Oklahoma-TCU Scouting Report

See inside for a breakdown of Saturday's matchup between the Sooners and Horned Frogs. TCU junior running back Robert Merrill (pictured above) has led the Horned Frogs in rushing the last two seasons, includig a 1,107 yard-effort as freshman and 753 yards last season. (AP Photo/Garry Jones)

When Oklahoma Has The Ball:
Oklahoma's rushing offense vs. TCU's rushing defense

With a new quarterback and Adrian Peterson in the backfield, it's a no-brainer that the Sooners would try to establish the running game early. Also expect Paul Thompson to be involved in the running game as well. OU coaches are anxious to see how the offensive line performs, as that might be one of the biggest question marks going into the opening game, especially with the shocking departure of starting tackle Akim Millington this week.

TCU's defensive line features a Lombardi Award candidate, Raynorris Ray, a 6-3, 275 senior from San Antonio, who was the only Horned Frog selected to the Mountain West pre-season All-Conference team. The Frogs will show a 4-4 defensive alignment and you can bet they will have those eight players close to the line of scrimmage to stop the OU run game.

"Gary Patterson wants to see some collisions, something they didn't see last year", said TCU play-by-play man Brian Estridge. "They need to play with some swagger and the defensive line is crucial."

Oklahoma's passing offense vs. TCU's passing defense

The Sooners hope to take advantage of a TCU secondary that was the worst in the nation last year. Thompson has not show a propensity for throwing the ball downfield in fall scrimmages, so the short passing game may be featured. Getting Travis Wilson and Jejuan Rankins free in the open field will be a focus for the Sooners early.

That would work well against a TCU team that is expected to be aggressive, using blitzes to try and pressure an inexperienced quarterback. ‘The front four needs to put some pressure on the quarterback early", said Estridge. "I think you could see some of that (8 man front), but Coach Patterson doesn't want to play gimmicky defense. He wants to play solid, but they will blitz and hope to pick the right spots.
When TCU Has The Ball:
TCU's rushing offense vs. Oklahoma's rushing defense

The Frogs return two backs, Lonta Hobbs and Robert Merrill, who have each posted 1,000 yards seasons during their career. They hope to use that two-pronged running attack to get the Sooners attention in the early part of the game.

"Early on, they have to move the football and get confidence", Estridge said. "They really need to move it via the run with their two quality backs to free up the quarterback, Tye Gunn."
With Larry Birdine sidelined, and Dusty Dvoracek's status for the game unclear, OU's defensive front will have to stand up to that early test. The Sooners may have three new players along the front wall and Corey Bennett will get initiated quickly.

TCU's passing offense vs. Oklahoma's passing defense

Gunn is 10-2 as a starter at TCU and they suffered when he was injured for most of last season. His durability is the big question mark, so the Sooners need to get a strong pass rush on him early. The TCU offense averages 34 points a game when Gunn is the starter.

His main target will be 6-1, 195 junior Corey Rodgers, who needs just two catches to reach the 100 mark for his career.

The Sooner secondary, retooled from last season, lost three players to the NFL, but still looks to be improved with Coach Bobby Jack Wright at the helm. Expect Gunn to test converted running back D.J. Wolfe, who gets the start at cornerback. In fact, this game will be an excellent test for the entire secondary.

Special Teams Performers

Rankins and Wilson will also team as the kickoff return tandem for OU and Rankins will handle punt return chores. Both have great open field moves and speed, but are relatively new to the role.

Garrett Hartley handles the kicking chores for the Sooners after taking over the job late last season. Cody Freeby has emerged as the Sooner punter and will also handle the holding duties for Hartley.

TCU has a bona fide return star in Rodgers, who already holds school records for most kickoff return yards in a game and a season. He is also an outstanding punt returner, but he'll give way to senior cornerback Drew Coleman this season.

Punting and kicking was a problem area for the Horned Frogs last year. Former walk-on Pete LoCoco is the place kicker, and junior college transfer Brian Cortney has taken over the punting duties. LoCoco 9 of 15 on field goals last season, including a 47-yard game winner against Northwest, but lacked consistency.

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