Monday, August 10, 2009

Taking Inventory: The Defensive Line

When compared to the destruction caused by the TCU defensive line last fall, Hurricane Ike just a light afternoon shower. Seriously, when the Frogs’ opponent had the ball, it looked like someone was playing Rampage...with a Game Genie. They combined for a ridiculous 28.5 sacks and 52.5 tackles for loss, while giving up just 47.1 rush yards per game. For the naysayers out there, they only gave up 30.2 yards per game on the ground against their four opponents that were ranked in the Top 10.

The bad news is, three starters and a very productive reserve have been lost to graduation. The good news? The lone returning starter is All-American senior end Jerry Hughes. All he did last year was lead the nation in both sacks (15) and forced fumbles (6). He also intercepted two passes on brilliant reads of screen passes, returning one of those for a touchdown. Another year like that and Mr. Hughes will be making dolla dolla bills, y’all.

The other reason not to be too concerned about the relative lack of experience is that under GP, the Frogs have always had a full cupboard and been able to reload quickly on defense. A number of ends will compete for time in the rotation, but for now it appears that junior Wayne Daniels, who had one sack last year, will get the starting nod as Hughe’s bookend. Pushing Daniels will be the trio of junior Clarence Leatch, who had a very productive spring, and sophomores Ross Forrest and Braylon Broughton. Forrest, who walked on at TCU rather than accept a scholarship at Rice, played as a true freshman in '08 and picked up both a scholarship and 30lbs of muscle during the offseason. Broughton is a scary combination of size and speed (6-6, 250), and could be mentioned in the same breath as Hughes, Schobel, Blake & Ortiz if he ever really figures it out.

Coming out of spring practice, juniors Kelly Griffin and Cory Grant emerged atop to the depth chart at defensive tackle. Griffin was a full-time starter as a true freshman in ’07, but played a reserve role last year when James Vess returned from a year-long suspension. Grant, a 300-pounder, has recorded two sacks in his first two seasons. Challenging both for starting roles will be junior Henry Niutei and highly-regarded redshirt freshman Jeremy Coleman.

The Frogs welcome four true freshman D-linemen this fall: Stansly Maponga out of Hebron and the much-anticipated “Maud Squad”: James Dunbar, Bryant House and Ray Burns, the only trio of 1A teammates that anyone can ever remember signing with the same major college program. As mentioned before, D.J. Yendrey was recruited as a defensive lineman and is now listed as an offensive lineman, but I wouldn’t count out his return to defense.

Two high school seniors are currently in line to play on the defensive line at TCU: David Johnson of Argyle, who will remind fans of former Frog DT Jared Kessler with his red hair and unstoppable motor, and Blake Roberts, who plays linebacker at Tyler Lee but at 6-4 and 220 with a 4.5 forty, he’s destined to be a dynamite defensive end when he gets to Fort Worth.

Up Next: Linebackers

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