2014 CFN Preview - TCU Horned Frogs
TCU LB Paul Dawson
TCU LB Paul Dawson
Posted Aug 7, 2014

Preview 2014 - Who needs an offense? TCU's D should pick up the slack. (Getty Images)

TCU Horned Frogs

Preview 2014

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- 2014 TCU Preview - What You Need To Know & Top Players

By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Gary Patterson
14th year: 120-44
Returning Lettermen
Off: 25, Def: 18, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 18
Ten Best TCU Players
1. SS Sam Carter, Sr.
2. CB Kevin White, Sr.
3. DT Chucky Hunter, Sr.
4. LB Paul Dawson, Sr.
5. LB Marcus Mallett, Sr.
6. DE Terrell Lathan, Jr
7. QB Matt Joeckel, Sr.
8. WR/QB Trevone Boykin, Jr.
9. RB B.J. Catalon, Jr.
10. C Joey White, Jr. 
2014 Schedule
8/30 Samford
9/13 Minnesota
9/27 at SMU
10/4 Oklahoma
10/11 at Baylor
10/18 Oklahoma St
10/25 Texas Tech
11/1 at West Virginia
11/8 Kansas State
11/15 at Kansas
11/27 at Texas
12/6 Iowa State
Someone needs to make sure that TCU gets the memo that you need an offense in the Big 12.

The big question when the Horned Frogs made the move up in class two years ago was whether or not the D that dominated for several years in Conference USA and the Mountain West could handle all of the high-octane Big 12 attacks. With a few exceptions here and there, the answer has been a resounding yes, and even when there have been defensive issues – the Texas game last year and the Oklahoma State loss in 2012 – for the most part, there wasn’t any help or support from the offense.

If you had told head coach Gary Patterson before last season that his defense would lead the Big 12 in run defense, finish second in total D behind Oklahoma, and would be fantastic on third downs and 11th in the nation in pass efficiency defense, he’d probably assume the program was about to take a big step forward and become a major player in the Big 12 chase.

Oh yeah, the offense.

A combination of bad luck – QB Casey Pachall getting hurt being the big blow to the passing game in the middle of the season – and the lack of a steady running game – running for over 150 yards just twice against FBS teams – lead to a stagnant offense, and the defense couldn’t pick up the slack for a key stretch. And then, when Pachall did return, he bombed away but the team couldn't seem to win.

However, there’s a silver lining in the 4-8 disappointment of last season and the 7-6 2012 – the close losses.

From 2005 to 2011 – a seven season span – the Horned Frogs lost a total of 13 games, but they’ve lost 14 since joining the Big 12. On the plus side, they battled LSU tough early last year and they gave Oklahoma, Baylor and Kansas State a tough time, with four of their eight losses coming by a grand total of 12 points. Over the last two seasons, TCU is 3-7 in games decided by a touchdown or less – if that was flipped around to 7-3, the narrative would be completely different.

But to do that and to come up with the tight wins they need to generate some more pop on offense, and unfortunately, that doesn’t appear to be on the horizon any time soon.

The TCU offense was rocky this offseason, and it didn’t exactly provide a ton of hope in the spring game with several mistakes, no continuity and not enough healthy bodies to do exactly what the coaching staff might have liked. With new offensive coordinators in Sonny Cumbie – the former Texas Tech quarterback – and Doug Meachem tinkering with various ideas, there’s hope, but to rise up and be a threat in conference play, this summer and fall camp are vital.

All it’s going to take is a little more help, because the defense should be even better and stronger - even with the departure of Devonte Fields - with seven starters back. It’s TCU, so it’s going to attack and it’s going to be great against the run, but as it’s finding, the difference between the Mountain West and the Big 12 are the midrange to lower teams. However, there’s reason to be excited – it could be a very quick rise from 4-8 to 8-4, or better. Patterson is too good to let this slide any further.

What to watch for on offense: Is the offense really going to speed things up? It’s not really a can’t-beat-‘em-join-‘em situation; the Horned Frogs are simply trying to find something that starts to work after finishing 104th in the nation in total offense with no ground game and little coming through the air. In comes the new offensive coordinators to try to ramp things up a bit. Sonny Cumbie comes in from Texas Tech where he helped the Red Raider passing game keep on rolling after the Mike Leach era, while Doug Meachem worked with the quarterbacks at Houston before making the move to Fort Worth. Both of them know how to make a passing game go, and both of them are going to want to keep the tempo fast. Can this all flow in with everything Patterson is about and is this going to work with a defense that thrives off of being on the right side of the time of possession stat? That could be one of the big keys to the Big 12 season.

What to watch for on defense: The pass rush might be absolutely devastating. The defense had its moments throughout last season and came up with steady pass rushing production throughout, highlighted by a seven-sack day against SMU and coming up with three against Baylor to finish things up. Overall, the Horned Frogs were able to manufacture 32 sacks and 98 tackles for loss coming in from several angles and utilizing a variety of players. It’s a big hit to the D as a whole to lose tackle Jon Lewis, who left the team this spring after deciding he was done playing football, and his 4.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss, but not having Devonte Fields back isn't a total killer - the D did just fine after Fields suffered a foot injury and missed most of last year after getting suspended. It's TCU. It always finds pass rushers.

The team will be far better if … … the offense can move the chains. The defense was able to hold its own more often than not, but overall, this has been one of the team’s biggest areas of concern since joining the Big 12. The Horned Frog O converted 52% of its third down tries in 2011 and was above 50% three of the four years before moving up. It all ties in together – the running game didn’t really work, the passing game was faced with long downs and distances, and the results weren’t good on third downs. TCU gave LSU fits by keeping things moving converting 7-of-13 third down chances, but the offense didn’t get above 40% the rest of the way and converted exactly 40% against West Virginia and Kansas State.

The schedule: It’s a ragged start to the season with Samford to kick things off before getting a week off to get ready for Minnesota. That’s followed up by an unnecessary off-week before a big run of eight straight games without a break starting with a short trip to SMU.

The Horned Frogs don’t leave the state of Texas until November 1st, getting three Big 12 home games in the first four starting with Oklahoma and hosting Oklahoma State and Texas Tech wrapped around a road game at Baylor. However, that’s followed up by three road games in the next four, going to West Virginia, Kansas and Texas – but with a week off to rest up for the Thanksgiving weekend game against the Longhorns. A win against Iowa State at home to close things out shouldn’t be a problem.

Best offensive player: Junior RB B.J. Catalon. QB Trevone Boykin needs to be the star of the offense, and it would be really, really nice if a few receivers turned into studs and the offensive line could crank out a few all-stars, but it’s Catalon who was the best all-around weapon last year and could be used a bit more this year in a variety of ways. The running game might take on a little less of a role in the new-look attack, but for about 15 touches a game, the speedster can make big things happen whenever he gets the ball as a runner, receiver, or an all-star kickoff returner.

Best defensive player: Senior S Sam Carter. The hope was for pass rusher Devonte Fields to return to form and be among the Big 12’s best players again, but that's not going to happen now that he's transferring to Stephen F. Austin. Carter is the returning all-star and steadying force with the experience and the skill to make the defense his. While he didn’t make a ton of tackles, he was all over the field and became even more of a dangerous playmaker when the ball was in the air. He’s the leader of a strong secondary, and this year he might be involved even more against the run.

Key player to a successful season: Junior QB Trevone Boykin or senior QB Matt Joeckel. Casey Pachall came back from injury and started to bomb away, but even though the passing production was fine, the results weren’t there as TCU lost four of its last five games. Boykin has been a nice fill-in, and he’s had a few moments, but other than running for 101 yards in the loss to Texas Tech, he’s been an erratic passer and he’s not going to scare anyone down the field. Now he's likely going to shine with more of a receiver role. With Tyler Matthews transferring and Joeckel coming in from Texas A&M, all of a sudden, the quarterback situation in the new up-tempo offense is going to be even more interesting.

The season will be a success if … … the Horned Frogs win eight games and get back to a bowl. There’s no excuse to shoot for anything less with their relatively schedule and with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Kansas State all coming to Fort Worth. Beating SMU, West Virginia and Kansas on the road is a must, and if they can do that, and if they don’t blow it at home against a Minnesota or Iowa State, this could and should be a turnaround season – if the offense works.

Key game: Oct. 4 vs. Oklahoma. There are tone-setters and then there’s beating a team that might be No. 1 in the country, or at the very least in the top five. This could be when TCU makes its official big Big 12 splash in Year Three. It’s not like Gary Patterson and the program has a fear of Oklahoma, coming up with a great win to kick off the 2005 season and battling really, really hard in the two years of Big 12 play in close losses. This time around, it’s the Big 12 opener with a road game against Baylor to follow and home date against Oklahoma State up next.

2013 Fun Stats:
- 1st Half Scoring: Opponents 171-106. 2nd Half Scoring: TCU 195-129
- Sacks: TCU 32 for 219 yards – Opponents 24 for 166 yards
- Red Zone Touchdowns: TCU 26-of-41 (63%) – Opponents 18-of-43 (42%)

- 2014 TCU Preview - What You Need To Know & Top Players

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