2010 TCU Preview - Defense
TCU LB Tank Carter
CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - TCU Horned Frog Defense
Preview 2010 - Defense
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What You Need To Know: There are some big, giant losses, like DE Jerry Hughes and LB Daryl Washington, but all will be fine as long as the talented prospects on the end can step up and produce and if the linebackers are healthy. The secondary in the 4-2-5 alignment will be more than fine even after losing First Team All-Mountain West performers Nick Sanders and Rafael Priest; Greg McCoy, Jason Teague and Malcolm Williams are terrific corner prospects. The safeties will be tremendous, the tackles, Kelly Griffin and Cory Grant will be all-stars, and the linebackers … that’s the potential problem. Tank Carder, the team’s best defensive player has to get past a shoulder injury, as does key backup Kris Gardner. For all the talent, there needs to be a bit more of a pass rush than last year (and without Hughes), while a few more interceptions would be nice. That’s nitpicking, though, for a defense that will be among the best in the nation again.
Star of the defense: Junior LB Tank Carder
Tackles: Tank Carder, 89
Sacks: Wayne Daniels, 5.5
Interceptions: Tejay Johnson, 3
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore DE Ross Forrest
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore SS Jurell Thompson
Best pro prospect: Senior DT Cory Grant
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Carder, 2) Grant, 3) DT Kelly Griffin
Strength of the defense: Tackling, Safety
Weakness of the defense: Linebacker Health, Interceptions
Projected Starters: How do you possibly replace Jerry Hughes after 28.5 career sacks and two All-America seasons? 1) Hope the rest of the line steps up its play and 2) pray for Ross Forrest to be a bigger factor on the left side. The 6-4, 246-pound sophomore is a former walk-on with a nice burst, but he was knocked out for the season early on with an arm injury and is just now back in the mix. He’ll be part of a rotation, but he’s expected to be a major factor with all the attention paid to the rest of the line.
Senior Wayne Daniels had a very strong 2009 making 50 tackles with 5.5 sacks and nine tackles for loss on the way to Second Team All-Mountain West honors. After starting out being tried as an undersized tackle, the 6-2, 250-pounder spent the year on the end after Ross Forrest got hurt and now he’ll have to be used to being the target. Able to work on the other side of Jerry Hughes last year, he’ll have to grow into the job as the No. 1 pass rusher.
6-2, 303-pound senior Cory Grant is the team’s biggest tackle and he’s the one who swallows up everything inside. The Second Team All-Mountain West performer made 25 tackles with 2.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss. Quick on the inside, he can get into the backfield and is extremely disruptive. A star high school powerlifter, he doesn’t won’t get moved around against the run.
Back on the nose is Kelly Griffin, a solid 6-1, 295-pound veteran who overcame a dud of a 2008 to make 31 tackles with 5.5 tackles for loss. While he was a bit overshadowed by the rest of the stars on the defensive front seven, he’s extremely strong and doesn’t get moved around. He might not be a regular in the backfield, but that’s not necessarily going to be his job.
Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Jeremy Coleman is a strong, quick nose tackle at 6-2 and 285 pounds and has the upside to grow into a star. He can play either on the nose or anywhere else in the interior, and he proved he could be a strong part of the rotation last year making nine tackles and two sacks while holding up as an anchor. The one-time superstar recruit who got several offers from most of the top Big 12 schools will get more work put on his shoulders.
Junior Braylon Broughton is a veteran end who was supposed to push hard for a starting job last year, but he wasn’t more than a good role player finishing with eight tackles and a half a tackle for loss. The 6-6, 272-pounder has interesting size and tremendous upside, but he has yet to play up to his immense potential after coming aboard as one of the team’s top recruits in 2007. He’ll get every shot to win the job on the left side this fall.
Senior Clarence Leatch is a 6-4, 245-pound former walk-on who has seen just enough time to register two sacks and six tackles last year. He’s not going to fly into the backfield on a regular basis and he isn’t going to be a top starter, but he has grown into a reliable backup who can step in on the right side for a play here and there.
Watch Out For … the rotation on the left side. TCU always has a guy or three come out of the blue and explodes, and that could be Forrest now that he’s healthy again. He might not be Hughes, or anything close to him, but he could put up some nice numbers.
Strength: The tackles. The ends have been the strength over the last few seasons but now it’ll be about the interior. Griffin and Grant are rocks who won’t move, while Coleman and sophomore D.J. Yendrey is a good prospect.
Weakness: Jerry Hughes. Every offensive line had to focus on how to deal with the pass rushing superstar, and now the rest of the line has to show it could shine without him. It’s asking way too much for Forrest or even Daniels to pick up the slack.
Outlook: It’s TCU. With or without Hughes there will be consistent pressure into the backfield. While the sack total was a bit underwhelming last year and there weren’t enough tackles for loss, TCU was third in the nation against the run and the front line should be a brick wall yet again.
Unit Rating: 8
Projected Starters: Outside of QB Andy Dalton, the last guy the Horned Frogs can afford to lose is Tank Carder, a special 6-3, 232-pound junior who hits like a ton of bricks. After finishing second on the team with 89 tackles with two sacks, ten tackles for loss, and with an amazing ten broken up passes, he’s all set to become the new face of the defense and a superstar on a national scale if he can be healthy. And that’s a huge if. After suffering a shoulder injury and undergoing surgery, he’s going to be a question mark going into the season. Like a beefed up safety and a good athlete, he’s always all over the field from his spot in the middle. But he has to be healthy.
With injury concerns in the linebacking corps, 6-3, 233-pound sophomore Tanner Brock will have to live up to his prep hype. A top recruit who was put into the mix right away, he did a nice job making 32 tackles with a tackle for loss in a backup role. He’s big, fast, and is a big time tackler who made 155 stops in his senior year of high school. He hit the weights, is growing into his frame, and he should be a terror on defense after dominating on special teams.
Projected Top Reserves: Is Kris Gardner going to be healthy? A key backup on the strongside, the 6-1, 235-pound junior has a shoulder injury and has to get back in a hurry to be a part of the rotation after making 19 tackles and being a star special teamer. The former tight end has excellent upside.
Sophomore Kenny Cain is built more like a big safety at 6-1 and 220 pounds, and now he’ll play a big role in the middle if Tank Carder is banged up. He made four tackles as a special teamer, and now he’ll bring his speed and quickness to the defense to be used in a variety of ways.
Watch Out For … Brock. A great recruit a few years ago, the talent is there and now the size has been added to become a big-time all-star. He’s built like a top TCU linebacker and he should grow into the role on the strongside over the next few years.
Strength: Tackling. You don’t play linebacker for TCU if you can’t pop, and all the options coming into the season are tough, wrap up well, and move. There aren’t many missed stops with this group.
Weakness: Shoulders. TCU is always going to be okay at linebacker, partly because it only uses two most of the time, but losing Carder for any length of time would be devastating and not having Gardner around would be a big problem, too.
Outlook: Losing a top tackler and future NFL starter like Daryl Washington isn’t a plus, but as long as Carder and Gardner are healthy, and if Brock plays up to his potential, the Horned Frogs won’t have any problems. This might be the most athletic and most talented group of linebackers the team has had under Gary Patterson, but everyone has to be available.
Unit Rating: 7.5
Projected Starters: The secondary loses some key pieces, but senior Tejay Johnson is back after earning Second Team All-Mountain West honors making 59 tackles with three interceptions and five broken up passes. The veteran free safety was a Texas high school track star and uses his wheels to get all over the field with corner ability in the body of a safety. At 6-1 and 212 pounds, he’s big, packs a pop, and is great against the run. He’ll be one of the league’s most intimidating forces and can play anywhere needed with time logged in at weak safety.
Also back is senior Alex Ibiloye, a 6-0, 183-pound weak safety who finished third on the team with 70 tackles. The former cornerback has excellent speed and proved he could be physical enough in the new position. While he didn’t get a ton of recognition last year, he should be in the hunt for all-star honors if he can do more when the ball is in the air. He didn’t pick off a pass and only came up with one broken up pass.
5-11, 200-pound sophomore Jurell Thompson had a tremendous off-season and will get the first look at strong safety after making three tackles in a limited role. Mostly a special teamer last year, he got his feet wet a little bit and now is expected to live up to his prep hype. He could’ve gone almost anywhere with his combination of raw speed and hitting ability, and he’s going to be an all-star before his career is done.
Trying to shine in a full-time role at corner is Greg McCoy, a lightning fast 5-10, 181-pound junior who’s as fast as any player on the team with 4.32 speed to go along with his decent size. He started late last year when Rafael Priest was out and he made seven tackles in the Fiesta Bowl to finish with 22 tackles and two interceptions on the year. He’s a lock-down playmaker who should be fantastic now that he has the full-time job.
Replacing all-star Nick Sanders at corner is Jason Teague, a spot starter who made 22 tackles and two picks on the year. At 6-2 and 197 pounds he has excellent size and could be used at safety if needed, and now the former LSU Tiger will play a bigger role after coming up with a good Fiesta Bowl.
Projected Top Reserves: 6-1, 210-pound senior Tyler Luttrell was took over the starting job at strong safety last season and finished with 35 tackles with a sack and a brilliant interception. He’s a nice hitter considering he started his career at receiver, he’s still working on the job and will be a great part of the rotation with Jurell Thompson, a more talented option.
Senior Malcolm Williams had a tremendous offseason and will push hard for time at corner. A superstar JUCO transfer with 5-10, 200-pound size and a nose for the ball, he made ten tackles last season in a limited role and now looks to be way too good to keep off the field. He’s not going to push Jason Teague out of the job, but he’ll play.
Will senior Colin Jones be a free safety or a strong safety? The former running back is very quick and has decent 6-0, 205-pound size. He only played in seven games last year, but he made 26 tackles with an interception and three broken up passes. Now he’ll be a jack of all trades.
Watch Out For … Thompson. He’s the next great TCU defensive back with the skill, the size, and the all-around ability to get a look from the next level types. He’ll be a force at strong safety if he doesn’t find a home somewhere else, and he’ll be one of the team’s leading tacklers.
Strength: The type. TCU has a bunch of 6-something, 200-pound speedsters who can fly all around the field and can hit. The safeties are fast, the corners are really fast, and everyone makes the stop in the open field. The defense plugs in the players and gets production.
Weakness: Interceptions. Considering how aggressive the defensive front seven was, and considering how much everyone had to throw in comeback mode, coming up with just ten interceptions is a big light. It’s nitpicking for one of the most productive secondaries in the nation, but it would be nice if there were more takeaways.
Outlook: The secondary loses two First Team All-Mountain West corners in Nick Sanders and Rafael Priest … whatever. In steps Teague, McCoy, and Williams, and the pass defense will be as good as ever. The safety combination of Johnson, Ibiloye, Thompson and Lutrell is tremendous with interchangeable options and great tackling ability. After finishing sixth in the nation against the pass, the production won’t drop off, if at all.
Unit Rating: 8.5
Projected Starters: Junior Ross Evans is one of the nation’s best kickers hitting 31-of-38 field goals in his first two years, and 15-of-18 last year missing just once inside 40 yards. He has 50-yard range and will get a few deep chances this year as he should be a near-lock to earn First Team All-Mountain West honors again.
Junior Anson Kelton is a 6-4, 260-pound banger who has a big leg, hitting a 72-yard blast, and has been clutch coming through with a tremendous Fiesta Bowl, but he only averaged 37.5 yards per kick. On the plus side, he forced 18 fair catches and put 19 inside the 20.
Wide receiver Jeremy Kerley is one of the nation’s elite returns averaging 14.4 yards per punt return with two touchdowns and averaged a whopping 26.6 yards per kickoff return. Teams will avoid putting the ball in his hands at all costs.
Watch Out For … a few small issues with the deep snapping. Sophomore Danny Shelley has to replace Clint Gresham, who was good enough to go to the NFL Combine and get picked up by New Orleans.
Strength: Returns. The TCU special teams are phenomenal, and thanks to Kerley, the return game is the strength. TCU led the nation in kickoff returns and were 12th in punt returns.
Weakness: Net punting. Kelton is a strong punter and the coverage team only allowed six yards per try, but the Horned Frogs were last in the Mountain West in net punting yards.
Outlook: TCU might have the best special teams in America. Yeah, it would be nice if Evans had a deeper leg, and yeah, it might be nice if the punting game netted more than 35 yards per try, but that’s nitpicking. Kerley and the kickers are fantastic.
Unit Rating: 9.5