Five Burning Questions: TCU

Horned Frog Blitz' Jeremy Clark answers Pony Stampede's five burning questions about the Battle for the Iron Skillet!

1. Trevone Boykin wasn’t expected to start by a lot of Mustangs fans, but he’s back at QB. Assess his performance so far this season and where he’s improved.

JC: Honestly, you couldn’t have really asked of anything more from Boykin through the first two games. He’s put up good numbers the first two games; granted Samford is an FCS program but Minnesota has a better defense than many give them credit for. He’s really taken control of the offense and through two games you can easily see an improvement from the standpoint of him being a field general. Last season, it was easy for him to get rattled in the pocket and try to utilize his ability as a runner too early and too much.

One difference you can see this season is his ability to stay in the pocket and go through his progressions before trying to make a play with his feet. Gary Patterson said last week that against Minnesota he felt Boykin looked the best he ever has in the pocket. Another big difference this season compared to last is he’s not forcing passes and overall he’s making very good decisions; it sounds cliché but he’s taking what the defense is giving him. He still has plenty of room for improvement; he had a pair of personal foul penalties against Minnesota which Patterson wasn’t happy with. He hasn’t been perfect thus far but through two games he’s looked like a completely different quarterback from last season.

2. TCU underwent an offensive scheme change this past year, how have they looked so far this year, granted against Minnesota and Samford?

JC: The biggest change I’ve noticed is it looks like the players are having a lot of fun. Whether it’s quarterback, running back, receivers or on the line, all the players have spoken volumes about the new offense and how much they like it. On the field so far they’ve produced good numbers. Against Samford, they ran 96 plays and had their best total yards since 2010 when Andy Dalton was quarterback. We all know Samford is an FCS opponent, but that was a defense that returned eight starters and has a very talented secondary.

As I mentioned earlier, with Minnesota I don’t think they are getting the credit they deserve as a defensive unit but they are good defensively. The Gophers slowed down the game but the offense still totaled nearly 500 yards. There were some mistakes made against the Gophers, but that was expected with the Frogs coming off a bye week. With the new offense, establishing a rhythm is very important and for them to still total that many yards off a bye week was impressive. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if we see the offense struggle early on again this week due to the bye, but I expect them to pick it up after a quarter.

3. TCU is ranked #2 just behind Stanford in total defense. SMU is dead last in offense. How bad could this game be for SMU’s offense?

JC: I’ve covered the team for close to ten years and I can honestly say this is one of the top two defenses I’ve seen the Frogs put on the field. TCU’s strength is up front, especially in the middle with Davion Pierson and Chucky Hunter at defensive tackle and from watching SMU their primary weakness is on the offensive line. Whatever pressure the Mustangs have seen thus far from Baylor, North Texas and Texas A&M, it will be equaled by TCU if not surpassed. The Frogs have a solid rotation of nine players on the defensive line between the tackles and ends so they always remain fresh.

The linebackers have played extremely well the first two games; Paul Dawson has been all over the field this season. He racked up 15 tackles against Minnesota. The Frogs are expected to see a steady dose of Kevin Pope and Prescott Line this Saturday but the rush defense remains solid as it always has in the Patterson era; it was really impressive to see the defense hold Minnesota to just 99 yards on 39 carries. For comparison against San Jose State, Minnesota rushed 58 times for 380 yards. The Mustangs obviously have some talent at receiver and without a doubt they will test the Frogs’ secondary; especially vertically. Through two games, Patterson admits that his secondary hasn’t truly been tested. They will get that much needed test this Saturday.

4. Devonte Fields was dismissed from the team earlier this summer. How much has this defense missed him in the pass rushing department?

JC” Well, anytime one of the top defensive players is missing you would expect to see a drop off. But, this isn’t anything new for the Frogs because Fields basically missed all of last season as he only played against SE Louisiana and part of Texas Tech. The defensive ends have really stepped up last season and through two games this season. One player who has really impressed is junior Mike Tuaua. Tuaua recorded two sacks against Samford in the opener. Josh Carraway is another player who had an impressive performance against Minnesota. Adding depth is James McFarland and Terrell Lathan, who had six sacks last season. Patterson has said multiple times that he doesn’t have two starters at defensive end; he has four. As much as all four have played, that’s a very true statement.

The Frogs recorded two sacks against the Gophers and hurried the quarterback four times. The success from the ends really depends on the middle of the Frogs’ line and as I previously mentioned, the play of Hunter and Pierson has really benefitted the Frogs’ defensive ends.

5. Who’s the one player that SMU fans need to watch now on defense? The entire offense for SMU has struggled, but who can really make Saturday a nightmare for the Ponies?

JC: I still believe SMU will test the Frogs vertically so for me the question is easy; Mustangs need to watch free safety Derrick Kindred. Patterson has given high praise to Kindred the past two seasons and now Kindred is the starting free safety. Through two games, Kindred has put up some impressive numbers; he’s fourth on the team in tackles, has one interception and leads the team in PBU’s with 3. Kindred is a hybrid safety, meaning he can use his speed to match up well with outside or slot receivers and his strength to play close to the line of scrimmage to help out the run game. Kindred has already played all three safety positions in the 4-2-5 scheme so he’s very experienced in playing the pass or run.

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