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2015 TCU Horned Frogs Football Preview

 

Head Coach: Gary Patterson – (15th year at TCU and overall: 132-45)

2014 Record: 12-1 overall, 8-1 Big 12

Bowl Result: Peach Bowl: 12/31/14 – TCU 42 Ole Miss 3

 

After stumbling to a 4-8 record in 2013—the worst finish of what has been a very successful tenure in Fort Worth, long-time TCU coach Gary Patterson decided to install the “Air Raid” offense.

The result? The Horned Frogs were one of the nation’s most potent offenses and just a last second field goal at Baylor from running the table. The heartbreaking defeat against the Bears wound up being costly, as it resulted in the College Football Playoff committee placing eventual national champion Ohio State in the inaugural four-team bracket rather than TCU.



TCU apparelHowever, with ten starters returning on the offensive side of the ball, a unit that produced 46 points and 533 yards per game in 2014 is expected to light up scoreboards again this fall.

The new system allowed dual-threat quarterback Trevone Boykin the opportunity to thrive, as he broke numerous school records in a season that saw him amass more than 4,600 yards of total offense (707 rushing and 3,901 passing) and 41 touchdowns (8 rushing, 33 passing). As a result, Boykin is now a Heisman hopeful going into his senior season.

Four of Boykin’s top five targets are back—including second-team All-Big 12 selection Josh Doctson. Doctson, who set TCU single-season marks for yards (1,018) and touchdowns (11), caught 65 balls as a junior.

Fellow seniors Kolby Listenbee (6’1”, 183) and Deante’ Gray are other top options. Listenbee is a down the field threat, as he averaged 18.4 yards per catch on his 41 receptions. Meanwhile, Gray—who was second on the team with eight touchdowns last year—has the ability to make things happen out of the slot and had a 92-yard touchdown a season ago.

While the offense is dubbed as the “Air Raid”, it certainly isn’t Mike Leach’s version as the TCU running game produced more than 200 yards per game on the ground.

Senior Aaron Green, who averaged more than 7 yards per carry in ’14, returns as the feature back. Sophomore Kyle Hicks and freshman Shaun Nixon should provide solid depth.

The offensive line should provide plenty of running lanes and time for Boykin to operate, as four senior starters are back.

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Defensively, there are more question marks as just five starters return from a unit that was one of the stingiest in the nation—19 ppg and 341.8 ypg—last season.

TCU will be replacing both starting linebackers in its 4-2-5 scheme with the biggest loss being All-American Paul Dawson. Dawson led the team in tackles (136), tackles for loss (20.0) and also picked off four passes.

Junior Sammy Douglas is the only non-freshman on the two-deep at backer so don’t be surprised if the Horned Frogs aren’t quite as good as in ’14.

An experienced front that features returning starters in defensive end Terrell Lathan (10 TFL, 5.5 sacks) and tackle Davion Pierson (8 TFL, 3.5 sacks) should help the youthful backers. Additionally, senior end James McFarland and tackle Aaron Curry—who sat out last year after transferring from Nebraska—possess significant experience and will likely be starters.

On the back end, they will have to replace the production and play-making ability of safety Chris Hackett. Hackett, who opted to forego his senior year to enter the NFL Draft, had a team-high seven interceptions and was also fourth in tackles (75). Senior Kenny Iloka, who saw reserve action in all 13 games as a junior, will get a shot.

The kicking game was among the nation’s best last year and has the chance to be again. Senior placekicker Jaden Oberkrom converted 22-of-27 field goals and was 6-of-9 from 40 yards and beyond. Senior punter Ethan Perry pinned the opposition inside their own 20 on 45 percent of his punt attempts. Perry, who also forced fair catches 42 percent of the time, helped his punt team lead the nation in net punting as they held opponents to -9 yards on 8 returns. This ability to flip the field not only aided the defense, but helped the Horned Frogs offense have the chance to work with shorter fields.

Junior Cameron Echols-Luper, who averaged in excess of 10 yards on 33 punt returns and returned one for a touchdown at Kansas, has shown playmaking potential in the return game.

After what could be a challenging Thursday night opener at Minnesota on September 3, TCU has what should be wins against FCS foe Stephen F. Austin and SMU before opening league play at Texas Tech on the final weekend of the month. The Horned Frogs will open October at home against Texas and follow that up with a road test at Kansas State. November will feature trips to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State before closing the year with what could prove to be a de facto championship game when Baylor visits Amon G. Carter Stadium.

Most “college football experts” expect TCU to once again be in contention for a berth in the College Football Playoff and understandably so with the experience that the Horned Frogs return—particularly on offense where 9 of 10 returning starters are seniors. The maturation of some inexperienced pieces on defense, the ability to handle some difficult road venues, and the turnover battle—where TCU was +18 (40 takeaways, 22 lost) and ranked third nationally in 2014—will be key.

 

By Thomas "Bubba" Rosenbaum
DFN Sports Senior College Football Correspondent

Check out all of the 2015 college football previews online through College Sports Fans.

 


 


 

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