5 Questions: TCU

With only two days left until No. 12 LSU meets No. 20 TCU in Arlington, excitement is at a fever pitch. To bring you the latest on the Horned Frogs, TSD caught up with Jeremy Clark, managing editor of HornedFrogBlitz.com, for five TCU-based questions.

1. How does the offense change when either Casey Pachall or Trevone Boykin is in the game? And how do you expect TCU will use those two on Saturday?

Answer: Well, both are good throwers but running the football the edge weighs heavily in Boykin's favor. I don't think there is any doubt that both bring something different to the table. In Pachall's case, he is the better thrower. Take away all of his off the field issues, the senior possesses a first or second round NFL arm. Last season before he left the team, he had thrown for over 300 yards in two of four games. He had also thrown 10 touchdowns to just one interception. With his arm and size, TCU was able to throw the ball more vertically early in the season, and I think that's the biggest benefit of having Pachall back. With Boykin, he's just such a great athlete that can make plays with his feet; but don't fall asleep on his arm. Patterson has mentioned countless times this fall on how much Boykin's passing has improved; his exact words were "lightyears ahead of last year." I expect to see both quarterbacks against LSU and on the field at the same time in various formations to attempt to throw off the Tiger defense.

2. It's no secret LSU prides itself on running the football. In what ways is TCU's 4-2-5 defensive scheme conducive to stopping the run?

Answer: The 4-2-5 is set up to have the fastest guys on the field. TCU doesn't always have the biggest and strongest guys on defense, but the one thing that is a must to play for Patterson's defenses is speed and quickness; at all positions. The defensive line does so well against the run because they are agile enough to shoot the gaps against bigger and sometimes slower offensive lineman. If the interior of the defensive line is having a good day, that usually equals a successful day at stopping the run. Fast and athletic linebackers are also key and probably the most important position is strong safety. The strong safety plays close to the line of scrimmage to help the run, but is also asked to be athletic and smart enough to cover the pass and react to play action calls.

3. In the event that DE Devonte Fields doesn't play, who are some of the players who pick up his slack, especially in the pass-rushing department? And how capable/experienced are those guys?

Answer: I don't believe Fields will play; those of us who know how Patterson works feel that he will stick to his guns on the Fields suspension. Now that's out of the way, who replaces him? The depth chart indicates junior Matt Anderson will get the start in Fields' absence, he's a player that has received significant praise from Patterson this fall. The bad news, this will be his first game action since 2010, when he played as a true freshman for TCU's Rose Bowl team. Anderson suffered season-ending injuries in each of the past two seasons, so many Frog faithful are waiting to see what he can do. Opposite of Fields will be senior Jon Koontz, who has seen plenty of playing time in each of the last two seasons as a reserve; he made four starts in 2012. Under Patterson, TCU tries to utilize a 10-11 man rotation on the defensive line, so although Koontz and Anderson are slated to start, I expect to see plenty of James McFarland, Josh Carraway and Mike Tuaua. McFarland and Carraway were two of 16 true freshmen who played last season for TCU, and compared to Anderson and Koontz, they are more of the speed-rusher types. Tuaua, who can also slide down and play some 3-technique, will also be involved.

4. LSU and TCU were among the nation's leaders last season in true freshmen played. Who are some of the first-year guys for the Horned Frogs in 2013 that could make a difference in the opener?

Answer: As you mentioned TCU played a ton of freshmen last season, so I didn't expect to see many on the two-deep this fall. I was wrong. While it's not the high number we saw last year, the Frogs still have six true freshmen on their two deep; two or three more could be there by mid-season. The biggest name among those players is receiver Ty Slanina, who was an original commitment to Texas A&M. Slanina has basically been the talk of fall camp since it began in early August and has made an impact at what was considered one of the strongest and deepest positions on the Frogs roster. Slanina will run with the first team at slot receiver after beating out two juniors who had experience. Slanina is very fast, having timed a hand-held 4.31 at both TCU and Texas A&M camps prior to his junior year.

Cameron Echols-Luper is another receiver who made his way onto the two-deep and could see action in the return game. Other freshmen currently on the two-deep are cornerback Ranthony Texada, linebacker Sammy Douglas, center Patrick Morris and right tackle Joseph Noteboom.

5. This is TCU's second season in the Big 12. What are expectations like in Frog Country?

Answer: The expectations are high which is kind of surprising considering this is still a very young football team. The Frogs have only seven senior starters on the team, but I guess when you return eight starters on defense and seven-to-eight on offense, they do have some experience coming back. Many believe TCU could win the Big 12 or at worst, finish fourth. I think those expectations stem from a defense that led the Big 12 in several categories and returns eight starters including two All-Americans in Devonte Fields and Jason Verrett. Both of those players are also considered the top player at their respective positions in the conference. Offensively, it's tough not to be excited with the return of Pachall considering he didn't get to play but one Big 12 game last season against Kansas. This is the same guy that threw for nearly 500 yards and 5 touchdowns on the road at Boise State when the Broncos were ranked #5 in the nation. The Frogs have a nucleus at runningback with the return of Waymon James and B.J. Catalon, not to mention the arrival of former 5-star runningback Aaron Green, who is eligible after sitting out last year per NCAA transfer rules. The competition is obviously different in the Big 12, but TCU has a set of skill position players that in my opinion are the best since Patterson has been the Frogs' head coach.

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