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2023 TCU Football Position Review: Safeties

We take a look back and grade the performance of the TCU safeties in 2023.

NCAA Football: Brigham Young at Texas Christian Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The TCU secondary struggled this year. We’ve discussed it at length. Some of the issues were schemes. Some of the issues were personnel. Most of it was due to the scheme and personnel not matching correctly. In my opinion, the safeties and linebackers were the biggest issues with TCU’s pass coverage this year. Let’s get into it.

Mark Perry led TCU’s safeties in snap count with 646 snaps played this fall. His overall PFF grade totaled 65.3, ranking 252nd out of 403 safeties with at least 300 snaps played in 2023. He finished the year with 66 tackles and a missed tackle rate of 17.5 percent. He missed three or more tackles in three different games this season, and that just won’t cut it as a Power 5 safety. In coverage, Perry was targeted 22 times and allowed 15 catches. He had three PBUs and no interceptions.

Perry’s coverage grade came out at 63.8 on the year. Perry’s biggest issue in 2023 was consistency. He played horrendously against Colorado, then was solid in the next two games, then bad for three, and so on... When Perry missed, he missed badly. According to PFF, Perry only allowed one touchdown in coverage on the year, but he allowed 16.5 yards per reception on the year. Simply put, the consistency issues killed what could have been a solid season for him.

Mark Perry 2023 Grade: D

Millard Bradford was second among TCU’s safeties in snap count, totaling 606 on the year. Bradford was an experienced player coming into the season, having played at least 300 snaps in each of the previous three years. Many hoped he would take a big step forward in 2023, but it never quite came to fruition. Bradford finished the year with a PFF grade of 68.5, ranking 194th.

Bradford made 63 tackles on the year and had a missed tackle rate of 20 percent, one of the worst among safeties. Bradford allowed 18 catches on 30 targets, for an average of 12.7 yards per catch. Bradford contributed two interceptions and six PBUs on the year. Unfortunately, the tackling problems plagued his season. The clip below kind of sums up his season.

Millard Bradford 2023 Grade: C-

Bud Clark played 520 snaps for the TCU defense this year. He was often aligned as the slot corner and was busy in pass coverage for the Frogs. Clark’s PFF grade for 2023 checks in at 56.9. Clark finished the year with 37 tackles and a missed tackle rate of a whopping 27.5 percent, ranking 10th worst among safeties.

In my opinion, Clark should not be a safety for TCU next season. You simply cannot play safety and miss that many tackles, even if you’re playing in the slot. It’s unacceptable. Clark contributed three interceptions and five PBUs on the year, so he’s proven that he can play well in coverage. My thought - move him to a true corner spot and let him compete for a role out there next year.

Bud Clark 2023 Grade: D+

Finally, we have Abe Camara. Camara played 436 snaps for the Horned Frogs this season, and I expect he will play a huge role in this defense in 2024. A majority of his snaps came from the slot as well. Camara’s PFF grade checks in at 74.1 on the season. He made 42 tackles on the season and had a missed tackle rate of just 8.7 percent, ranking 47th among all safeties. Camara was targeted 31 times and allowed 24 catches on the year, so there’s room for improvement on that end.

However, it’s worth noting that he only allowed 9.5 yards per completion - the lowest among all TCU secondary players with at least 200 snaps played. Although Camara finished the season with two PBUs and no interceptions. Where Camara shined was against the run, finishing with an 81.6 PFF run defense grade. That was good for 38th among all safeties. Quite frankly, you do all this research and start to wonder why he didn’t play more this year.

Abe Camara 2023 Grade: B

2024 Outlook

Mark Perry participated in Senior Day activities back in November. Millard Bradford played five seasons for the Frogs, so I assume he’s gone as well. Many TCU fans have questioned the exodus of safeties when the transfer portal opened. Javeon Wilcox, Randon Fontenette, Ishmael Burdine, and Chace Biddle all entered.

In my opinion, they were probably advised that was the best decision for them (aka coaches saying you aren’t going to play here). TCU took one safety transfer from Tulsa, Jaise Oliver, and I won’t be surprised if they take another during the spring window. There are also a handful of safeties on the roster who haven’t seen meaningful playing time.

It’s a position that needs to improve in 2024, but I feel better about the safety position than I do the corner spot. We’ll see what Avalos can do.