The Tricky Scouting Report: TCU

The #22 ranked Red Raiders are heading to Fort Worth to face off with the TCU Horned Frogs on Saturday. Can TCU slow down the offensive juggernaut that is the Texas Tech offense? RaiderPower.com is here to break down the opposition and bring you the most in-depth scouting report you will find anywhere.


Quit Playing Games With My Heart


Tech fans might be responsible for a recent spike in Mylanta sales across the state. 

It was yet another nail-biter for the Red Raiders, in a hard-fought overtime win over UTEP last week in what could best be described as an odd game. After the Nebraska prayer answered, the Oklahoma touchdown stretch at the gun, and the crushing knuckleball field goal in the Cotton Bowl last year, you might figure Tech is tired of playing these heart-wrenching contests.

This time it was a mishap in a field goal try to put UTEP away, a late touchdown by the Miners to send it to OT, a touchdown called back after dual penalties, and a long doinked field goal that somehow found its way through after looking like it was hooking towards Juarez.

It was a little return karma for the Alabama kick, one might presume.

These wild, loopy games seem to be our mantra of late.

Whether the close outcome was the result of UTEP actually being pretty good (which I contend), or a lackluster performance, or both, here's a reality check for Tech fans:

There's been a lot of BCS talk this year in the Tech camp. Win Saturday night at TCU, or kiss the BCS goodbye. 

That's right. Unless you plan on the Red Raiders winning the Big XII outright, which would be quite a challenge, if you want an at-large BCS bid, you had better win against the Horned Frogs and move up in the rankings.

Also, please note: I don't like the Backstreet Boys. I just thought the title to that crappy song was fitting.

TCU Horned Frogs
Fort Worth, TX
Saturday, Sept. 16 – 4:30 p.m.

All-time series: TTU 28-22-3
Last meeting: 2004 (TTU 70-35)
Frogs' 2005 Record: 11-1 (8-0) Mountain West
Head Coach: Gary Patterson (Kansas State), 45-18, 6th season
Offensive Starters Returning: 6
Defensive Starters Returning: 7


Let's get one thing straight: the TCU Horned Frogs are pretty good.

They own the nation's longest current winning streak after Texas' loss to Ohio State last Saturday.

Another bit of reality for Red Raider fans: they would love nothing more than to continue that winning streak in grand fashion at home against Texas Tech. It may be, regardless of what you hear from Patterson and Co., more important to them than winning a repeat Mountain West Championship against teams like Utah, BYU and San Diego State.

The Horned Frogs have made no qualms about carrying a chip on their shoulder in beating Big XII teams Oklahoma, Iowa State and Baylor in succession in the past two seasons.



The Offense: Multiple (I Base)

Quarterbacks

Jeff Ballard 6-1 208 Sr.
Marcus Jackson 6-1 200 RFr.


Jeff Ballard is an impressive 10-0 as TCU's starting signal-caller. He replaced the injured Tye Gunn four games in last season and never looked back.

He didn't just do adequately – he has excelled. TCU got a lot better after Ballard took over, and haven't lost since. He can throw and run effectively, although many TCU watchers have indicated they would much rather see him concentrate on passing, and avoid his aggressive running style. Still, TCU likes to run the option, so hits and physicality are an inevitability with any quarterback in their system. He will throw some bad interceptions at times, but overall is a very efficient, but not awe-inspiring passer.

Not to be lost in the shuffle is Marcus Jackson, the red-shirt freshman who was really responsible for leading the Horned Frogs to victory over Baylor, even though the injured Ballard got credit for the win. Jackson didn't play his age, so to speak, and was very effective in leading TCU back from a 7-0 deficit. He is another solid dual passing-running threat.

Ballard is healthy, but should he go down, don't expect a big drop-off with Jackson.

Running Backs

Tailback
23 Aaron Brown 6-1 190 Soph.
33 Robert Merrill 5-10 204 Sr.  ??
30 Lonta Hobbs 5-10 220 Sr.   ??

Fullback
William Jackson 6-0 237 Jr.

TCU, in their lead-up to this season, looked to be INCREDIBLY deep at running back, but has been bitten by the injury bug here also in the past few weeks. Aaron Brown was the only TB that played last week against Cal-Davis. The sophomore has really dazzled so far, though, in his young TCU career.

When Baylor shut down the run, Brown made himself a viable passing threat, receiving for 107 yards and the go-ahead touchdown.

Brown has terrific breakaway speed, and can scorch defenses he gets outside on.

Merrill and Hobbs have both been downgraded to questionable for the Tech game, but this is mostly inconsequential the way Brown has been playing with what seems to be a sporadic offensive line, based on the Baylor game.

William Jackson fills the "Moose Johnson" role for the Horned Frogs, and sees the ball in his hands about as often as Nath05 goes to work lately (sorry, inside Raider Alley joke). Point is, the guy blocks – and does a pretty good job of it for the most part.


Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

Wide Receivers
Quentily Harmon 6-1 184 Sr.
Michael DePriest 6-0 192 Sr.
Marcus Brock 6-0 185 Jr.

Tight End
Chad Andrus 6-4 246 Sr.

TCU will go 3-wide at times to spread you out, so expect this group to be in then. Otherwise, DePriest and Harmon fill the flanker and split end spots in the I formation base they will run.

They lost Cory Rogers, so they lost much of their productivity from last year. These receivers are a workable group – but nothing extravagant. They wont make the spectacular play, but are consistent overall. They don't put the fear of God in you like Johnnie Lee Higgins did last week.

DePriest was fighting an arm injury, but is expected to play against Tech.

At tight end, again, Andrus, like the FB Jackson is more of a blocking threat than a pass receiving one. You will see TCU go to him in some short-yardage situations.

A note: Shae Reagan is third on the TE depth chart, and may see a couple of snaps against Tech. The converted quarterback scored his first collegiate touchdown on his first career catch against the juggernaut D-II Cal-Davis defense. Idalou rejoiced and ran through the streets.


Offensive Line   

Maurice Bouldwin 6-4 290 Sr.
Giles Montgomery 6-5 275 Soph.
Blake Schlueter 6-3 275 Soph.
Matty Lidner 6-4 293 Jr.
Herbert Taylor 6-4 287 Sr.

Last year, this was an extremely strong point for the Horned Frogs. This year they replace four starters, but return with their main talent in senior Herbert Taylor.

Everyone else on this front has been pretty inconsistent so far, especially against Baylor and being stopped on the run like they were.

They are a smallish group for D-I, and could be a problem if they don't develop the inexperienced guys pretty quick. 


The Offense - Overall
TCU won't try to fool you into thinking anything else: they are a run-based offense. They play pretty balanced for the most part, mixing a decent passing game, but their bread and butter is the option and lead blocking looks for the tailback.

They have been good at it, but against the Bears had some issues. The inexperienced offensive line (save Taylor) could very well hurt this team this year. Otherwise, the offense is good, and efficient.

Expect the Frogs to try for long, sustained drives and an attempt at "keep away" from the Tech offense. 



The Defense: Basic 4-2-5 

Linebackers
MLB Jason Phillips 6-1 240 Soph.
SLB David Hawthorne 6-0 235 Jr. 
SLB Robert Henson 6-1 222 Soph.

Phillips will start, and is very good. He was a Freshman All-American last season and an athletic, big ol' boy at middle linebacker. He isn't great in pass coverage, although he made his first interception last week against the Cal-Davis Whoevertheyares.  

Hawthorne and Henson should platoon at the strong-side backer with Hawthorne getting the starting nod. Both are pretty adept at the position, and solid in pass and run coverage.

The linebackers are very heavy-hitting at times, and can punish players over the middle. Watch for a big lick or two against the Tech middle patterns.


Defensive Line
DE Chase Ortiz 6-3 250 Jr.
DE Tommy Blake 6-3 250 Jr.
DT Cody Moore 6-1 275 Soph.
DT Jarrarcea Williams 6-0 310 Sr.

Get this: All four of these guys are former high school running backs. Now, they man a defensive line that is pretty solid.

On the ends Ortiz and Blake are outstanding performers and speed rushers who have wreaked havoc on opponents at times with a combined 16 sacks last year. Moore and Williams are new starters, but the returns are pretty good so far gumming up the middle. 


Secondary

FS  David Roach 6-2 210 Jr.
WS  Marvin White 6-2 200 Sr.
SS  Eric Buchanan 5-11 196 Sr.
CB Rafael Priest 5-10 175 RFr.
CB Vernon Russell 6-0 195 Sr.

The safeties are pretty solid, and very physical with Marvin White leading the way. He was all over the field and darned good against Baylor, amassing 14 tackles.

The corners are questionable, at best.  It's been a free for all at that position with a lot of question marks and concerns. Priest and Russell should start and get most of the snaps based on their recent games. The match-up of either of these guys on Joel Filani could be ugly.

They need a stand-up performance, all the way around from the secondary, and the truth is against passing teams last year with better corners they struggled.


Defense – Overall

Ah, yes. The vaunted 4-2-5 TCU defense. Don't be fooled into thinking the Frog ‘D' is a base nickel. It is not.

Patterson loves to blitz and loves to take risks. It looks like a nickel, but is very effective at disguising blitz packages and giving the quarterback different looks.

They did lead the country in takeaways in 2005, which is impressive in any conference.  The Frogs look for more of the same this year, and so far it looks like they haven't skipped a beat, forcing two key turnovers against the Baylor offense that was moving the ball well, that probably won the game in Waco for TCU.

Same story as it always seems with Tech though: pressure the quarterback or get thrown all over on, unless you have NFL-type athletes to cover the Red Raiders' receiving corps.



Special Teams

PK
Chris Manfredini 5-9 170 Jr.
KOS Peter LoCoco 6-1 208 Sr.
P Brian Cortney 6-4 215 Sr.
KR Donald Massey 5-11 170 Soph.
PR Marcus Brock 6-0 185 Jr.

Manfredini is solid from under 40, and LoCoco, who kicked the 44-yard game-winner against Iowa State in the Houston Bowl last year, handles the kickoffs and longer kicks. They are a very reliable kicking tandem.

The punter, Cortney has an average of 38.9 yards/punt.

Massey has proven dangerous returning kickoffs, taking one 69 yards this year.



SMU – Overall Summary
The Frogs are a physical football team on both sides of the ball. They will throw their bodies around on almost every play. They don't make a whole lot of mistakes, and are pretty well-coached by the intense Patterson.

I wouldn't venture to say this is their Super Bowl, but they are itching for a win against Tech. 



The Tricky Prediction: Texas Tech 38, TCU 17
I've went back and forth so many times on this game.

I think they could beat us – they are pretty good.

I think of 70-35.

I think of them beating Oklahoma in Norman.

I think of SMU beating them last season.

I think of the fact that they wear purple.

I think of Godbolt and his place in Raider infamy.

I still think they are a very good team that is going to be primed to beat us at home and avenge their 2004 beat-down.

While this isn't at all the same team Tech destroyed in '04, Tech still has the edge – and TCU hasn't fared well defensively against passing-oriented teams. They don't have the firepower to score points in bunches, either, like UTEP. Tech will find this a better match-up, and win going away.

Sorry, Idalou. No TD catches for your favorite son.


Questions or comments? Email Aaron directly at Trickyleach@hotmail.com.


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