Spring Blitz: Defensive Line

With the Horned Frogs beginning spring ball on Feb. 24th we continue to get an early look at individual position battles and how each position we at HornedFrogBlitz.com feel will turn out. Up next, the Frogs talented defensive line.

Stansly Maponga | 6-2, 265 | Junior
Jon Koontz | 6-2, 260 | Junior

Chuck Hunter | 6-1, 305 | Sophomore
Ray Burns | 6-1, 290 | Junior
Jeremy Coleman | 6-2, 290 | Senior

David Johnson | 6-2, 270 | Sophomore
Jon Lewis | 6-2, 275 | Sophomore
Davion Pierson | 6-2, 305 | Redshirt freshman

Ross Forrest | 6-4, 255 | Senior
Cliff Murphy |6-4, 280 | Sophomore
Matt Anderson | 6-3, 245 | Sophomore

2011 STATS (Returning leaders)
Maponga | 55 tackles, 9 sacks, 13.5 TFL, 5 forced fumbles
Forrest | 32 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 7 TFL
Johnson | 28 tackles, 3 sacks, 6 TFL
Lewis | 17 tackles, 3 TFL
Hunter | 16 tackles, 2 TFL

Unit Ranking: B+
From outside to inside this is an athletic group of Frog defensive linemen. While the numbers may be small at defensive end this spring, help is on the way in the fall. At defensive end the leader of the Frogs' defensive line returns with Maponga; who is entering his third year as a starter at defensive end. Ross Forrest lines up opposite of Maponga and has nine career starts. Jon Koontz served as a valuable reserve player who saw action at left and right end. Inside they have to find a replacement for D.J. Yendrey, but guys like Hunter and Burns are ready to step up. Hunter gained valuable experience as a true freshman and Burn is starting to develop into the type of nose tackle the coaches had hoped he become. David Johnson and Jon Lewis also excelled at defensive tackle as freshmen, Johnson tied for second on the team in 2011 with 3 sacks. The Frogs continued their success defending the run in 2011, giving up 125 yards per game which again placed them in the top 25. With the arrival of Devonte Fields, Joey Hunt and Terrell Lathan in the fall, the Frogs should be able to utilize an 11-man rotation along the defensive line.

What to watch: The battle inside

Chuck Hunter, Jon Lewis, Ray Burns and David Johnson all will play this fall and to be honest it really doesn't matter who starts with the rotation Patterson employs on his defensive line. The best part of the group is they're all sophomores with the exception of Burns. Add to the mix one Davion Pierson and the battle for playing time, as a starter or backup , will be intense.

Will Anderson be healthy?

It was a blow to the Frogs defensive line in 2011 when Matt Anderson was lost before the season even started. Anderson played in nine games as a true freshman in 2010 and he was expected to compete for the starting right defensive end spot in the fall. If Anderson is healthy, that's a very good sign for the Frogs defensive line. If he's not back to a starting role, he certainly adds quality depth. His participation in the spring will be one of the most watched scenes of spring camp.

From walk-ons to key players

Ross Forrest came to TCU as part of the 2008 class as a preferred walk-on. He chose to be a Horned Frog over full offers from Iowa State, New Mexico and Rice. Forrest became the first true freshman walk-on to start a game on defense under Gary Patterson. Despite a nagging shoulder problem, Forrest has persevered and been a stable player along the Frogs defensive line and is expected to be the man to beat heading into spring. Forrest has nine career starts.

A fellow walk-on, Jon Koontz from Aledo came onto the scene last year as a sophomore. Koontz totaled 16 tackles in a reserve role and he became a name known to Frog fans early in the 2011 season against Air Force with back-to-back tackles for losses that stalled a Falcon drive early in the game. For the season Koontz totaled 4 tackles for loss. Koontz isn't the biggest or fastest defender along the line, but it's rare that he ever gets caught out of position, which is the biggest plus for him as an end.

Time to make a move

With Blake Roberts lost to injuries, it's time for sophomore Clifton Murphy to become a key player along the defensive line. Murphy spent most of the 2011 season as the third team defensive end behind Maponga and Koontz and saw action in only two games (New Mexico and BYU). Murphy's recruiting story is intriguing; he committed to SMU then switched to TCU just a day later, accepting a greyshirt offer. That greyshirt offer became a full scholarship just days later. Murphy is blessed with good size and adequate speed. He will get his shot at competing for playing time early on behind Ross Forrest. TCU coaches are hoping he will rise to the occasion.

Spring Predictions:
- My way too early prediction for the starting four…
LE – Maponga
NT – Hunter
DT – Johnson
RE – Forrest
- Pierson becomes a force in the middle
- Anderson needs the fall to fully recover

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