What's in store for the TCU this upcoming season? The staff at HornedFrogInsider take a look at what should come out of the 2015 season and discuss the ramifications for TCU's upcoming season.
Since a national championship is universally viewed as TCU’s feasible dream year, what would it take for TCU to go undefeated?
Mitchell Stehly: It’s strange to say defense is the biggest question for a Gary Patterson coached team, but as of now, that’s where the biggest questions land. All of Patterson’s best defenses have had great linebacker play, and with Marcus Mallet and Paul Dawson gone, there are a lot of unknowns at the linebacker position. For this team to reach their goal of bringing a national championship to Fort Worth, the two freshmen linebackers, Mike Freeze and Montrel Wilson, must play like veterans. Luckily, the schedule sets up nicely : the matchups against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Baylor are all in November.
Mike Garland: For me, it’s a couple of things. One is for TCU to not let the trap game get them. Looking at the schedule there’s a few games that come to mind as “trap games” – SMU before Texas Tech and Kansas before Oklahoma. Don’t look ahead. Seems simple enough. The second – freshman need not to play like freshman. I’m talking linebackers like Mike Freeze, Ty Summers and Alec Dunham or wide receivers like Jarrison Stewart, Kavontae Turpin and Jaelan Austin. These guys are going to have to play like sophomores and juniors.
J.D. Moore: It will take a minimal amount of injuries, a rapid growth of the secondary and a mild bit of luck from capitalizing on the mistakes of opponents. TCU’s not going undefeated without those three elements.
Brad Hardcastle: Good defense. Last season, the offense was virtually unstoppable, and this year it returns almost everyone. The defense loses several guys including both starting linebackers and both safeties. If the newcomers on defense can step in where last years left off, TCU may be unbeatable.
What is the (realistic) worst-case scenario for TCU?
MS: This is a tough question, but I think that November lineup (save Kansas) could pose problems in a disaster-scenario. TCU has yet to win at Oklahoma or Oklahoma State since joining the Big 12 and Baylor returns nearly every starter. So, I’ll say a worst case scenario would feature a 1-3 November or a possible slip-up in a tough road environment like Lubbock or Manhattan.
MG: This one is simple. Trevone Boykin going down with a season-ending injury. #NoJinx
JD: Barring injury scenarios (which vary everything), the realistic worst-case scenario is that the secondary is absolutely terrible and Gary’s young linebackers don’t develop quickly enough to stop Big 12 offenses. Even if the defense is a hot dumpster fire of underclassmen, I still think the worst-case scenario is a 9-4 year for TCU (including a bowl win) due to the strength of the offense.
BH: Worst case scenario, 8-4 with loses to Oklahoma, Baylor, Oklahoma State and Kansas State. Those teams either have great offenses that can take advantage of the Frogs' young defense and/or they will be playing in tough road environment. Last year's team had a lot of veterans on the defensive side of the ball while it only left the state twice. Though it's unlikely, all four of those teams could beat TCU if they play to their potential.
Is it playoffs or bust for TCU to consider this year a success?
MS: No. As we saw in 2014, a committee shouldn’t impact how one views the success of a season. The goal should be a Big 12 title, and let the rest take care of itself.
MG: Not necessarily. I’d say winning the Big 12 would be a success or even winning 10 games. Nothing wrong with that at all. With some fan bases, no doubt. TCU’s fan base seems level headed. All that being said, anything less than the playoffs would be disappointing considering how last season went with the second-half let down against Baylor and knowing who’s returning from that team.
JD: Yes. Unfortunately, I think an 11-2 season (including a NY6 bowl win) is considered a failure unless TCU is exceptionally physically beaten up during the season.
BH: I think so. When you're ranked No. 2 in the preseason and ended last year by narrowly missing the playoffs, you're expected to make it. This may be TCU's best shot to make the playoffs for a while since it's Trevone Boykin's senior season and he and some other veterans will be hard to replace next year. Sure, if TCU made another top-6 bowl game, it won't be the end of the world, but it wouldn't come near the expectation of making the playoffs.
What player will emerge as a new household name?
MS: Emmanuel Porter. He stands at 6 feet 4 inches and is a tremendous athlete. I see him benefiting from opposing defenses focusing in on Josh Doctson, Kolby Listenbee and the rest of this explosive unit. He was four-star recruit out of Lincoln High School.
Another name to watch for: KaVontae Turpin. He could replace Cameron Echols-Luper in the punt-return role.
MG: Player? How about players? I’m talking about the running back group of Trevorris Johnson, Shawn Nixon, Kyle Hick and last but not least, Aaron Green. Green ended last season hot, rushing over 100 yards in four of last six games and Gary Patterson is saying “all four are 1’s”…. Someone needs to make this group a nickname!
JD: Most people know I’m a big fan of Mike Freeze, and for good reason. I think he’ll be one of the best raw talents for the Frogs since Tanner Brock, and he has by far the best name for a TCU defender since the Tank (Carder), baby.
BH: Aaron Green. Sometimes he reminds me of Reggie Bush when he played for USC. If you re-watch the Kansas State game from last year, you think you're watching a Heisman contender. He has blazing speed, he can make quick cuts and his vision is extraordinary. If he stays healthy, he'll be on a lot of highlight reels throughout the season.
What game scares TCU as the most dangerous trap game?
MS: Besides the obvious tough matchups in November, I think Texas Tech could be a “trap game.” There is a lot bulletin board material that comes with giving up 82 points the year prior. And we all know crazy things (and calls) tend to happen in Lubbock.
MG: Up above, I had SMU and Kansas as trap games. Could add Iowa State to the list as well but if I have to pick ONE, I’d go with Kansas. Besides being better than SMU, Kansas is later in the season – meaning bowl season talks. It’s awful hard not to look ahead no matter how grounded you are.
JD: West Virginia should terrify every TCU fan. The Mountaineers D is the one of the few defenses with talent and setups that should slow down Meacham’s Air Raid scheme, and given that there’s never been a TCU-WVU Big 12 game that’s been settled by more than a field goal, this should be the big trap game this year. Fun fact: This will also be the first Thursday home game for TCU since 2008, which I’m sure will allow for some craziness during the game.
BH: It might be Texas. Even though it's a home game and I don't think the Longhorns will be that great, no one should ever doubt a Charlie Strong coached team. If Texas' defense can figure Boykin and company, the Frogs' will be in trouble.
What regular-season game are you most excited to see this year?
MS: The Baylor game on black Friday is the obvious answer, so I’ll go with another matchup. West Virginia comes to Fort Worth on a Thursday night in October. It should be an electric atmosphere under the lights in what will be TCU’s “blackout” game. In the three matchups since the two schools joined the Big 12, the combined point differential is five. Two of the three matchups have gone to overtime and the 2014 game was arguably TCU’s most exciting win of the season.
MC: Baylor is the obvious number one game but what about Texas? True freshman on both sides, all over the field. What about the trap game teams, SMU and Kansas? Both might not and shouldn’t be close but both are coached by former Texas High School Football coaches. That’s pretty cool if you like that sort of thing.
JD: I can’t even pretend to pick another game. Bottom line, if Nov. 27 isn’t already circled on your calendar for TCU-Baylor, there’s no point in explaining it to you.
BH: Baylor. Even though the players aren't talking about it, everyone is thinking about it. It may turn out to be one of the greatest match-ups fans from both schools may ever witness.
What is the storyline you’re most interested in for the 2015 season?
MS: As mentioned above, I’m most interested in the development of Montrel Wilson and Mike Freeze at linebacker. Patterson loves their speed, now it’s time to see if that translates the field.
MG: Boykin’s run at the Heisman. Seems that all the stars are aligned with returning 10 offensive starters.
JD: For the first time since LT, TCU has a legit Heisman candidate at the beginning of the season. Trevone Boykin’s run at the coveted award might be a stereotypical answer, but you bet I’ll be seeing the weekly watch list to see if Boykin will be the first TCU Heisman winner in nearly 80 years.
BH: Can Gary Patterson get a group of guys who've never started in their career to play linebacker. Again, if the linebackers can get the job done, the Frogs may be impossible to beat. If guys like Mike Freeze and Montrel Wilson can fill the holes left by Paul Dawson and Marcus Mallet, this could be the year TCU wins it all.