With spring practice kicking off tomorrow, PurpleMenace.com takes a look at the position battles that will be waged and attempts to get a feel for what 2009 will bring. The Frogs are coming off of a season that saw them finish 11-2 and rank #7 in the country in the final polls. With what many consider to be the best recruiting class at TCU in 30 years, the Frogs will look for a way to infuse as much young talent as possible into the lineup.
With the loss of captain Blake Schlueter, one would think that there would be a huge whole in the middle of the offensive line. While nobody is comparing Jake Kirkpatrick to Schlueter, Kirkpatrick has the physical tools to step right in and excel. At 6'3" and 305 pounds, Kirkpatrick could be the key to the offensive production this year. With the graduation of Preston Phillips and Giles Montgomery, the Frogs will look to a few experienced players to fill the void. With players such as Kyle Dooley, Tyler Marrou, Blaize Foltz, Spencer Thompson, Josh Vernon, James Fry, Trevius Jones, there won't be a shortage of talent to choose from to solidify the interior line. Look for Ty Horn to help out when fall rolls around as well. At the tackle position, Marshall Newhouse and Marcus Cannon return from a solid line a year ago. They'll be pushed for playing time by a very talented group of lineman looking to make a name for themselves. Zach Roth, Nic Richmond and Jeff Olson will provide depth and bring a lot of talent to the position. In 2008, the Frogs set a school record by scoring 437 points. If the line can come together, that record may not stand for long.
This is the unit that was hit the hardest by graduation but have no fear Frog fans, The 2009 version may be more athletic. Led by consensus All-American, Jerry Hughes and his nation leading 15 sacks, the Frogs will once again be flying to the ball in typical Horned Frog fashion. With the loss of James Vess, Cody Moore and Matt Panfil, the Frogs will look for the next player in line to step up and live up to the defensive reputation that the Frogs have built. It looks like the program is in good hands. With players such as Ross Forrest, Braylon Broughton, Clarence Leatch and Wayne Daniels coming off the edge, the athleticism may be at an all time high. The defensive tackle position may be the most scrutinized position during spring practices. Kelly Griffin, Cory Grant, Henry Niutei and redshirt freshman, Jeremy Coleman will look to hold down the fort in the middle. They'll be reinforced by a talented crop of freshmen in the fall led by James Dunbar, Bryant House, Ray Burns and Stansly Maponga. Look for Coleman and Niutei to break out this spring at the tackle position and Clarence Leatch, Braylon Broughton and Ross Forrest to lock down the edge alongside Hughes.
Quarterbacks, running backs and receivers:
The Frogs will miss Aaron Brown's speed in 2009 but they hope to make up for it with a combined attack that will wear down opposing defenses. With Joseph Tuner returning for another year, the Frogs have a proven runner that can inflict pain on defenses that ultimately leads to bigger holes in the second halves of games. Add with Turner, the speed of Jai Cavness and Edward Wesley and you have a potent combination. Chris Smith will add more power to the group and Ryan Christian will move around from receiver to running back and back to receiver again to give the offense multiple explosive looks. All world running back, Waymon James will be with the team for fall camp and could make an impact right away. Matthew Tucker and Dwight Smith bring their skills to the table this fall as well. There's no questioning who the leader is at the quarterback position. Andy Dalton has entrenched himself under center and will look to have a break out year in 2009. By the time Dalton has played his final game in a Horned Frog uniform, he should hold every conceivable passing record in TCU history. With a plethora of weapons at his disposal, Dalton should lead an offense that lights up the scoreboard regularly in 09'. With Marcus Jackson moving to the defensive side of the ball, redshirt freshman, Yogi Gallegos and true freshman, Casey Pachall will battle it out for the back up position. Both players bring athleticism to the position but it remains to be seen if they are ready for the level of competition they will be facing. The receiving corps returns a deep and talented group of player to the field this spring. Having only lost senior Walter Bryant, the Frogs should field a fast and experienced receiving corps that could give defenses fits. Led by junior Jimmy Young and his 988 yards receiving from a year ago, the Frogs will look to outmatch every team they line up against. Along with Young, TCU sports a deep corps of receiver led by Jeremy Kerley, Ryan Christian, Bart Johnson, Curtis Clay, Antoine Hicks, Jonathan Jones and Alonzo Adams. True freshman, Josh Boyce is already on campus and will look for a way to crack to the two deep this spring. His smooth stride and soft hands could land him in the rotation early on in the season. Look for Boyce to make an impact on special teams as well. Along with Young, look for Kerley, and Hicks to emerge as playmakers in 2009.
With the graduation of Shea Reagan, the Frogs will turn their attention to a very talented group of tight ends to replace him. With the return of Evan Frosch and Logan Brock, the tight end position looks to be in good hands. The player to keep an eye on this spring however is redshirt freshman, Corey Fuller. The 6'5" 240 pound converted receiver brings a lot of athleticism to the position. Look for him to push Frosch and Brock for playing time from the word go. While Frosch and Brock may be better on the line of scrimmage, Fuller brings an added dimension that could really help open up the middle of the field for the Frogs. His athletic ability should make him a mismatch for most linebackers and safeties. Walker Dille could contribute this spring as well. The redshirt freshman from Sugar Land has the skill set to step in and challenge for playing time.
Luke Shivers is a player to keep an eye on. The fullback/h-back, can do a little of everything. In goal line situations, Shivers can give the Frogs another battering ram to push the ball across the line.
Linebackers and secondary:
There is no doubt that Jason Phillips' leadership and Robert Henson's attitude will be missed but the Frogs have to like what they have waiting in the wings this spring. Daryl Washington comes back for his senior year and leads a talented group in coach Patterson's 4-2-5 scheme. Washington will have to step up to fill the void left by Phillips and Henson but he won't have to do it alone. Sophomore, Tank Carder looks primed to come into his own this spring and the Frogs are counting on him to do so. A few other backers have a chance to break out this spring as well. Kris Gardner and true freshman, Tanner Brock are trying to earn playing time this spring. Brock, already on campus, brings speed and playmaking ability to the line backing corps and has the tools to be a special player. This fall, the Frogs will bring Justin Isadore and Kenny Cain into the mix to see where they can help out in the 09' season. At this point it looks like one or both of them will redshirt. In the secondary, the Frogs lose some very important pieces. But like at other positions, they hope to fill it with players that are just as talented and in some cases, even more talented. Stephen Hodge and Steven Coleman will be missed and both could be playing on Sunday's in 2009 but the Frogs like what they have stockpiled in the defensive backfield. Led by Tejay Johnson, the Frogs safeties bring the fight to the opponents. Along with Johnson, look for Sir Demarco Bledsoe, Johnny Fobbs, Corderra Hunter and Colin Jones to help solidify the secondary during spring practices. Tekerrein Cuba will not participate in spring practice due to injury but could have a major impact on the season. Look for Marcus Jackson to try to turn some heads at his new position and he hopes to be able to contribute during his senior year. Chris Scott is another player to keep an eye on. The redshirt freshman loves to hit. When fall rolls around, the Frogs will receive a major talent boost with the additions of Malcolm Williams, Jurell Thompson and Trent Thomas. Look for Thompson and Thomas to redshirt but Williams could get into the mix right away. Cornerback is definitely not an area of concern for the Frogs headed into spring practices. They return three year starters at each cornerback position. Rafael Priest and Nick Sanders have been locking down receivers together for what seems like an eternity. The talented and experienced duo should be one of the Frogs strengths this spring. Along with Priest and Sanders, the Frogs hope Alex Ibiloye, Greg McCoy, and Jason Teague can continue to develop and add depth this year.
Players to watch this spring:
Here is a list of players that could really make a name for themselves this spring. With 13 returning starters, there will be plenty of opportunity for these players to get into the mix and make an impact.
Sir Demarco Bledsoe
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