TCU was the second-best team in the Big 12 last season, but clearly not on Oklahoma's level after losing twice to the Sooners by a combined 42 points. The Horned Frogs should be solid on defense once again but there are questions on the other side of the ball. Besides breaking in a new quarterback, TCU will have at least three new starters along the offensive line. If the pieces come together, the Horned Frogs should be in the thick of the Big 12 race again.
Previewing TCU Football's Offense for 2018
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Sophomore Shawn Robinson will take the reins of the TCU offense ahead of fellow four-star Justin Rogers, the prize in a heated recruiting battle against LSU who will likely redshirt to recover from knee surgery. Robinson started and won on a week's notice at Texas Tech last season. Two years ago Robinson was TCU's first four-star quarterback signee. Rogers signed in December as the program's highest-rated player since five-star running back Tyson Thompson in 2000.
At the same time, TCU has assembled perhaps its most impressive collection of skill talent on offense, with three four-star receivers, three four-star running backs and a four-star junior college offensive tackle arriving in the last three recruiting classes. Running back Fabian Franklin became a late bonus when he flipped from Mississippi State. Sophomore receiver Jalen Reagor looks like breakout material after leading the Horned Frogs with eight touchdown catches as a true freshman, including a 93-yard Alamo Bowl-record score against Stanford.
The Frogs must rebuild their offensive line, however. Left guard Cordel Iwuagwu is the only full-time starter back, though Lucas Niang appears ready to either shift to left tackle or return to right tackle after starting eight games there last year. Junior college transfer Anthony McKinney enrolled early and might slide right in at tackle. "One thing about running back and quarterback - your confidence level grows with the experience of your offensive line," coach Gary Patterson says. "And right now, they're a work in progress."
Previewing TCU Football's Defense for 2018
Defensive tackles Ross Blacklock and Corey Bethley keyed the Big 12's No. 1 run defense but also proved nimble enough to rush the passer, collecting three sacks and five QB hurries combined. The pass rush got a big boost when defensive end Ben Banogu (8.5 sacks) opted to play his senior season.
Linebacker Ty Summers slides into the spot where Travin Howard collected 343 tackles in three years, most under Patterson. Summers may own that record by year's end; he's only 72 behind. Converted safety Garret Wallow got a long look at the other linebacker, along with veterans Arico Evans and Alec Dunham. However, Northern Illinois graduate transfer Jawaun Johnson could be the answer next to Summers when he arrives on campus this offseason.
The Frogs have high hopes for Innis Gaines, a hard-hitting strong safety, and will lean on free safety Niko Small, who has 14 pass breakups in 23 starts the past two seasons. Junior cornerback Jeff Gladney returns to his spot, and redshirt freshman Noah Daniels could grab the other corner if senior Julius Lewis can't return from second Achilles injury. At 6'0", Daniels is an intriguing prospect due to his size.
Previewing TCU Football's Specialists for 2018
The Frogs return everyone except the long snapper. Cole Bunce secured placekicking duties late in the season and did nothing to lose the job in spring practice. Adam Nunez returns for a third season at punter and holder. KaVontae Turpin and freshman Taye Barber are the first options to return punts, and veterans Reagor and Darius Anderson appear locked in to handle kickoff returns.
Like always, TCU will field a good defense. But Patterson and his staff have assembled what looks like the best offensive skill talent they've ever had. If the offensive line comes together, TCU will be closer to pairing an offense that can keep up with the Big 12's best with a defense that can win games on its own. The last time that happened, in 2014 and '15, TCU won 23 of 26 games, shared a league championship and nearly crashed the CFP.