Behind enemy lines: Horned Frogs

NORMAN, Okla. — In Part II of our Behind Enemy Lines series prior to Oklahoma vs. TCU, Joey Helmer of Sooners Illustrated asks Jeremy Clark of Horned Frog Blitz for some insider scoop on TCU.

Joey Helmer: TCU has the best statistical defense in the Big 12 this season. How have they been able to do that in their first year in a new conference with such high-powered offenses?

Jeremy Clark: Well, in a 4-2-5 scheme it's designed to put as much speed on the field as possible and with Gary Patterson if you're slow, you're not likely to see the defensive side of the ball. I believe the biggest difference from last year to this year and the biggest reason why they're able to stop high powered offenses comes from the pressure up front. The Frogs have arguably the best defensive end duo in the Big 12 with Stansly Maponga and freshman phenom Devonte Fields. The two have combined for 13 sacks on the year. Although Fields and Maponga are the most mentioned, the interior of the defensive line has been really successful this season in getting big pushes in the face of the quarterback. While everyone may think TCU's defense relies heavily on a variety of blitzes, surprisingly they've had most of their success getting to the quarterback with just a four-man rush. With improved play on the defensive line, it's helped the secondary tremendously.

Helmer: Sooner quarterback Landry Jones has thrown for more than 500 yards in each of his last two contests and is really clicking at the right time. What different kind of challenge does TCU present defensively that could maybe lead people to believe that he could be slowed down this week?

Clark: Compared to West Virginia and Oklahoma State, I believe this will be the top defensive line Oklahoma has faced in the Big 12. As previously mentioned, the Frogs' defensive line has really improved their pass rush and when that happens the defensive backs have less time to cover receivers. Jason Verrett in my opinion is a lock for first team Big 12 honors at corner; in recent weeks he's shut down the likes of Stedman Bailey and Mike Davis. He just hasn't given up a big play recently. But, the key is the rush. TCU will likley use a 10-man rotation on the defensive line to keep fresh bodies on the field to give Jones a good rush.

Helmer: Offensively, the Horned Frogs have been able to stay afloat even with losing starting quarterback Casey Pachall. What type of lift has Trevone Boykin given them since stepping in relief of Pachall?

Clark: He's really stepped in and exceeded expectations. He was thrown into the mix against Iowa State and although he struggled in that game some, overall he has showed glimpses of greatness. While he's obviously not the thrower that Casey Pachall is, he does add a dimension to the offense that Pachall couldn't and that's his ability to create plays with his legs. Each game he's played there have been at least 2-3 moments in the game that Boykin is able to make a play that I don't believe Pachall could; simply because Boykin is great at buying time. He's still a freshman so he will make your typical mistakes such as trying to force a ball or try to make something happen when a play isn't there. But, he will learn from these mistakes and give the Frogs a top quarterback going into the future.

Helmer: The Sooners have been very susceptible to the run the last three weeks facing a trio of offenses that really prefer to sling the ball around, but TCU figures to present a more run-oriented offense. How do you see the matchup stacking up there and will TCU's M-O be to establish the ground game and win the time of possession battle to keep Jones and the Sooner offense off the field?

Clark: I see them using the same type of game plan they did against Texas last week. If anyone would've told me that TCU passes the ball only nine times and pretty much handles Texas I would've called you crazy. But, that's their style. Patterson has and always will be a coach that believes the best recipe for a strong defense is a run-oriented, control the time of possession type offense. That formula certainly worked last week but that was thanks in large part to the best game the offensive line has played all year. If they can make the same type of running lanes against OU, I don't see them wanting to give Jones and that offense too much time on the field.

Helmer: With a victory Saturday, the Horned Frogs will have won eight games their inaugural season in the Big 12, while a loss would set them back to 7-5. What has the discussion been locally about how TCU has fared in their first season and does this weekend's decision affect that?

Clark: I've told everyone this same answer; we all know the expectations were high for TCU once the announcement came that they were joining the Big 12. But, the off-season with players arrested and injuries during the season where you lose your starting quarterback, running back (Waymon James), best defense end in Maponga for two games and you play 28 true and redshirt freshmen, I'd say seven or eight wins is remarkable. There aren't many coaches who could have all the adversity and still get your team to a bowl game in a conference that basically many people felt they wouldn't be too competitive in. Yet, here they are. I've told many people that I believe this is the second best season Patterson has had at TCU, the Rose Bowl year being his best. I believe that they've garnered respect throughout the league and there's already rumbles that TCU could be picked as a favorite for the Big 12 title next year with so many pieces coming back.

To go back and read Part I of this Behind Enemy Lines series, where Jeremy answered five questions from Joey, Click Here.

Joey Helmer is the publisher of Jeremy Clark is the publisher of

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