TCU Preview: Offense

Horned Frogs are looking to find some identity, and success, on offense.

When TCU was at its height as a football program under head coach Gary Patterson, the Horned Frogs paired their typically elite defense with an explosive, high-level offense. Unfortunately for the Horned Frogs this year, they haven't been able to find the latter part of that successful equation.

TCU's spread ranks 76th in Offensive S&P+, and its numbers in pretty much every category hang around that area. On standard downs? TCU's S&P+ is 73rd. On passing downs, the Frogs rank 67th. The low spot is actually in rushing S&P+, where TCU ranks 79th. The high mark is in passing S&P+, where TCU ranks 65th.

Not into advanced stats? TCU is averaging 330.3 total yards per game and 25.3 points per game. In Big 12 play, TCU is scoring just 16 points per game, and has topped the 20-point mark just once, with a 27-point showing against Kansas. All of those help to paint a picture of an offense that has been bottom-half of FBS in pretty much every way on offense.

A big part of that has been TCU's inability to throw the ball, which, in turn, has allowed defenses to stack the box and shut down the Horned Frogs' running game. Trevone Boykin (6-2 215) got his feet wet a year ago, starting nine games a year ago and throwing 15 touchdown passes to 10 interceptions while rushing for another 417 yards and three scores. This season, Boykin has actually upped his completion percentage just slightly to 58.8 percent, though he's thrown five touchdowns to seven picks and actually started the first game of the season at wide receiver. Last week against Oklahoma State, a 24-10 loss, TCU actually switched from Boykin to redshirt freshman Tyler Matthews (6-4 220) at one point in the second quarter, though Matthews only threw one pass (it was incomplete). He also fumbled the ball away on his first snap.

TCU did get some good news this week in that Casey Pachall (6-5 229), the team's starting quarterback at the beginning of the year, has been cleared to play against Texas, his first clearing since breaking his arm on Sept. 7. But even Pachall hasn't been the savior some depicted him to be. In an admittedly small sample size, since coming back from last year's suspension, Pachall completed 9-of-16 passes for 75 yards and an interception against LSU, then hit on 8-of-14 throws for 100 yards against Southeastern Louisiana before getting hurt. Two years ago, Pachall completed 66.5 percent of his passes for 2,921 yards and 25 touchdowns to seven interceptions. Last year, he got off to a hot start, hitting 66 percent of his throws for 10 touchdowns to one pick before getting suspended. This year, his completion percentage has dropped to 56.7 percent and he has yet to throw a touchdown pass.

Still, Pachall is considered the better thrower, a prototypical pocket passer who at one point was considered a top NFL prospect. Boykin is an excellent athlete, and he gashed the Longhorns with his legs on scrambles a year ago in leading TCU to a 20-13 win. He still has those wheels, rushing for 101 yards against Texas Tech earlier this year and 71 yards against Kansas.

Bowling ball running back Waymon James (5-8 203) missed last year's game against Texas. He rushed for 875 yards and six touchdowns in 2011, but suffered a knee injury in the season's second game in 2012. So far this year, he's been effective, if not overwhelming, rushing for 235 yards on 48 carries (4.9 yards per carry) and four touchdowns. More carries have gone to the more explosive B.J. Catalon, who has rushed 69 times for 359 yards (5.2 per carry) and five touchdowns. Twenty-four of those carries have come the last two weeks, with Catalon taking those carries for 137 yards and a score. Former five-star prospect Aaron Green (5-11 200), a transfer from Nebraska, is a great space player, though he's struggled to get going. Green has 27 rushes for 83 yards (3.1 per carry), and more than half of those carries (14) came against Kansas two weeks ago.

Blaming the quarterbacks would only be telling half the story. Truthfully, the Horned Frog wideouts have really struggled after losing Josh Boyce, an early entry to the NFL Draft this past spring. This is a group that heading into the season looked great on paper, but has yet to produce at that high level. No Horned Frog has more than 17 catches or more than 186 yards*, though TCU does have seven receivers with between 8-and-17 catches and with 132 or more yards).

*For reference, Texas has three receivers with 25 or more catches and with 240 or more yards, and the Longhorns haven't been a perfect throwing team, either, and have played in one fewer game.

The listed starters in TCU's four-wide set are Cam White (6-3 200) and Ladarius Brown (6-4 220) on the outside and Brandon Carter (5-11 186) and true freshman Ty Slanina (6-0 193) in the slot. White leads the Horned Frogs with 17 catches, with Brown right behind at 16, though neither of the two are averaging more than 9.1 yards per catch. Slanina too, is under the 10-YPC threshold (14 catches for 132 yards). Carter, a big-time playmaker at Euless Trinity who hasn't quite figured it out yet has 14 catches for 170 yards, with the latter figure being the second-best mark on the team. Backup David Porter actually leads the team with 180 receiving yards, though a huge chunk of that (75 yards) came on a long touchdown against Kansas where the defenders made a mistake. In fact, 118 of Porter's yards came against the Jayhawks. Deante' Gray has big-time speed and averages 19.5 yards per catch. He has a 69-yard catch among his 156 yards on eight snags. Josh Doctson has nine catches for 140 yards on the year. Tight end Stephen Bryant (6-5 240) has been a non-factor in the passing game, catching one pass for three yards.

TCU's offensive line has been another sore spot. The Horned Frogs are sixth in the Big 12 in rushing yards per game while averaging under four yards per carry. And they've been hounded in the passing game, allowing 15 sacks (only Kansas and Iowa State have been worse) and suffering from repeated poor snaps. In fact, Patterson said this week that TCU would have a change at center, though he wouldn't mention what that would be. Joey Hunt (6-3 295) is the current player listed at that position. TCU is thick at the guard spots, with Jamelle Naff (6-4 325) on the left and Eric Tausch (6-3 300) on the right. And tackles James Dunbar (6-6 315) and Halapoulivaati Vaitai (6-6 308) have each looked the part at times. Keep an eye on Aviante Collins (6-6 285). He started at right tackle a week ago, and has started 17 games in his TCU career. He's listed as the backup left tackle.

Jaden Oberkrom (6-3 187) has been as consistent as they come, hitting all 21 of his extra points and 10-of-12 field goal attempts. His only two misses came from 42 and 55, and he has a long this season of 46. More than half of Oberkrom's kickoffs have gone for touchbacks as well. Catalon is the team's primary kick returner, and he has a 100-yard kick return touchdown to his credit this year. Cameron Echols-Luper (6-0 190) has just four punt returns this year, though he's averaging 25.8 yards per return. Carter is listed as the backup. He's averaging 10.8 yards per return, though he had a touchdown return called back against Texas Tech.

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