Tuesday, December 29, 2009

CW presents Purple Reign



Tonight TCU will be getting some outstanding local press at 6:00pm as KDAF-TV/The 33 will premier a TCU football special titled, Purple Reign: The Horned Frogs Perfect Season.

The special is set to feature interviews with GP and a few former players including Chargers' superstar LT. Those of you in the FW area tune in and let the rest of us know how it is. There will be an encore presentation a few hours later at 1:00am.

On another note, the team arrived in Phoenix about 3:45 CST this afternoon.

And for your current viewing pleasure here's a GP interview done by a Skiff reporter following yesterday's practice.


Fiesta Bowl Preview: Secondary.

Respect.

The old adage says defense wins championships, so by that mantra, none of these defensive previews should be necessary because the Frogs are among the best defenses in the land and should therefore have no problems, right? WRRROOOOOOOOOONNNGGGGGG. Excusing the cliché there, it’s true, Boise State is a very well balanced football team on both sides of the ball. Alright, so excluse that cliché as well and just listen to what GP said earlier, “Their defense doesn’t get as much notoriety, but they’re good. I think they rank in the top fifteen in the nation in total defense. They get a lot of credit for their offense because their defense does a great job.” If GP said it, must be true! Anyway, today’s preview is going to take a gander at the defensive secondaries for both teams – an area where TCU has been in flux a good part of the year due to injuries but has still obviously been succesfull.

Boise:

Jeron Johnson – JR, 5-11, 194. 1st Team All-WAC.

88 Tackles, 1.5 TFL, 4 INTs, 6 breaksups, 10 defensed, 1 hurry, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 1 blocked kick.

George Iloka – SO, 6-3, 207.

42 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1 INT, 5 breakups, 6 defensed, 1 defection from Texas.

Winston Venable – JR, 5-11, 223.

55 Tackles, 8 TFL, 1 INT, 3 breakups, 4 defensed, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery

Kyle Wilson – SR, 5-10, 186. 1st Team All-WAC.

40 Tackles, 3.5 TFL, 3 INTs, 2 breakups, 5 defensed.

Brandyn Thompson – JR, 5-10, 180. 2nd Team All-WAC.

38 tackles, 4 INTs, 3 breakups, 7 defensed, 1 fumble recovery.

Frogs:

Rafael Priest* - SR, 5-10, 181.

18 Tackles, 1 INT, 7 breakups, 8 defensed.

Nick Sanders* - SR. 5-10, 174.

28 Tackles, 3 breakups, 3 defensed.

Tejay Johnson - JR, 6-1, 212.

51 Tackles, 1 TFL, 3 INTs, 2 breakups, 5 defensed, 1 forced fumble

Tyler Luttrell - JR, 6-1, 210.

32 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sacks, 1 INT, 2 breakups, 3 defensed, 1 forced fumble..

Alex Ibiloye - JR, 6-10, 183.

61 Tackles, 0.5 TFL, 1 breakup, 1 defensed.

Jason Teague - JR, 6-2, 185.

18 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 2 INTs, 2 breakups, 4 defensed, 1 fumble recovery.

Greg McCoy - SO, 5-10, 181.

15 tackles, 2 INTs, 3 breakups, 5 defensed.

Breakdown: The more I keep doing these breakdowns, the more I realize how Boise has pretty much no seniors – I think I read 4 overall somewhere – and will be right back in the thick of things next year, likely undefeated for a third year in a row. No wonder Chris Peterson has turned down big name jobs in the past – he’s the northwest's version of GP.

Judging by overall numbers, TCU is tied for 4th in pass defense per game with 152.8 yards allowed and Boise clocks in at 14th with 172.8 ypg; TCU has allowed 10 passing TDs to Boise’s 14. Where Boise beats us though – and where most teams beat us, to be honest – is in interceptions, where they ranked 3rd with 22. TCU, at the other end of the spectrum, only has 14. The overall stats are undeniable – neither team allows opposing offenses to move the ball on them through the air with any ease and, in Boise’s case, they go up and take the thing as well,something we just haven’t been able to capitalize on this year when Donovan Porterie isn’t under center. The half full way to look at it is that, due to our overall defense, quarterbacks have so much respect for our secondary that they don’t throw it deep – sort of true – or that they are under so much pressure up front, they don’t have time to get many passes off – more true.

However, there’s no denying Boise’s talent in the defensive backfield. Safety Jeron Johnson is an absolute animal and led the team in sacks and INTs. Think of him as Stephen Hodge, but with hands to go with his nose for the ball. Cornerback Kyle Wilson is the lone senior on the squad, but has been a starter for most of his years at Boise and is a threat from the punt return position as well. Despite his size, Brandyn Thompson was second team all conference and picked off four passes, although having watched Rafael Priest and Nick Sanders for four years, we should know that size definitely does not matter when it comes to being an outstanding defensive back. Speaking of size, Houston area product George Iloka is a beast man safety and,although he doesn’t have the overall numbers of his peers, has been exceptional for the Broncos.

For the Frogs, you’ll notice I listed two more players than would fit in our 4-2-5 scheme which is due to the injury situation with Priest and Sanders we faced this season. Although both started every single game for the first three seasons of their TCU careers, that double edged sword finally caught up to them this year as both broke down and lost their starting streaks. Still, both played in 10 games and both were named to the all conference squad. An injury to an entrenched starter always goes one of two ways depending on how well your backups play, and fortunately this season we found the rare silver lining of two backups who emerged and arguably outplayed their higher ups on the depth chart. Jason Teague and Greg McCoy were anything but household names to anyone but the most unabashed TCU fan coming into the season; now, there shouldn’t be one person questioning who will step up and fill the roles of Priest and Sanders when they are gone after this season. Forget McCoy’s obvious kick returning skills; the kid is an absolute ball hawk who picked off two passes in his limited game time this season and broke up 3 passes. Teague, a JUCO transfer who was once committed to LSU and will get the start in the bowl game if Priest remains injured, is probably the best defensive back we have on the team right now and recorded the same number of tackles as Priest despite only starting two games. He also had 2 INTs.

However, I hope you aren’t taking my praise of those two guys as a knock on Priest and Sanders because they were beyond fantastic for our team and a big part of the unbelievable defensive run we’ve been on under Patterson. Like I said, they may not have the numbers that the Boise guys have, nor even the same numbers as some guys on their own team, but they are brutal in coverage and rarely let their man get behind them. It’s a shame Priest will have to watch his final game as a Horned Frog from the sidelines, but that’s still a better alternative than the way others we know have finished their careers in purple.

At safety, a lot of people were terrified with the departures of Drew Coleman and Stephen Hodge, and then things got worse in pre-season when Colin Jones went down and our only options were Marcus Jackson and a converted wide receiver. No matter, that receiver, Tyler Luttrell, stepped up arguably more than any new Frog did all season on defense outside of Tank Carder, making 32 tackles, 1 sack, and grabbing one of the more unbelievable interceptions I’ve ever seen. In fact, I’d go out on a limb and say it’s the best interception I’ve ever seen from a first year starting white receiver convert safety – I’m just that passionate about it. Alex Ibiloye, despite our game announcer STILL not being able to pronounce his name, also put together a solid little season, placing third on the team with 61 tackles.

I saved Tejay Johnson for last though, because I honestly don’t think we heard enough about this guy this season. Understandably, with all the talk about the four other returning starters on defense in Hughes, Priest, Sanders, and Washington, not to mention Tank Carder and his lifetime achievement award for returning from a broken neck to be a wheels off linebacker, it’s hard to find enough print for everyone - especially when your team doesn’t have much print to go around anyway. Still, 51 tackles and 3 interceptions should get people talking and if the pundits have any sense this guy will be all over the watch lists going into his senior season next year.

Earlier on in this preview I made the assertion that maybe Boise has had more passes thrown their way, which is why their guys have been able to put up superior numbers. After doing some hasty fact checking though, TCU has had 29.9 passes attempted against them per game this year. Boise? 30.3. The difference there is that TCU only allowed 13.8 completions per game vs. Boise at 16.6, but it doesn’t look like opposing quarterbacks were too enthusiastic about trying to get a pass game going against either team. Looking at the overall pass defense numbers, one would assume that I would simply give the edge to TCU and move on, but before I make any decision, I have to take something into account. A pass defense is really only as good as its pass rush, and I don’t know many schools in the country that have anything resembling what TCU has in that category. Therefore, you really have to look at individual numbers between the players, and this is where I will make the call.

Boise’s defensive backs are absolutely phenomenal on the field. Their starting five combined for 263 tackles and 13 interceptions. By comparison, what I will call our starting seven right now, combined for 223 tackles and 7 interceptions. This isn’t to say that I think their guys are necessarily going to have a better day – Jerry Hughes and his boys up front should put enough pressure on Kellen Moore to not allow him to sit back there and pick and choose his receivers, and our secondary are no slouches – but, at least on paper, I have to be fair and say that Boise has one of the best collections of defensive backs in the country. Given that we are more middle of the road when it comes to passing the ball anyway, I expect us to show these guys a lot of respect and put the ball on the ground far more often than we do in the air. Of course I still think we'll win the game, but sometimes you have to forgo being a homer and be fair.

Edge – Boise.


Strength of Schedule Watch: TCU opponents fairing well

With the final BCS rankings a few weeks in the past, strength of schedule doesn't officially count for anything anymore. But you still want your team's accomplishments to stand up to comparison, and TCU's certainly have so far.

The Horned Frogs defeated six teams that ended up accepting bowl invitations, and so far those teams are 5-0 in postseason play...including 2-0 against Boise State victims. BYU and Utah both took care of their Pac-10 opponents (the Cougars took down Oregon State in the Las Vegas Bowl and Utah defeated Cal in the Poinsettia Bowl). CJ Spiller went out a winner at Clemson, with the Tigers beating Kentucky in the Music City Bowl. And then you had Wyoming taking down Boise-victim Fresno State in the New Mexico Bowl and SMU blowing out Boise-victim Nevada in the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve.

Frog opponents will look to go 6-0 on New Year's Eve, when Air Force takes on Houston (for the second consecutive year) in the Armed Forces Bowl right here in Fort Worth. And who knows- by then, UH coach Kevin Sumlin could be on his way to Lubbock...

Morning Dump

Horned Frogs arrival will kick off the action Star-Telegram

Frogs prominent on postseason honor roll
GoFrogs.com

TCU runs special section in Arizona Republic
TCU

Broncos hold first practice in Arizona
BroncoSports.com

Three ways Boise State has changed since the 2007 Fiesta Bowl Idaho Statesman

Three freshman Boise players out for the Fiesta Bowl; Pettis still a game-time decision Idaho Statesman

Versatile receivers shine
Idaho Press

Broncos touch down in Arizona
Idaho Press