TCU Preview 2006 - Defense
Posted Aug 7, 2006

TCU Horned Frogs Preview 2006 - TCU Horned Frog defense

What you need to know ... Seven starters return to the Mountain West's best defense after forcing a nation-leading 40 turnovers and holding teams to 108 rushing yards per game. Take away the wild 51-50 overtime shootout with BYU and the Horned Frog defense allowed a mere 15.7 points per game. The defensive line should be unreal when it comes to getting into the backfield thanks to the return of ends Tommy Blake and Chase Ortiz, but there will be early concern over the new tackles. Cornerback is a worry for the secondary needing seniors Vernon Russell and Mike Salvage to shine right away. Things are rock-solid up the middle with a great linebacking corps and excellent safeties.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Jason Phillips, 71
Sacks: Chase Ortiz, 9
Interceptions: Brian Bonner, Steven Coleman, 4

Star of the defense: Junior DE Tommy Blake
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior CBs Vernon Russell and Mike Salvage
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman CB Corderra Hunter
Best pro prospect: Blake
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Blake, 2) DE Chase Ortiz, 3) LB Jason Phillips
Strength of the defense: Pass rush, ends, linebackers
Weakness of the defense: Tackles, corners

Defensive Line
Losing top tackles Zarnell Fitch and Jared Kesler hurts a little bit, but there's size returning in Jarracea Williams, Lorenzo Jones and Cody Moore to give hope that the situation inside is fine. Tommy Blake and Chase Ortiz form one of the nation's best 1-2 pass rushing tandems, and there's experience behind them with Jamison Newby strong enough to start. Getting to the quarterback won't be a problem, so the only question is if the tackles can hold up inside.
The key to the unit: Hope for experience to turn into production at tackle and hope Tommy Blake and Chase Ortiz come up with a repeat of last year.
Defensive Line Rating: 8

Projected Starters
- LDE Chase Ortiz, Jr. - 37 tackles, 9 sacks, 14 TFL, 2 forced fumbles
Ortiz was buried deep on the depth chart going into the season, but he quickly became a star earning All-Mountain West honors after leading the Horned Frogs in sacks and tackles for loss. He's only 250-pounds, but he's tremendously quick and nasty to stop one-on-one. He benefits from having Tommy Blake take away attention on the other side and makes teams pay when they gameplan for the former linebacker.

- DT Cody Moore, Soph - 5 tackles, 1.5 TFL
Moore saw a little bit of time in the rotation last year despite being banged up. He's the biggest tackle option with the biggest linemen playing on the nose, and he's quick enough at 275 pounds to get into the backfield on a regular basis if he's able to hold down the starting job.

- NT Jarrarcea Williams, Sr. - 3 tackles, 2.5 TFL
At 310 pounds, Williams has to establish himself as an anchor in the middle. The former high school fullback has a little bit of starting experience and should be a decent interior pass rusher with his quickness and size even though he hasn't been able to make much of an impact so far.

- RDE Tommy Blake, Jr. - 59 tackles, 7 sacks, 13.5 TFL
Blake grew from a tremendous pass rushing specialist to a strong all-around end and the best player in the Mountain West last season. The former running back is a blur in the backfield and more than holds his own against the run despite only being 250 pounds. With next level athleticism and moves, and with Chase Ortiz on the other side garnering attention, he'll be a near-lock for another big sack total.

Top Backups
- DE Jamison Newby, Sr. - 19 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 3 TFL
Newby would be a starter for most Mountain West teams and is a strong backup behind Tommy Blake on the right side. He's an experienced veteran who's a decent pass rusher and solid against the run.
- NT Lorenzo Jones, Soph. - 11 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 3.5 TFL
Considered the star of the future, the 300-pound true sophomore showed off tremendous quickness and potential in his limited role last year. Jones was a huge recruit for the Horned Frogs and should be a regular in the rotation if he doesn't push Jarrarcea Williams out of a starting spot.
- DT James Vess, Soph. - 7 tackles
Vess will be neck-and-neck with Cody Moore for the starting tackle job this fall. He's not as big as Moore, but he's one of the fastest players on the line and should be a tremendous pass rusher in time.
- DE Jared Retkofsky, Sr. - 7 tackles, 1.5 TFL
The 6-5, 270-pound senior has been a strong reserve over the last two seasons. He adds more bulk at end behind Chase Ortiz on the left side and can play inside at tackle if needed.

All the key parts return to a linebacking corps that'll feature speed and two tremendous up-and-coming sophomores. Jason Phillips and Robert Henson finished 1-2 in tackles last year and should be the team's leaders once again. Phillips played like a veteran in the middle, while Henson tore up offense despite only getting two starts. David Hawthorne can start at either spot if needed, while LSU transfer Darius Ingram is a promising option on the strongside.
The key to the unit: Get even more production out of the super-sophomores now that they know what they're doing and hope for even more quality playmakers to develop to provide more depth.
Linebacker Rating: 7.5

Projected Starters
- Robert Henson, Soph. - 69 tackles, 2 sacks, 8.5 TFL
Henson will get every shot at winning the strongside job after finishing second in tackles last season. While not as big as David Hawthorne, the 222-pound sophomore is faster and is always around the ball with a great burst into the backfield.

- Jason Phillips, Soph. - 71 tackles, 1 sack, 8.5 TFL
Phillips flew up the depth chart to lead the Horned Frogs in tackles as a freshman. He came to TCU as a lightning fast tailback before bulking up to 240 pounds and using his speed to become a big hitter with great range in the middle. It'll be a shock if he doesn't earn All-Mountain West honors.

Top Backups
- David Hawthorne, Jr. - 41 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 6.5 TFL
Hawthorne came back from a knee injury to shine on the strongside become one of the team's top overall playmakers. He'll be in a battle with Robert Henson for the job, but he offers a bit more size and more experience. At the very least he'll be one of the team's top tacklers as a quality reserve.

- Ryan Schlenger, Sr. - 4 tackles
More of a safety than a linebacker, the 6-3, 218-pound senior will have a hard time seeing time in the middle with Jason Phillips holding down the starting job and Darius Ingram quickly becoming a factor.
- Darius Ingram, Soph.
He's only 218 pounds, but the LSU transfer has wide receiver speed to go along with the smarts to handle himself in the middle. He wasn't able to stay healthy last year and needs to move his way into the rotation.

Defensive Backs
This will be the X factor, especially at corner. Mike Salvage and Vernon Russell are seniors with JUCO experience, but they didn't do much last year and will have to lock down on the outside right away. The safeties should be fine with Marvin White and David Roach two of the Mountain West's best with good reserves waiting in the wings. Once again, though, corner will be the issue needing young prospects Corderra Hunter and Rafael Priest to push for time.
The key to the unit: Get big plays from the corners and don't give up as many deep passes.
Secondary Rating: 7

Projected Starters
- CB Mike Salvage, Sr. - 8 tackles
A top special teamer last year, the former JUCO transfer will get the first look at the starting job on the left side. At 190 pounds he's one of the team's bigger corner options.

- FS David Roach, Jr. - 41 tackles, 1 TFL, 2 interceptions, 2 broken up passes
It'll be up to the former weak safety to take over for Jeremy Modkins at free safety. He's a big hitter at 6-2 and 210 pounds who hasn't shown any problems after suffering a knee injury a few years ago. He hits like a linebacker, and now he has to prove he doesn't cover like one.

- SS Eric Buchanan, Sr. - 35 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 3.5 TFL, 1 interception, 4 broken up passes
Buchanan was known as a good coverman moving from corner to safety, but there was a question about his toughness and hitting ability. That went out the window early last year as he turned into a big popper who isn't afraid to make tough plays against the run. Now it's the other way; he has to make more plays against the pass.

- WS Marvin White, Sr. - 67 tackles, 2 TFL, 3 interceptions, 2 broken up passes
The former JUCO transfer made a huge impact right away finishing third on the team in tackles and turning into a force against the run. He's more of a linebacker than safety even though he looked good in pass coverage cleaning up all the short to midrange passes.

- CB Vernon Russell, Sr. - 6 tackles
The former LSU Tiger wasn't healthy last year and struggled to play in nine games. He's a big, 195-pound corner with big-time skills and technique. If he can stay 100% he'll be one of the team's top defenders.

Top Backups
- CB Corderra Hunter, RFr.
He'll eventually be the team's top corner. He's 6-2 and 180 pounds with track star speed and good hitting ability. Even though he'll start out behind Vernon Russell on the right side, he could find a starting spot somewhere early on.
- SS Brian Bonner, Jr. - 43 tackles, 2 sacks, 4 TFL, 4 interceptions, 3 broken up passes
Bonner can do just about everything able to play strong safety with good enough speed to play weak safety. He's a solid veteran who's a top playmaker whenever he's on the field.
- FS Steven Coleman, Soph. - 10 tackles, 1 interception
An interesting prospect, Coleman is 6-3 and 205 pounds with good athleticism at free safety. He has corner ability at safety and now has to prove he can be a steady hitter behind David Roach.

Special Teams
Chris Manfredini should be an All-Mountain West placekicker and punter Brian Cortney should be reliable, and now the hope is for more range from the entire kicking game. Losing All-America kick returner Cory Rodgers is a killer after he averaged 30.3 yards on kickoff returns and 15.3 yards per punt returns. Michael DePriest will be the main kickoff returner and will join Donald Massey to try out returning punts. The coverage units were amazing last year and should be rock solid again.
The key to the unit: More distance on field goals and bigger blasts from the punting game.
Offensive Line Rating: 8.5

Projected Starters
- PK Chris Manfredini, Jr. - 13-13 FGs, 40-44 extra points
Manfredini took over for an ineffective Peter LoCoco and hit all 13 of his field goal attempts with the biggest shot from 43 yards out. He was automatic from short distances and should get a few more chances from deep even though LoCoco has the better leg.
- P Brian Cortney, Sr. - 62 punts, 2,394 yds, 38.6 yards per kick, 14 inside the 20
Cortney didn't blast the ball much and didn't hang it up quite enough, but the team was able to net well. He has good accuracy and should be steadier considering all his experience.

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TCU Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
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TCU Preview 2006 - Offense
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