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You can read the entire TCU preview in Athlon Sports' 2011 Big 12 magazine, available for purchase now at the Athlon Sports store.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PRESEASON TOP 25
Mountain West PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Gary Patterson, 98–28 (11 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Jarrett Anderson, Justin Fuente | DEF. COORDINATOR: Dick Bumpas
The face of the Horned Frogs will have a new look. Andy Dalton has moved onto the NFL, which leaves the reins to Casey Pachall, a sophomore who arrived at TCU as a highly touted recruit in January 2009. Pachall has the skills, but it remains to be seen whether he can come close to replacing Dalton’s leadership.
Pachall has big-play receivers in Josh Boyce and Antoine Hicks, plus the speedy Skye Dawson. Boyce led TCU in receiving with 646 yards as a freshman in 2010. The Frogs may use their tight ends more to give Pachall time to develop his sea legs early in the season with shorter, high-percentage passes to big targets Logan Brock and Corey Fuller.
Ed Wesley leads a stacked group of running backs that includes Matthew Tucker and Waymon James, who were the Frogs’ second- and third-leading rushers last season, and two backs with a ton of hype — redshirt freshman Dwight Smith, who shined in the spring, and Aundre Dean, a one-time UCLA Bruin and a former 4-star recruit.
A bigger area of concern than the loss of Dalton is the offensive line. Only guard Kyle Dooley returns as a full-time starter to a unit that held opponents to just nine sacks in 2010. Left tackle James Dunbar and center James Fry are tasked with replacing All-Americans Marcus Cannon and Jake Kirkpatrick, respectively.
TCU will drop to second in the MWC with Boise State joining the league.
TCU’s defensive line should be a strength, led by ends Stansly Maponga and Braylon Broughton. Maponga showed his potential as a redshirt freshman in 2010, while Broughton, now a senior, could finally live up to the advance billing that began when he was named the Mountain West Conference Preseason Freshman of the Year in 2008. Defensive tackle D.J. Yendrey and nose tackle Jeremy Coleman had good springs, too.
The entire linebacker corps returns, including starters Tank Carder and Tanner Brock, the soul of the Frogs’ 4-2-5 scheme. Carder, a first-team All-American in ’10, did not practice during the spring after undergoing shoulder surgery in early January, but coaches know what to expect from the experienced senior.
The one area of concern for the defense is the secondary, if not in athletic ability then in sheer experience. Only one full-time starter returns, cornerback Greg McCoy, though weak safety Tekerrein Cuba logged five starts in 2010. The rest of the spots will be first-time starters, although coach Gary Patterson was pleased with their progress during spring practice.
Tank Carder, LB Others may have more tackles but no one personifies the TCU defense more than Carder.
Josh Boyce, WR His two first-quarter TD receptions shocked Utah and led to a 47–7 blowout last November.
Stansly Maponga, DE The sophomore has the natural tools to be the next Jerry Hughes.
|Sept. 2nd||at Baylor|
|Sept. 10th||at Air Force|
|Sept. 17th||UL Monroe|
|Sept. 24th||Portland State|
|Oct. 8th||at San Diego State|
|Oct. 22nd||New Mexico|
|Oct. 28th||BYU (Arlington, TX)|
|Nov. 5th||at Wyoming|
|Nov. 12th||at Boise State|
|Nov. 19th||Colorado State|
Placekicker Ross Evans and punter Anson Kelton return for their fourth seasons as starters and should be a strength. Dawson and McCoy will try to fill the void left by Jeremy Kerley, who was always a threat for a big return.
If the offensive line jells enough to give Pachall time to relax, he could survive the growing pains associated with first-year starting quarterbacks and be very effective. Wesley and Boyce are legitimate big-play weapons who could help take the pressure off the new quarterback. TCU should be as dominant as ever on defense with several key players returning.
The question is not whether the talent level is the same as 2010 (it is), but whether the Frogs can find a similar mix of leadership and magic. With a favorable schedule, TCU, although likely not a BCS-caliber team in 2011, should lose no more than two games and earn its eighth consecutive bowl appearance.