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2013 TCU Preview - Defense
TCU CB Jason Verrett
TCU CB Jason Verrett
Posted May 4, 2013 2013 Preview - TCU Horned Frog Defense

TCU Horned Frogs

Preview 2013 - Defense

- 2013 TCU Preview | 2013 TCU Offense
- 2013 TCU Defense | 2013 TCU Depth Chart

What You Need To Know: The TCU defense slipped two years ago in the last year of playing in the Mountain West, so how was it going to do in its first season in the Big 12? No. 1. The Horned Frogs led the Big 12 in total defense and run defense, and wasn’t bad against the pass. Now comes the scary part – almost everyone is back. All five starters return in the secondary, including ball-hawking corner Jason Verrett, while Devonte Fields and Chucky Hunter are terrific linemen who’ll end up on the All-Big 12 team. In all, nine starters return to the 4-2-5 alignment, and while losing end Stansly Maponga and leading-tackler Kenny Cain at linebacker isn’t a plus, with eight starters returning, there’s no reason to expect any sort of a slip.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Elisha Olabode, 71
Sacks: Devonte Fields, 10
Interceptions: Jason Verrett, 6

Star of the defense: Senior CB Jason Verrett
Player who has to step up and be a star: Senior DE Jon Koontz
Unsung star on the rise: LB Marcus Mallett
Best pro prospect: Verrett
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Verrett, 2) DE Devonte Fields, 3) DT Chucky Hunter
Strength of the defense: Experience, Run Defense
Weakness of the defense: Linebacker Depth, Pass Rushing Consistency

Defensive Line

Where did that come from? Sophomore Devonte Fields came up with a dominant first season earning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors with 54 tackles, ten sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss as an extraordinary playmaker and pass rusher who roared through the season as a force who had to be accounted for on every play. At 6-4 and 240 pounds, he has a long frame that’s tough to throw over, and he showed off a dangerous first step and excellent closing speed when going against one-on-one blocking. Big 12 teams started to figure him out as the year went on – two of his sacks came in the final six games with just one in November – but that was partly because offensive coordinators started to gameplan for him by using more help to keep him neutralized. His numbers might not be quite as strong this year with all the attention he’ll receive, but the rest of the line will benefit.

Looking to take advantage of Fields on the other side is senior Jon Koontz, a 6-2, 265-pound veteran who’s built more like a smallish tackle than an end, but he has a little bit of burst off the ball and enough experience to do a decent job making 16 tackles with four tackles for loss last season. He’ll combine with sophomore James McFarland, a nice-looking 6-3, 240-pound pass rusher who made six sacks in his first season as a reserve, but has the ability and the skill to become another great Horned Frog playmaker.

Fields might have received the most national attention, but junior Chucky Hunter had almost as strong a season earning second-team All-Big 12 honors making 26 tackles with 3.5 sacks and eight tackles for loss as a tough interior presence. The 6-1, 305-pound veteran is a plugger who can work as an anchor, but has the quickness to get into the backfield in a hiccup. Working behind him will be sophomore Terrell Lathan, a 6-5, 280-pound dream of a five-technique who can get into the backfield a bit more. With a great frame, he’ll be tough to get around.

6-2, 305-pound Davion Pierson turned in a nice redshirt freshman season growing into a starting role and coming up with 36 tackles with 3.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss showing off great quickness and a world of upside. He’s getting stronger and growing into his position, and the all-star honors will soon be coming. Junior Jon Lewis started four games last season and finished with six tackles with two tackles for loss after a strong true freshman season. The 6-2, 290-pounder can start at either tackle spot, but he has to be more consistent holding up against the run.

Watch Out For … Bryson Henderson, one of the team’s only recruits for the defensive line, with 6-4, 245-pound size and pure pass rushing ability on the end. While he wasn’t an elite high school prospect, he had his share of big-time offers and should quickly grow into part of the rotation on the outside.
Strength: Activity against the run. It helped having an NFL talent in Stansly Maponga to help the cause, but the rest of the line did its part with impressive pass rush from all four spots. The production against the run was consistently excellent, never allowing more than 200 yards and spreading out 11 touchdowns allowed.
Weakness: Pass rushing consistency. The plays in the backfield ran hot and cold, and it showed. The Horned Frogs failed to get a sack in the losses to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, losing both games. There was just one sack and four tackles for loss in the loss to Iowa State.
Outlook: Once again this should be one of the most active and effective lines in the Big 12. The pass rush will come on a regular basis from the outside, and while there might not be a behemoth on the inside, the run defense will do its job after leading the Big 12. The rotation will keep everyone fresh.
Unit Rating: 8


The Horned Frog defense loses a big-hitting junior in Joel Hasley, a smallish 6-1, 223-pounder who maxed out his frame over the last year but packed a punch in the middle making 79 tackles with two sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss. However, he chose to leave the program as he's working on his second degree. Expected to be a backup, now  6-3, 220-pound Jonathan Anderson gets to shine. A 6-3, 225-pound athlete with excellent range and good experience, he's following up a 49-tackle first season with 28 tackles as a sophomore. A safety by nature, he has freakish tools with sub-4.4 speed a great burst.

The sky’s the limit for junior Marcus Mallett, a 6-1, 227-pounder who turned into a key part of the defense late last season making 18 tackles with five tackles for loss, coming up with a few big plays against Texas. After a strong offseason, it’ll be his job to replace Kenny Cain on the strongside, while 6-2, 230-pound junior Paul Dawson will be a dangerous backup. The former wide receiver can fly and is like a guided missile of a hitter. He still needs to pick up the finer points of the position, but he’s getting better making 14 tackles, doing most of his work early in the year.

Watch Out For … Sammy Douglas, a safety-sized 6-3, 195-pound defender who hits like a ton of bricks. A flawless tackler, he made 29 tackles in a high school game and won’t have any problems holding up in Big 12 play.
Strength: Activity. Mallett is going to be a whale of a playmaker with more time, and no one on the defense is faster than Anderson.
Weakness: Depth. Losing leading tackler and key playmaker Kenny Cain will sting, and the departure of A.J. Hilliard to Texas A&M is a problem. The Horned Frogs will have to quickly rely on a slew of freshmen to play big roles if injuries strike right away.
Outlook: It’s all about keeping the mistakes to a minimum. The two linebackers in the 4-2-5 have to be very, very disciplined and must handle themselves well when pounded on. The line will pin its ears back to fly into the backfield, and the linebackers have to clean up the messes. Mallett can do that.
Unit Rating: 7

Defensive Backs

The secondary welcomes back all five starters, led by senior Jason Verrett, an all-star with an NFL future ahead of him after coming up with a phenomena, 2012. The 5-10, 176-pound corner came in from Santa Rosa JC and made 58 tackles with a pick in his first season, but last year it all came together with a dominant six interception, 63 tackle season with a whopping 16 broken up passes. Not just great when the ball is in the air, he was good at getting into the backfield with five tackles for loss showing off flawless timing and burst. Able to do it all, he can hit, tackle in the open field and break on the ball as well as any defensive back the Big 12.

5-10, 178-pound junior Kevin White took over the starting corner job on the other side of Verrett, and while he didn’t come up with a huge season, he did his job making 37 tackles with a pick and eight broken up pass. He’s a tough fighter and a good tackler, but he still has to work on being more of a ball hawk or he’ll have a hard time holding off David Jenkins, a 6-1, 193-pound transfer from LSU with a great body and 4.4 wheels. A superior talent, the sophomore will find spots in nickel and dime packages if he doesn’t shove White out of a job.

Junior Sam Carter stepped into the opening at strong safety and came up with an all-star season making 63 tackles with three sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss. A disruptive force, he broke up ten passes and made four picks, showing great instincts and the smarts to sniff out plays before they happened. At 6-1 and 220 pounds he has great size and he isn’t afraid to get physical. 5-10, 210-pound sophomore Derrick Kindred isn’t going to beat out Carter for the job, but he proved he could handle a nickel role and produce, making 20 tackles with two broken up passes. He’s not an elite talent, but he’ll do anything needed to make a play.

Sophomore Chris Hackett came out roaring at weak safety making 61 tackles with two picks. The 6-2, 195-pounder has excellent range and the size to come up with the big hit. The team’s top recruit of 2010, he showed why making big play after big play in the open field and showing tremendous upside, especially with 11 tackles against Oklahoma. Also back is senior Elisha Olabode, a corner playing free safety. The 5-11, 193-pound veteran isn’t a huge hitter, but he’s dangerous with the ball in his hands taking two of his four interceptions for touchdowns. Willing to throw his body around, he made 71 tackles on his way to an all-star season.

Watch Out For … the freshmen corners. Depth is a bit of an issue across the board for the secondary, meaning 5-10, 160-pound Ranthony Texada should find a role early on. A good tackler for his size, he’s always working and always around the ball, with an uncanny knack for tracking the pass and breaking it up. 6-0, 175-pound Steve Wesley is a bit bigger, and while he might not be the same tackler, he’s solid.
Strength: Breaking up passes. You can’t survive in the Big 12 if you can’t make plays on the ball, and the Horned Frog secondary can do that coming up with 21 picks – and almost always doing something after making the play – with a whopping 65 broken up passes.
Weakness: Safety depth. It wouldn’t be that bad if the Horned Frogs ran a normal 4-3 defense, but with six defensive backs often employed in the pass-happy Big 12, more bodies are needed. There should be problems early on if injuries strike.
Outlook: A huge concern going into last season, the secondary turned into a shocking plus. Led by a star in Verrett and good, sound hitters at all five spots, everything is in place to take things to another level and become more consistent and attack even more. Consider the growing pains gone, and now it’s time to become truly special.
Unit Rating: 8

Special Teams

Sophomore Jared Oberkrom wasn’t expected to become the main man for kicking game, but he got the job done hitting 22-of-30 field goals including six against Texas Tech. He missed a few too many makeable short-range kicks late, but he showed the range to nail a 53-yarder against Michigan State. Consistency is going to be the key.

The punting game that struggled in 2011 got a boost in 2012 with sophomore Ethan Perry, who averaged 44.5 yards per boot putting 19 inside the 20. He put too many in the end zone placing ten in ten in the end zone.

Deante’ Gray averaged 22.4 yards per punt return helped by a 70-yarder for a score, and now he’ll get more of the work as both a kick and punt returner with Skye Dawson gone. The Horned Frogs have more than enough options to come up with big returns, including Brandon Carter, who averaged 25.1 yards per kickoff return.

Watch Out For … Gray. Explosive every time he got the ball, he has the potential to take it to the house every time he has a shot. Teams are going to start staying away from him.
Strength: Kickoff coverage. A weakness became a strength. There were a few mistakes, but for the most part the coverage team did a fantastic job allowing teams to average just 18.7 yards per try. The punt coverage team gave up a 76-yard touchdown, but allowed a mere 9.4 yards per attempt.
Weakness: Kick consistency. Oberkrom was fine considering it was hit first time around, but he missed way too many chippies. Perry was good, but he could stand to be better on placements.
Outlook: The coaching staff never lets the special teams slip for long. Amazing a few years ago, they slipped a bit before coming back last season. They weren’t good enough to be truly special, but they were good and they should be even better once Oberkrom and Perry get a little more experience.
Unit Rating: 7

- 2013 TCU Preview | 2013 TCU Offense
- 2013 TCU Defense | 2013 TCU Depth Chart