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TCU Preview 2006 - Offense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 7, 2006


TCU Horned Frogs Preview 2006 - TCU Horned Frog Offense

What you need to know ... Ten starters return if you count all three returning tailbacks, but there's a problem up front with all-star Herbert Taylor the only returning starter. QB Jeff Ballard needs to keep improving after a stellar second half of last season by cutting down on interceptions and making even more deep plays. The receiving corps should be fine even without number one target Cory Rodgers, while the running back trio of Lonta Hobbs, Robert Merrill and Aaron Brown should be the best in the Mountain West.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Jeff Ballard
139-232, 1,801 yds, 13 TD, 7 INT
Rushing: Robert Merrill
187 carries, 911 yds, 10 TD
Receiving: Quentily Harmon
28 catches, 318 yds, 1 TD

Star of the offense: Senior OT Herbert Taylor
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior OT Maurice Bouldwin
Unsung star on the rise: Junior OG Matt Lindner
Best pro prospect: Taylor
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Taylor, 2) QB Jeff Ballard, 3) RB Lonta Hobbs
Strength of the offense: Running backs
Weakness of the offense: Offensive line depth

Quarterbacks
Jeff Ballard was the rare backup quarterback who not only filled the void left by an injured starter, he made the team better. Now the offense is his and he has to show the same accuracy and toughness that got him through the second half of last year. Chad Huffman is destined to play baseball, but he'll see plenty of time as the number two man in the mix. With Ballard's running style, Huffman is a play away from being the starter. Marcus Jackson might be the opening day starter next year.
The key to the unit: Get Chad Huffman and Marcus Jackson game ready to replace Jeff Ballard if needed. Ballard needs to cut down on his interceptions.
Quarterback Rating: 7

Projected Starter
- Jeff Ballard, Sr. - 139-232, 60%, 1,801 yds, 13 TD, 7 INT, 93 carries, 314 yds, 8 TD
Ballard came from out of nowhere to be the best quarterback in the Mountain West over the second half of last year taking over for an injured Tye Gunn and leading the team to eight straight wins. He was stunningly effective as a runner as well as a leader tearing off four touchdown runs against New Mexico and throwing for 302 yards against Air Force. He's not huge, but he has a nice, accurate arm and uses his mobility to get out of trouble. He threw a few too many interceptions last year, but that's to be expected considering he was thrown into the fire.

Top Backups
- Chad Huffman, Jr. - 6-9 67%, 46 yds, 11 carries, 84 yds, 7.6 ypc, 1 TD
Huffman is known more for being a superstar second baseman than a quarterback, but the 6-1, 206-pound junior will play a key role as the number two man behind Jeff Ballard. He saw a little bit of time last year in blowouts and will get more this season to prepare for next year and to be ready in case anything happens to Ballard. He's the best runner of the bunch adding another element to the mix.
- Marcus Jackson, RFr. 
The 6-1, 200-pound Jackson is a terrific all-around prospect with a great arm and is the most athletic of the quarterbacks. He'll have a hard time winning the number two job, but he'll be brought along quickly this year to compete for the starting job in 2007.

Running Backs
There are three tremendous backs who could all see starting time at some point. Lonta Hobbs is the biggest of the three options and the most productive, but he has to stay healthy to get the number one job. Robert Merrill has been a solid back for the last few seasons and can carry the workload when needed. Aaron Brown is special when he gets the chance to get in a groove. The three should combine for about 2,000 yards if everything works right. William Jackson is a solid blocking back.
The key to the unit: Keeping everyone healthy and getting enough carries for all the talented backs.
Running Back Rating: 9

Projected Starters
- Robert Merrill. Sr. - 187 carries, 911 yds, 4.9 ypc, 10 TD. 14 catches, 114 yds
Merrill isn't flashy and he doesn't do any one thing particularly well, but he's ultra-productive when healthy rushing for 2,771 career yards and 20 touchdowns along with being a reliable receiver. While not a home run hitter, he's able to crank out four to six yards effectively every time he has the ball. He's always gaining positive yards and he's always coming through when the team needs him to be a workhorse.

- Fullback William Jackson, Jr. - 10 carries, 19 yds, 2 TD, 2 catches, 19 yds
Jackson's job is to block. Period. He returns to his starting spot where he saw a couple of goal line runs, but the 237-pound senior will be in to open up holes for the talented tailbacks. 

Top Backups
- Lonta Hobbs, Sr. - 18 carries, 71 yds, 3.9 ypc, 2 catches, 45 yds
The only question with Hobbs is whether or not he can stay healthy. He's a touchdown machine with 34 scores in 29 career games, but he missed most of last year with a groin injury and had other problems earlier in his career. He was the starting back at the beginning of last season and will battle for the opening day job again with good power in his 220-pound frame and fantastic quickness.
- Aaron Brown, Soph. - 128 carries, 758 yds, 5.9 ypc, 6 TD, 11 catches, 146 yds, 3 TD
Brown looked like a next-level star on national TV ripping apart Utah for 163 yards in his first career game as a true freshman. He's a speedy back who tears off yards in chunks, but now he has to get the ball more. He saw double-digit carries for most of the season and was effective every time he touched the ball as both a runner and a receiver.
- Fullback Chris Smith, RFr.
While not as big as William Jackson, the 230-pound Smith is expected to be an effective blocker with better rushing skills.

Receivers
There's not a Cory Rodgers in the corps, but things aren't all that bad despite losing the number one target and his 52 catches. Quentily Harmon, Michael DePriest and Marcus Brock are experienced receivers who have to combine to fill the void left by Rodgers, with DePriest turning into an even bigger deep threat after catching two 80+ yard scores over the last two seasons. There's quality depth with Donald Massey more than good enough to start and Ervin Dickerson sure to start making more of a contribution. The tight end situation is excellent with Chad Andrus an all-star candidate backed up by 270-pound Brent Hecht.

The key to the unit: More consistency from the entire corps and for Quentily Harmon to step up and become a number one target.
Receiver Rating: 7

Projected Starters
- Quentily Harmon, Sr. - 28 catches, 318 yds, 11.4 ypc, 1 TD
While not lightning fast, Harmon can tear off big plays when he gets the ball on the move. He's a good-sized receiver at 6-1 and 184 pounds with good hands finishing second on the team in catches. He'll be more steady than explosive, but he can find the goal line with three touchdowns in each of his first two seasons before scoring once last year.

- Michael DePriest, Sr. - 9 catches, 223 yds, 24.8 ypc, 3 TD
He only caught nine passes last year, but he made them count scoring three times with an 84-yard touchdown against Iowa State in the bowl win. He's really, really fast with next-level deep speed, but he has to make more plays and be more consistent at the X. It'll be up to him to fill the void left by Cory Rodgers.

- Marcus Brock. Jr.
Brock has the speed and talent to be one of the team's top receivers getting the starting nod at the H position, but he has to come back healthy after missing all of last year. He's an explosive runner who shouldn't have any problems making the deep play, and he'll likely see time as a kick returner.

- Tight end Chad Andrus, Sr. - 10 catches, 115 yards
Andrus returned from a knee injury to be one of the team's leaders and a solid receiver. He's not huge at 6-4 and 246 pounds, but he's a good blocker and should be even more involved in the offense this year.

Top Backups

- Donald Massey, Jr. - 21 catches, 203 yds, 9.7 ypc
One of the best athletes in the receiving corps, the former cornerback finished third on the team in receptions last year and can be considered another starter. He's a rail thin 5-11 and 170 pounds and very, very quick across the middle.

- Derek Moore, Jr. - 19 catches, 222 yds, 11.7 ypc, 1 TD
Moore finished fourth on the team in receiver last season as a steady, consistent playmaker over the second half of the season. His big highlight was a touchdown catch in the opener against Oklahoma, and he should be in the end zone more this season as a tall, talented option behind Marcus Brock at the H.
- Ervin Dickerson. Jr. - 6 catches, 47 yds, 7.8 ypc
A physical receiver with tremendous speed, the 200-pound junior will look to be more of a deep threat at the X behind Michael DePriest.
- Tight end Brent Hecht, Sr. - 6 catches, 56 yds, 9.3 ypc, 1 TD

The 270-pound senior is more than a blocker with decent hands and route running ability. He gained a little bit of starting experience over the second half of last year and will play a big role in two tight end sets and as a bigger option than starter Chad Andrus.

Offensive Linemen
Last year's line turned out to be better than expected with the experience and senior leadership coming together for a solid season. Only one starter returns to this year's front five, but he's a good one. Herbert Taylor is back for his fourth year at tackle and is a lock for all-conference honors, but the rest of the line is shaky with no developed depth to rely on. Fortunately, several of last year's backups appear ready to step in and produce led by Maurice Bouldwin at tackle and Giles Montgomery. Pass protection will be the problem early on.
The key to the unit: Jelling in a hurry and finding some backups who can create some competition for several starting spots.
Offensive Line Rating: 6

Projected Starters
- OT Maurice Bouldwin, Sr.
A backup all of last year, the 6-4, 290-pound senior should finally be ready to handle the job at left tackle after spending the first part of his career on the defensive line. A a fifth-year senior he has the experience in the system and in the program, but staying healthy has been a problem so far.
- OG Giles Montgomery, Soph.
The 275-pound sophomore isn't starting from scratch on the left side of the line after getting his first start in the bowl win over Iowa State. He's a former defensive tackle who should grow into a physical guard.
- C Blake Schlueter, Soph.
Adding bulk has been the priority since he arrived in Fort Worth, and now the 275-pound sophomore appears big enough to handle the job in the middle taking over for Stephen Culp.
- OG Matty Lindner, Jr.
A steady reserve at guard last year and athletic enough to play tackle, the 6-4, 293-pound junior is expected to grow into the starter role. He'll be helped out in a big way by playing next to Herbert Taylor.
- OT Herbert Taylor, Sr.
About to be a four-year starter, the 6-4, 287-pound all-star will be one of the Mountain West's best tackles and the leader of the line. As the only returning starter he needs to be even better this year. There are few better pass protectors allowing just one sack last season.

Top Backups
- C Ryan Sefton, Jr.
Don't be shocked if he takes over the starting center job. The 290-pound JUCO transfer is a bigger option in the middle than 275-pound Blake Schlueter and has the experience to step in and star.
- OT Wade Sisk, Jr.
The 6-7, 270-pound junior is a big reserve who has seen plenty of game action and could see time at either tackle spot. He'll start out pushing for the job on the left side behind Maurice Bouldwin.

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