The Horned Frogs have taken the field six times this season, following the bye this weekend, six more contests remain. Since we find ourselves smack-dab in the middle of the 2016 campaign, now might be a good time to evaluate the Frogs as the journey is halfway complete. So what have we learned through mid-October?
The Frogs are not the team they were advertised to be
The Frogs entered the season as the No. 13 team in the country, but the unfortunate truth is that they were overrated – well at least from what we have seen thus far. While some pundits such as ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit predicted first year quarterback Kenny Hill to lead the Frogs to an 11-win season and a playoff bid, the Frogs already find themselves at 4-2 on the year. What’s more alarming is that both of those losses were at home, ending a 14 game home win streak in the process. The revamped offense has been able to put up the yards, but they’ve had no relief from a defensive unit that has been shredded at the secondary all year long. The Frogs second half won’t get any easier either, as they still face challenges against an undefeated Baylor and West Virginia, plus an Oklahoma State just outside the top 25.
Kenny Hill is good, but he’s no Trevone Boykin
One of the biggest questions entering the season was how Hill would perform as he took over the job of taking the snaps for the Horned Frogs in 2016. His time at Texas A&M was filled with extreme highs and extreme lows, only further propelling uncertainty among the newcomer.
Well, from what we’ve seen, the Frogs shouldn’t be upset with how Hill has played. While his completion rate of 63.3 percent thus far is down a few points from his 2014 completion percentage of 66.7, but Hill has already thrown for 2142 yards though six games. If he keeps it up, he will likely shatter the single season passing record for TCU. Three times this season he has eclipsed the 400-yard mark, including the game against OU, which is no easy task. Seven rushing TDs isn’t too shabby either.
But having eight interceptions on the season at the half-way mark is not something that Trevone Boykin did. Nor was being unable to get the offense going for two quarters as Oklahoma went on a 42-3 run against the Frogs in that contest. While Hill does share some things in common with his predecessor, such as being a dual threat quarterback, it just doesn’t feel the same, not when it takes five weeks to get comfortable throwing the ball down the field. Not when you’re only up 6-3 against SMU at halftime.
By TCU standards, the defense is a dumpster-fire
Maybe we shouldn’t be so harsh considering that defense appears to be nonexistent outside of Morgantown. But for a program that prides itself on defense year after year, it’s a bit astonishing to see the Frogs getting as beat up as they are by their opponents. Last year was certainly an outlier due to the injury bug, but to put things in perspective, the beat up 2015 TCU defense only surrendered 30 points to Oklahoma on the road. This year, a healthier and more experienced defense let the Sooners score 52 on their home turf. Certainly there have been some bright quarters and halves along the way, but aside from SMU, there has yet to be a game where the defense has put up a quality performance for all four quarters.
Whether it’s chemistry or something else remains a mystery, but if there is any finger pointing to be done, look no further than the secondary. If you want to get the big picture, all you need to know is that the Frogs allowed 333 passing yards to FCS-opponent South Dakota State in the season opener. In the OU game, it was Sooners WR Dede Westbrook that spelled doom for TCU. And in week two’s loss to Arkansas, the Frogs simply couldn’t stop the Razorbacks on their final drive as they drove down the field to score and force overtime before toppling TCU in 2 OT. What we’ve seen is certainly something that Gary Patterson is no accustomed to by an means.
The receiving corps is deep
Even with the loss of Josh Doctson and Kolby Listenbee following 2015, there’s a lot to like as far as TCU receivers are concerned. Sophomore KaVontae Turpin picked up right where he left off by leading all Horned Frog receivers in receiving yards before he was hurt against Iowa State. Turpin’s not the only young-gun to shine once again, as sophomore Jaelan Austin has also impressed with four touchdowns and 206 yards on the season.
But the transfers are making the biggest contributions at this position, as Taj Williams and John Diarse are the ones to beat. Williams has caught for a team high 506 yards and four touchdowns, highlighted by an outstanding performance against Oklahoma in which he recorded two touchdown receptions of at least 60 yards. Diarse, formerly of LSU, only has one touchdown but is second best among all active TCU receivers with 345 receiving yards.
Kansas is still the achilles heel
Hill had four turnovers as the Frogs defeated the lowly Jayhawks in Lawrence by one point. Oh, and Kansas happened to miss what would have been a game winning field goal as time expired. Long story short, it was the scariest of all TCU-Kansas scares we’ve seen in the Big-12 era of TCU football.
What do I say? This team is one of those teams where you just don’t know what to expect week by week. If you want to go down the rabbit-hole of bad news, well, the bad news is that the four teams that TCU has beaten thus are same four teams they beat in the 4-8 2013 season (we’ll equate respective FCS opponents SDSU and SE Louisiana). I don’t think the Frogs will fail to be bowl eligible this season, but the three road games against Baylor, West Virginia and Texas are no cupcakes, nor is the home game against Oklahoma State in late November. In short, four of the next six games are toss-ups, and TCU hasn’t had luck go their way in close games thus far.
The defense, the unsolvable mystery that has plagued TCU this year, did look to be getting things going somewhat last weekend with the number of turnovers they forced, but it is Kansas. The secondary must figure something out as the Frogs prepare to face the high flying offenses of Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, and Baylor in the week. Whether that looks like Deante Grey moving back to corner or trying something entirely new, they have to find a solution fast, or we’ll be seeing a lot more of the woes that we saw against the Sooners two weeks ago.
If it is more of the same old, the only way the Frogs can bail themselves out is by continuing to put up explosive 40-point plus performances on offense – more of those 400 yard games from Kenny Hill and 150 yard games from guys like Williams. But you still can’t help but feel concerned when the offense was hardly able to get anything going against the cellar-dweller Jayhawks just a week ago.
The Frogs have potential to run the table and finish ranked at 10-2. They also have potential to barely make a bowl game at 6-6. Buckle up. It’s going to be one wild second half.