Over the years, TCU's 4-2-5 defense has certainly gained a level of mystique. Coaches from across the country have traveled into Fort Worth to pick Gary Patterson's brain about the scheme, which features three safeties and runs quite a bit of two-read coverage (Manny Diaz is also fond of this concept at Texas).
But most great defenses start up front, and TCU — which tops the conference in total defense — isn't any different. The Horned Frogs are also allowing a Big 12 best 3.1 yards per carry and just 98.4 rushing yards per game.
In true freshman Devonte Fields (6-4 240), a cat-quick edge rusher, the Horned Frogs may have the best end in the conference right now. And he entered the season expected to be the weak link because fellow end Stansly Maponga (6-2 265) was a preseason All-Big 12 pick. Fields leads the Big 12 in tackles for loss with 15.5 and is third in sacks with eight. Maponga, who has been banged up this season, has three sacks. That kind of pressure is a big part of the reason the Horned Frogs are third in the league in passing defense. The defensive tackles are largely depended on to push forward and collapse the pocket, with Chucky Hunter (6-1 305) and Davion Pierson (6-2 305) doing their jobs well.
That push up front has allowed middle linebacker Joel Hasley (6-1 220) to make plays. Hasley ranks second among Big 12 linebackers in tackles for loss with eight, and would be first if you didn't include rush linebackers. He also leads the team with 68 stops. SAM linebacker Kenny Cain (6-1 225) was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts against West Virginia.
Cornerback Jason Verrett (5-10 180) leads the Big 12 in passes defensed (17) and interceptions (5). Kevin White (5-10 174) is opposite him. The safeties, hugely important in a 4-2-5, are playmakers. Free safety Elisha Olabode (5-10 192) has a takeaway in five of the Horned Frogs' 10 games, and has returned two of his three interceptions for pick-sixes. He's second on the team with 54 tackles. Strong safety Sam Carter (6-1 220) is the only defensive back in the Big 12's top 20 in tackles for loss. Chris Hackett (6-2 200) plays the weak safety role well.
Ethan Perry is a strong-legged punter, averaging 44.5 yards per punt. But he may also be the Big 12's worst punter in terms of putting the ball into the end zone, with eight touchbacks among his 44 punts. Kicker Jaden Oberkrom handles the kickoffs, and half of his kicks have been touchbacks.