2012 TCU Preview - Defense
TCU Stansly Maponga
CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - TCU Horned Frog Defense
Preview 2012 - Defense
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What You Need To Know: Now the TCU defense will really be tested. It didn't exactly fall off the map last year, but after years of being at or near the top of the charts in several defensive categories, last year was a problem with Robert Griffin and Kellen Moore bombing away on the secondary, and the run defense merely above-average instead of tremendous. On the plus side, even with several new starters in the secondary, the system is perfect for the Big 12 with five defensive backs who can all tackles, and good, sound linebackers. Stansly Maponga should be one of the Big 12's top pass rushers, and there's promise along the front four, but a second pass rusher has to emerge and the new starting tackles have to hold up from the start.
Star of the defense: Junior DE Stansly Maponga
Tackles: Kenny Cain, 72
Sacks: Stansly Maponga, 9
Interceptions: Several at 1
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore NT Chuck Hunter
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LB Deryck Gildon
Best pro prospect: Maponga
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Maponga, 2) LB Kenny Cain, 3) CB Jason Verrett
Strength of the defense: Run Defense, Young Talent
Weakness of the defense: Proven Depth, Second Pass Rusher
While he wasn't exactly Jerry Hughes, junior Stansly Maponga was a terror on the outside last season finishing with a team-leading nine sacks with 13.5 tackles for loss and five forced fumbles. At 6-2 and 265 pounds he's a bit squatty for a defensive end, but he's lightning quick off the ball and is a tremendous closer. He's not just a pass rusher; he's stout against the run, too, with 55 stops.
Working on the other side will be senior Ross Forrest, a 6-4, 255-pound former walk-on who took over the starting job midway through last season and finished with 32 tackles with 1.5 sacks and six tackles for loss. He's not a pure pass rusher, but he has a great motor and is always working. He has been around long enough to be one of the team's steadiest defenders.
The Horned Frogs are young on the inside, but sophomore David Johnson is hardly green after taking over the starting job early on as a redshirt freshman and plugging things up as an interior pass rusher with three sacks, seven tackles for loss, and 28 tackles. While he's not huge at 6-2 and 270 pounds, he's active, smart, and talented. 6-2, 275-pound sophomore Jon Lewis made an impact as a true freshman with 16 tackles, a sack, and three tackles for loss. He got a start against Colorado State and proved to be a key backup with terrific upside. While he's able to start on the nose, he'll get the call at the other tackle spot.
Playing a big role on the inside will be sophomore Chuck Hunter, who started as a true freshman and turned out to be a nice part of the rotation with 17 tackles and two tackles for loss. At 6-1 and 305 pounds, he's a plugger who can gum up the works inside, and he's also a terrific talent with a world of upside.
Working in the rotation inside will be junior Ray Burns, a 6-1, 290-pound nose tackle who started three games last season and finished with seven tackles and a sack. He only played in seven games and was banged up, but he's a quick option who step in and start if needed.
6-4, 280-pound sophomore Cliff Murphy is an end who brings a little flexibility to the line. He can be thrown inside if needed, but he's a pass rusher with outstanding size. 6-2, 260-pound junior Jon Koontz is a solid veteran backup who made 16 tackles with four tackles for loss. He can work on either side of the line and be a rock against the run.
Watch Out For … Hunter. He was a great get for the Horned Frogs with the talent to have gone to other Big 12 programs. He's a plugger of a nose tackle and will be tough to shove around.
Strength: Youth. 2011 was a bit of a rebuilding and reloading year for the line, and it showed. The production was fine, but not dominant compared to past TCU teams. That might quickly change with several players growing up in a hurry. Yes, this is a sophomore-dominated group, but it's a quickly-maturing one.
Weakness: A sure-thing second pass rusher. Maponga is a mortal lock for All-Big 12 honors, but everyone will go out of their way to chip him unless Forrest, Murphy, or Koontz can shine on the other side. Maponga made nine sacks last year and no other end came up with more than two.
Outlook: The pass rush hasn't put up the monster numbers over the last few seasons, but it's effective and it'll work this year thanks to Maponga. The run defense slipped a bit, but that's partly because of the youth movement up front. The Horned Frogs will use waves of players in a rotation to keep everyone fresh and will hold up just fine, even if the talent level isn't quite equal to the rest of the top teams in the conference.
Unit Rating: 7
Losing a star and a leader like Tank Carder would be a big problem if it wasn't for the return of Kenny Cain to be one of the team's leaders. While he's built like a safety at 6-1 and 210 pounds, he's tough enough to work in the middle and active enough to be a rock against the run on the strongside. Very fast and very quick, the second-team All-Mountain West star led the team with 72 tackles with four broken up passes and a sack. He's fast enough to be used more as a pass rusher, and he's terrific in the open field in pass coverage.
Stepping in for Carder in the middle is sophomore Deryck Gildon, who at 6-2 and 235 pounds is one of the team's biggest linebackers after beefing up big-time since joining the program. Able to play right away as a true freshman, he made 21 tackles and was a star on the special teams. Very talented and with wide receiver-like athleticism, he has the potential to make the job his right away and be another Carder.
Sophomore Joel Hasley is a smallish 6-1 and 215 pounds, but he's a good hitter who made nine tackles in his limited time. He can work anywhere, but he'll mainly be a backup in the middle behind Gildon.
On the outside, 6-1, 220-pound sophomore Danny Heiss was supposed to be in the mix right away last year but suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the opener against Baylor. Healthy now, he'll play behind Cain on the strongside.
Watch Out For … Gildon. Cain is the tackling machine and the new star, but Gildon has the potential to be special, too. The TCU linebackers are always active and they're always making things happen, but everything will funnel inside. Gildon can handle it.
Strength: The defensive scheme. TCU only uses two true linebackers and allows them to plug things up as needed. With four different leading tacklers in the last four years, TCU always finds guys who can step up against the run.
Weakness: Depth. And here's where the offseason problems could hurt. Tanner Brock was knocked out for the year early last season with a foot injury, but he was expected to return to his all-star status and become the star of the linebacking corps. With Brock booted off the team and with Carder graduated, there's a bit of a drop-off from where the group looked to be last year at this time. However, Gary Patterson has gone out of his way to say he likes the progress of Hasley and Heiss.
Outlook: The potential is there to be fantastic. Cain is a good one to start with and Gildon is a high-riser. While the backups aren't all that big and need to prove they can shine when the lights are on, the linebacking corps isn't going to be a weakness in any way and there will eventually be a solid rotation.
Unit Rating: 6.5
The TCU secondary might have had a few problems and breakdowns, but junior Jason Verrett wasn't necessarily the problem, at least against the run. The all-star made 58 tackles with a pick and four broken up passes coming in from Santa Rosa JC, and this year he should be one of the Big 12's best tackling corners. Fast and with great toughness, the 5-10, 180-pounder can be thrown on an island and be just fine. Now he has to make more big plays when the ball was in the air.
5-10, 174-pound sophomore Kevin White will take over for Greg McCoy at the other corner after a promising first year. He got three starts and finished the year with 18 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss, but he didn't come up with a pick and has to be more of a ball-hawk. With most teams looking to stay away from Verrett, the opportunities will be there.
Gone after the offseason problems is strong safety Devin Johnson, who did a little of everything with 47 tackles with 2.5 sacks and eight tackles for loss. Now the opportunity is there for 6-1, 220-pound sophomore Sam Carter to grow into the position after making eight tackle with a broken up pass in his first year. A star high school quarterback with great rushing skills, he had offers from several big-time schools as a dual-threat playmaker. At TCU, he was instantly converted to defensive back with the size and athleticism to become terrific.
Taking over the weak safety job from second-leading tackler Tekerrein Cuba is sophomore Jonathan Anderson, a great-looking 6-3, 208-pound prospect who came up with a terrific first year making 49 tackles with a pick including 17 tackles against BYU. Very smart and with great size and range, everything is there to become an all-star as he owns the position over the next three years.
5-10, 182-pound junior Elisha Olabode is a corner playing safety, working at free safety after making 15 tackles last year. While he's not a big hitter, he's a good tackler and physical for his size, and he has excellent quickness and speed. It might take a little bit, but he should be a good one with a little bit of starting time logged in. He's been around long enough to know what he's doing.
With three new full-time starters at safety, the chances are there for the reserves to see time right away in the rotation. 6-2, 200-pound redshirt freshman Chris Hackett is one of the team's most promising defensive backs as a top recruit last year. He redshirted, and now he should be a big part of the rotation at free safety bringing more size than Olabode. Fellow redshirt freshman Quincy Aldridge will see time at weak safety, but he can play anywhere in the corps. At 6-2 and 195 pounds he has good size, great smarts, and has a great nose for the ball.
James Bailey is another redshirt freshman with good speed and nice quickness for a 6-1, 205-pound hitter. He's a strong safety, but he has the moves to work at free.
At 6-1 and 195 pounds, redshirt freshman Travoskey Garrett is a bigger option at one corner than White, and he could move to safety if needed. He has good size and the athleticism to play anywhere in the secondary, while 5-10, 180-pound junior Keivon Gamble will get a shot at a starting job right away after coming in from Trinity Valley CC. He's a pure cover-corner who at the very least is a ready-made backup.
Watch Out For … The redshirt freshmen. The Horned Frogs are set with the starting lineup, but the real talent and star power might be with the youngsters. Aldridge, Bailey, and Hackett will one day be a phenomenal safety trio.
Strength: Versatility. Verrett is a corner, but for the most part the TCU defensive backs can move around and play where needed. The safeties are interchangeable with some of them able to move outside and play corner in a desperate situation.
Weakness: Veteran safeties. The position is fine thanks to the expected emergence of the redshirt freshmen boosting up the depth, but losing Johnson stings and Cuba and Fobbs were productive hitters who combined for 135 tackles last season.
Outlook: This could be the trouble spot. TCU was No. 1 in the nation in yards allowed and pass efficiency defense in 2010, but last year the production took a major hit with Robert Griffin and others bombing away. This year's secondary isn't going to be a rock, and there will be a few growing pains at safety, but everyone can tackle and there won't be too many yards gained after the catch. This will become a terrific secondary, but it might need a little bit of time.
Unit Rating: 7
Gone is Ross Evans, the ultra-accurate and reliable kicker who nailed 14-of-17 kicks last season and was a rock for four years. Sophomore Ryan DeNucci has a big leg and could have better range than Evans, who topped out at just under 50 yards. He was used on kickoffs late last year.
The punting game struggled last year averaging under 35 yards per kick, and now it'll be up to senior Cale Patterson to take over for Anson Kelton. After waiting his turn, Patterson has to match Kelton's 40.2-yard average, but he needs help from the coverage team that Kelton didn't get.
The kickoff return game finished second in the nation with Greg McCoy averaging close to 31 yards per try with two scores, and Waymon James was terrific when he got his chance averaging 27.8 yards per try with a score. Lightning fast receiver Skye Dawson will get the first shot at the kick returning job, while Brandon Carter and Ed Wesley will try to boost up a punt return game that was okay, but not great with Dawson averaging just 4.9 yards per try. Wesley averaged 10.9 yards per pop, and Carter averaged 13.7 yards per try.
Watch Out For … Carter as a punt returner. It was a three-headed punt return monster last year, and Carter was the best of the lot. He should explode with more chances.
Strength: Kickoff returns. The Horned Frogs were awesome here last year with McCoy coming up with a terrific year, but James and Dawson will be outstanding.
Weakness: Kick and punt coverage. It was hardly a big problem, but it could use some tightening up. TCU allowed 21 yards per kickoff and 7.4 yards per punt return. The punting game could use some more pop.
Outlook: The special teams slipped a bit last year after being among the best in the nation and now there are some real concerns after losing Evans and Kelton. The kickers have to prove themselves, but the return game should turn out to be terrific and the coverage teams will be stronger.
Unit Rating: 7
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2012 TCU Defense |
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