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TCU guide excerpt from 2018 Thinking Texas Football Longhorn Season Preview

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Texas v TCU Photo by Richard W. Rodriguez/Getty Images

In the 2018 Burnt Orange Bible, I preview all twelve Longhorn opponents. Here’s a snippet from the TCU section to give some insight into what to expect from Gary Patterson’s Frogs...

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TCU

Head Coach - Gary Patterson, 19th year, 160-57

Defensive Background

2017 record - 11-3

3 year trend - 28-12

5 year trend - 44-21

Returning starters- 9, Offense- 3, Defense- 6

Offense - Spread

Defense - 4-2-5

Last Meeting: TCU- 24, Texas- 7. Gary Patterson’s Horned Frogs won their fourth straight meeting over Texas in decisive fashion. Since 2014, they’ve won by a combined score of 153-33. Texas has yet to score more than ten points in any of those games and the average score is 38-8. TCU leapt out to an early 17-0 lead on the strength of a 4th and 2 KaVontae Turpin throwback touchdown pass and several Texas offensive miscues. Texas held TCU to 343 yards of total offense on 4.7 yards per play and dominated for long stretches of the contest, but the Longhorn offense was pathetically lifeless in Ft Worth. TCU notched 7 sacks and Shane Buechele completed less than 50% of his passes.

The lone offensive bright spot was Longhorn receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey who totaled 109 yards on six catches. Defensive stalwart Poona Ford dominated with 7 tackles and inflicted several negative plays despite navigating double teams. Texas won’t beat TCU until they can field more mature teams and at least coach in parity to Patterson’s excellent preparation.

Overview

Gary Patterson is one of the best half dozen coaches in the country and the Frogs have been the Big 12’s second best team behind the Oklahoma Sooners over the last four years. Over that time period they’ve also won three of their four bowl games and won more games than Florida State, USC or Penn State. One of Patterson’s most impressive attributes is his resilient belief in his development model. Proof is that TCU has had three losing seasons in nineteen years during his tenure. In the season immediately following, TCU is a combined 34-5.

Take the 2016 Horned Frogs. They went 6-7 overall, 4-5 in Big 12 play, and lost their bowl game. Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Kansas State blew them out and they even lost to a bad Texas Tech team at home. The 2017 version was effectively the same team as they returned 18 of 21 starters.

Picked to finish 5th in the Big 12, TCU went 11-3. How? What was the biggest difference between TCU and Texas (who fired Charlie Strong) after both logged disappointing 2016 seasons?

TCU has continuity in a system that they believe in.

In 2017, TCU started 13 of their 21 scholarship seniors in their program while Texas started 3 out of a potential 10 scholarship seniors in their program. Read that again until it sinks in. TCU retained twice as many seniors as Texas and got starters out of more than 60% of their senior class. That’s roster development. Their players actually improved. Remember, these seniors were the same juniors that lost seven games the year prior.

If enough players improve incrementally, wins improve dramatically. Contrast this thinking to the talented freshmen savior paradigm that has come to dominate the Longhorn fan mindset. Even though Texas fans have eight years of evidence that development is at least as important as recruitment.

You gotta coach up what you already have.

Strengths

TCU consistently has the Big 12’s best pass rush and they return the only defensive line in the league comparable to Texas with respect to depth and starting talent. Defensive end and former Louisiana-Monroe transfer Ben Banogu recorded 8.5 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss last year. Two of those sacks came against Texas. At the other end, big LJ Collier (6-4, 280) looked dominant in their spring game. Inside, big Ross Blacklock (6-4, 325) and Corey Bethley (6-2, 305) hold down run-stopping duties. The Toads are bigger up front than usual, but since Patterson never sacrifices size for motor, it’s a good bet that this unit will be a handful. It’s worth adding that linebacker Ty Summers is an excellent blitzer and he’ll be a significant factor in the TCU pass rush in addition to being their leading tackler.

The TCU wide receiver group will be loaded with versatile, high level athletes. Senior KaVontae Turpin, all 155 pounds of him, is a dominant special teams returner with value add in every aspect of the offense. In 2017, he scored throwing, receiving, rushing, by punt return, by kickoff return. Sophomore Jalen Reagor may be the most exciting wide receiver in the Big 12. As a true freshman he had 576 yards receiving and grabbed 8 touchdowns, and now with a year to actually understand what he’s doing, the 5-11, 185 pound speedster is primed to be an offensive focal point. Depth is the real strength here and the Frogs have at least four other receivers who will vie for starting jobs. Keep an eye on young redshirt freshman Omar Manning. He’s an unusually strong 6-2, 215 pound athlete with big-time ball skills.

Weaknesses

The upside of a senior dominated football team is maturity, poise, experience and peak physical development. The downside of a senior laden football team is that they graduate, leaving coaches with inexperience in their wake. Only 16 teams in college football return less production than the Rhubarb Reptiles. They must replace four offensive line starters, a quarterback, most of their secondary, and three of their top four tacklers, including super-stud linebacker Travin Howard. The Frogs added JUCO OT Anthony McKinney and if the highly ranked 6-8, 330 pounder lives up to his billing, the other offensive pieces will come together. TCU doesn’t lack talent, but the offense is rife with inexperience and that has a tendency to manifest itself against higher order defenses, even for an offensive coordinator as gifted as Sonny Cumbie.

Shawn Robinson is a highly touted dual threat QB with size, speed and a big arm. However, he is inexperienced, playing without much seniority around him, and accuracy has not always been his forte. Kenny Hill threw for over 3,000 yards last year, but his greatest impact was in reducing his interceptions from 13 to 8, cutting down fumbles, and learning to make the right audibles. The result was an effective ball control offense. While the general assumption that TCU will simply do TCU things and find solutions for key losses is a good one, it is useful to note that Patterson’s Big 12 hiccup seasons in 2013 (4-8) and 2017 (6-7) came when the Frogs got sketchy quarterback play behind inexperienced offensive lines. Those two quarterbacks - Trevone Boykin and then first year starter Kenny Hill - went on later to play good football for TCU, but both had severe growing pains.

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Interested in eleven more opponent previews? How about a breakdown of every Longhorn player on the roster by position group? Or exhaustive coverage of the 2018 recruiting class and 2019 prospects? You’ll get that and lot more over 131 pages of content.

The 2018 Burnt Orange Bible beckons.

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