Question #1: Does TCU have the depth at LB to compete for a conference title this year?
Answer: This has been discussed ad nauseam but it's a valid question. With the departures of Tank Carder, Tanner Brock and Deryck Gildon, the TCU linebacking corps appears to be dangerously thin. Kenny Cain is the lone returning player at the position with any experience at all. At 6'1" and 225 pounds, Cain is undersized but displays great sideline to sideline playmaking ability. A group of unproven players will be called upon to solidify the position and the TCU staff hopes they figure it out early on. Danny Heiss (6'1" 220), Joel Hasley (6'1" 225), Marcus Mallett (6'1" 220), Paul Dawson(6'2" 228), Austin Terry (6'2" 230), A.J. Hilliard (6'2" 220) and James McFarland (6'3" 240) are the players in question. At least three of these players need to emerge as legitimate contributors, but four of them stepping up would be preferred. If this happens, the TCU defense could be very solid in 2012.
Question #2: Will the cornerback situation be better than last year?
Answer: Things were looking up just weeks ago but with news that RS Freshman Travoskey Garrett (6'1" 195) will miss the season with an injury, depth once again becomes an issue. Junior Jason Verrett (5'10" 180) is returning as a starter and he'll need to continue building on his late season improvement from a year ago. RS Sophomore Kevin White (5'10" 175) will be called upon to lock down the other side. He's showed flashes of ability but he'll need to grab the position by the horns and establish himself early. Brian Alexis (5'9" 165), Keivon Gamble (5'10" 180), and Kolby Griffin (5'11" 188) all need to have solid camps to prove that they can be relied upon. A couple of incoming freshman, Derrick Kindred (5'10" 185)and Deante' Gray (5'10" 180) could be options if the need arises.
Question #3: Will the offensive line continue their strong tradition of play?
Answer: With only James Fry (6'3" 290) at center, and Blaize Foltz (6'4" 310) at guard returning as starters, the Frogs need the three newcomers to emerge in a big way. At the tackle spots James Dunbar (6'6" 310) and Tayo Fabuluje (6'7" 330) will be asked to step in and pick up the slack. Both players have huge upside but need to do it on the field to prove people right about them. The other guard spot will be a battle. Look for John Wooldridge (6'5" 315) and Michael Thompson (6'5" 345) to battle for the starting position. Both players will contribute this year regardless of who wins the position battle. Bobby Thompson (6'6" 310) will need to step up to provide depth and a young player will need to arrive early on the scene to give the Frogs the depth across the board that they will need. Halapoulivaati Vaitai (6'6" 305) could be used but it's likely the staff would prefer to redshirt the talented freshman. Jamelle Naff (6'4" 325) and Trevius Jones (6'3" 315) will provide depth at the guard position.
Question #4: Will TCU stay aggressive on offense?
Answer: If TCU wants to compete in the high octane Big 12, they'll need to continue their aggressive and explosive play calling in 2012. TCU has been on a great run the last 10 plus years but the last 3 years, the offense has been the key to TCU making the transition from good to great. The Frogs will need to score points at a high rate in 2012 and they have the skill players to get the job done. I think you'll see Jarrett Anderson and Rusty Burns open up the entire playbook from the get go. With Pachall at the helm, the TCU offense is set to explode in 2012.
Question #5: Is TCU physically ready for the grind of the Big 12 schedule?
Answer: While I don't put a ton of stock into this topic, a lot of other people do. I think the Frogs have plenty of talent and depth to compete week in and week out in the Big 12. Of course we won't know for sure until the final 5 game stretch to end the season, but I like what the Frogs have in place. IF there's a strength and conditioning coach in the country that could have his guys ready for the transition, it would be Don Sommer. The TCU strength and conditioning coach has a well-deserved reputation for morphing incoming payers into physical specimens. If there's an area in this group of five keys that I think is overblown, this would be it. I think the Frogs will be more than ready for the grind.