Friday, August 14, 2009

JJ at the PGA Championship

With scores of 72 and 73, JJ is currently sitting tied for 37th at +1. The projected cut is +2, but with conditions getting tougher this afternoon it is projected to go as high +4, which means he will make it to his first weekend in a major this year (he did not make the cut at the US Open, the only other major he played in).

Taking Inventory: Defensive Backs

It’s easy to have mixed emotions when looking at what TCU has returning in the defensive backfield. On one hand, three starters return- including two fourth-year starters at corner. On the other, there is a bit of uneasiness in the uncertainty of who will step into the two safety spots that were vacated by the graduation of Stephen Hodge and Steven Coleman.

Junior Tejay Johnson, who started 12 games last year at weak safety, will slide over to quarterback the defense at free safety this year. Johnson was second on the team in passes broken up and sixth in tackles last year. He’s not afraid to lay the wood, either, as evidenced by his jarring stop of Harvey Unga on a 4th and inches play against BYU last year. In my opinion, he may have been the most underrated player on the defense. Behind him at FS will be his former high school teammate at South Garland and fellow junior Alex Ibiloye, who played in all 13 games last year at corner before switching to safety in the spring. At weak safety, senior Corderra Hunter emerged from spring practice atop the depth chart, but should face stiff competition for the starting role from sophomore Tekerrein Cuba. Both are big and athletic East Texans who contributed on both defense and special teams a year ago. Hunter has more experience, but judging from the flashes he showed last year, Cuba probably has more upside.

Heading into spring, strong safety was already a concern because really, who is going to replace the man/beast that is Stephen Hodge? The situation became a little more worrying when Sir Demarco Bledsoe left/was kicked off the team this summer. That left junior Colin Jones as the de-facto starter at SS. Jones is a great athlete who played in all 13 games last year and blocked a punt as a freshman in ’07, but he has already been hampered during fall practice with a recurring hamstring problem.

In the unfortunate event that Jones’ injury lingers, you may see either Cuba or Hunter slide over from WS, but it also may be an opportunity for one of the Frogs’ two returning youngsters or three newcomers. Sophomore Johnny Fobbs played in 8 games last year, making him the most experienced of that bunch, while redshirt freshman Chris Scott also has a year in the program under his belt. After two stellar years at Trinity Valley CC, junior Malcolm Williams may be the most likely candidate to rocket to the top of the depth chart. Freshmen Jurell Thompson and Trenton Thomas both had fantastic high school careers and could bypass a redshirt year if the situation warrants it.

Cornerback is a little more settled. Seniors Nick Sanders and Rafael Priest return, both having started the last 39 games for the Frogs. While neither is a Deion-type interception machine, they both possess unteachable coverage ability and have played a major role in the defense only giving up 188 passing yards per game over the course of their three years as starters. Both should get a look from the NFL after this year. Backing them up will be sophomore Greg McCoy and junior Jason Teague. McCoy, who is consistently referred to as the fastest player on the team, played in 12 games as a redshirt freshman last year, and had an interception against Wyoming. Teague, a taller corner at 6-2 and a highly-touted transfer from Tyler Junior College, played in 5 games last year after being injured in preseason practices. If needed, Ibiloye could probably be called to return to his former position.

The Frogs have two cornerbacks committed to play for them next year- Kevin White of Round Rock Stony Point and San Antonio John Jay’s Travaras Battle-Smith, who will graduate early and participate in spring drills next year. Because the situation at Katy Morton Ranch makes incoming freshman Michael Venson look more and more like he might not end up on campus this year, don’t be surprised to see the Frogs take a 3rd corner in this class…possibly a JUCO transfer. With no current commits and the premature departures of both Bledsoe and Chez Thomas, safety is one of the biggest areas of need for the coming recruiting class. Look for at least 2-3 of them to sign up to be Frogs.

Up Next: Special Teams

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