salt to this wound, TCU allowed 290 yards passing a game on average in their 7 losses this year. Opposing quarterbacks averaged an astounding 12.7 yards per completion against TCU this year. The Frogs allowed 43 explosive pass plays on the year, ranking 87th nationally. To make matters worse, TCU only forced 8 interceptions. The secondary finished with 39 PBUs on the year, ranking 83rd. Whether it was scheme, talent, or a combination of the two is for you to decide, but Sonny Dykes was left with no choice but to fire defensive coordinator Joe Gillespie. The Frogs had 6 members of the secondary enter the transfer portal, and that speaks volumes about what the coaching staff thought about the players they had on the roster.
We’ll start with Josh Newton. Newton was by far the best corner on the team this year, and I think almost everyone knew that coming into the season. He finished with the highest PFF grade out of anyone on the TCU defense this year, coming in at 77.4 overall. PFF graded Newton at 77.8 in pass coverage this year, which ranked 81st out of the 416 FBS corners who played at least 300 defensive snaps this year. According to PFF, Newton was targeted 52 times on the year and allowed 25 receptions. Newton led the team with 6 PBUs, and he also had 1 interception. PFF had Newton with 33 tackles on the year and a missed tackle rate of 16.7% which ranked 250th among corners.
Josh Newton 2023 Grade: B+
Up next is the Florida transfer Avery Helm. TCU fans were pretty excited about this transfer when he committed, but unfortunately, he didn’t quite play as well as hoped. Helm’s PFF grade checks in at 60.4 on the season, and his coverage grade was 58.7. Helm was targeted 37 times in coverage this year and allowed 20 catches. For comparison, Josh Newton played 802 snaps on the year and allowed just 5 more catches than Helm. He added just 4 PBUs and no interceptions. He made 24 tackles in his 449 snaps played, missing just 7.7% of attempted tackles. TCU needs Avery Helm to have a big offseason for this defense to improve next year. The Frogs are without a true #1 corner for the first time in a while, and the defense hasn’t exactly been great over the last few seasons.
Avery Helm 2023 Grade: C-
Channing Canada joined TCU by way of Trinity Valley Community College this year. Canada was the nation’s top JuCo cornerback, and he’s a player I was excited about coming into the season. He split time with Helm opposite of Newton this year, playing 320 snaps this year. PFF graded Canada at 61 overall, and 63.8 in coverage. I thought Canada showed flashes early in the year, but that improvement didn’t keep building as the season went on. Canada was targeted by opposing quarterbacks 19 times on the year and he allowed 13 catches. Canada was especially poor against Texas Tech where he was targeted 8 times and allowed 8 catches for 57 yards (which isn’t a horrible yardage total for being targeted that much). Canada’s failure to produce any PBUs or interceptions is a concern moving forward. Like Helm, TCU needs Canada to have a big offseason.
Channing Canada 2023 Grade: D+
In my opinion, the cornerback position is TCU’s biggest question mark heading into the spring. The team’s activity in the transfer portal tells me the coaches probably agree. The Frogs added Andre Seldon Jr. from New Mexico State. The 5-9 corner started his career at Michigan before transferring to New Mexico State. I assume he is a guy they’ll look to play as a nickel next season. He had an interception and 8 PBUs last season.
The Frogs also add Utah transfer JaTravis McCloud. The 5-11 corner played in every game for the Utes in the last two seasons. McCloud had just 1 PBU last season, and PFF graded him at 46.4 in his 471 snaps. He’ll need to be much better to be a difference-maker for TCU.
TCU sees departures from corners Jaionte McMillen and Mason White who did not see much playing time.
The Frogs also have Champ Lewis and Vernon Glover listed on the roster, so there will be plenty of competition for the 2 corner spots. As noted above, the TCU coaching staff needs to do some serious work in developing these guys because the corner situation doesn’t look great at the moment.