Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring Practice starts today

With the 2010 Horned Frogs set to hit the field for the first time when spring drills begin this afternoon, optimism abounds that last year was only the beginning and that this fall could be even more exciting for the purple & white faithful. But even with all of the major weapons coming back on both sides of the ball, the Frogs did lose some key components and are not without some uncertainty going forward. Let's take a look at the biggest questions for the 2010 season heading into spring practice:

1) Who replaces Jerry Hughes as the main pass-rushing threat?

It would be beyond unfair to expect anyone to step in and fill the shoes of Jerry Hughes, who was a two-time All-American at defensive end and led the Frogs with 11.5 sacks in 2009. Wayne Daniels, Hughes' bookend last fall and second on the team with 5.5 sacks, will return at one starting position. With the steady improvement he's shown, he has the potential to join the parade of all-conference pass rushers the Frogs have fielded recently. Speaking of potential, junior-to-be Braylon Broughton, all 6'6", 270lb of him, has the size & athleticism to be a super star and looks like the favorite to start alongside Daniels. We saw glimpses of it last year, but hopefully he can begin to excel consistently. If he does, watch out. Ross Forrest will also return after missing all of last year with an injury and DJ Yendrey will reportedly move outside to end after playing as an undersized tackle in '09. Clarence Leatch, who will be a senior in 2010, has also shown flashes so there's hope that he'll take advantage of his last season as a Frog- remember, he is related to Stephen Hodge so you know there's some greatness in his blood.

2) Who will be Andy Dalton's back up?
Some of you out there reading this are thinking, "That's easy- Casey Pachall". And while the redshirt freshman from Brownwood definitely seems to be the heir apparent, he has yet to officially cement himself in that role. Whether it's Pachall, sophomore Yogi Gallegos or someone else, this question needs to be clearly answered during the spring. The future of the program depends on it.
Is now the time for Casey Pachall to show he's the QB of the future?

3) Who protects Dalton's blind side?

With four returning starters coming back in 2010, the offensive line appears to be one of the many strengths of the team. But the one spot along the offensive front that is not set in stone is left tackle, which Sandra Bullock taught us all is the most important. Marshall Newhouse, who started at LT for the last few years, has left to continue his acting career and is set to star alongside Jude Law in the upcoming sci-fi thriller "Repo Men". So who takes his place? Zach Roth, the JUCO transfer who missed most of the '09 season with a shoulder injury, will probably get the first crack at it. Another school of thought has senior Marcus Cannon moving over from right tackle, in which case a newbie would start in his place. Other candidates for either tackle position include sophomores Spencer Thompson and Trevius Jones and impressive redshirt freshmen James Dunbar and John Woolridge.

4) Who takes over at corner?

It seems as if Rafael Priest and Nick Sanders were at TCU forever, and Frog fans enjoyed the security blanket of having the same reliable corners for four long years. When you lose guys like that, it instantly creates a major question mark, especially because corner is one of the toughest positions to recruit. Luckily, though, senior Jason Teagu e and junior Greg McCoy are ready to step in and take over as starters. In my humble opinion, these guys will represent little drop-off at all. The real question is who will provide reliable depth. JUCO transfer and former high school legend Malcolm Williams could move over from safety. Also, a trio of talented true freshmen- Kevin White, Elisha "G.O.A.T." Olabode and Trevaras Battle-Smith, could be the favorites to grab PT behind Teague & McCoy. Battle-Smith will be participating in spring drills, so look for him to definitely play in the fall.

Can Greg McCoy convert the flashes he showed in '09 into consistency as a starter in '10?

5) Who handles deep-snapping duties?

Last year, Patterson referred to Clint Gresham multiple times as the best deep snapper in the country. That opinion was backed up when Gresham was the only snapper invited to the NFL Combine. While this is one of the least-glamorous positions on the football field, having a sub-par snapper would be very apparent and will likely result in close games going to the other team. Junior Joseph Bates was listed as second-team last year, and he'll battle sophomore Daniel Shelley and redshirt freshman Kirby O'Meara for the starting job this year. If only we had a deep-snapping expert on this blog who could weigh in with his opinion...

6) How will the newcomers contribute immediately?

The Frogs welcome three newcomers as they begin spring training: the aforementioned Battle-Smith at corner, redhead defensive tackle David Johnson and the long-awaited running back Dwight Smith. All have the talent to become key contributors right away, but we won't know that until they suit up. If they're having a good spring, you'll hear their name in media reports. If not, be patient- not everyone is a star from Day 1.

7) How permanent is Aundre Dean's move to safety?

With the surplus of talented running backs that the Frogs currently possess, there was much speculation that one or more of them might end up changing positions. It was still a surprise, however, when it was announced that Aundre Dean would be making a go of it at safety in the spring. After all, Dean was a Parade All-American coming out of high school. With his size (6'0", 215lbs) and speed (don't have that stat handy, but "really fast"), he's got NFL potential written all over him. But as is the case with many players recruited by Patterson's staff, you have to wonder...on which side of the ball? Dean is currently listed on the depth chart at both running back and safety (much like Marcus Jackson was last year at QB & S), so keep an eye out for reports on how he's doing in the spring- he could be a major impact player at whichever position he ends up playing this fall.
Aundre Dean- future NFL star at running back or safety?

8) Will the dominant play at LB continue post-Daryl Washington?

Like Hughes, Daryl Washington's shoes will not easily be filled. Luckily though, GP & staff have a #1 LB ready to go in Tank Carder. For all of the fanfare that Hughes & Washington received last year (deservedly so), I'm not so sure Tank wasn't the best defender on the team. It just seemed like he was always making a play. The real question is, who will be the other starter at linebacker? Tanner Brock sure made his presence felt as a true freshma n last fall, so he'll probably be the favorite to start alongside Tank. But don't overlook the other linebackers on the Frog roster, because there is a boatload of talent at this position. Kris Gardner, who'll be a junior this fall, has steadily increased his contribution to the team, and Kenny Cain and Greg Burks both found playing time as freshmen in '09. There's also Justin Isadore, a tackling machine in his high school career in Beaumont, who redshirted last year. Because of the depth, I'm not worried about LB. But until the pecking order is clearly defined, it'll remain a question mark.

9) Will there be any additional shifting of running backs?

If Dean does indeed end up becoming a full-time safety, that will somewhat alleviate the logjam of young talent at running back. But even without him, you've still got two very proven sophomores in Ed Wesley and Matthew Tucker and two freshmen with incredible potential in Waymon James and Dwight Smith...not to mention juniors Jai Cavness and Jercell Fort who have faired well in limited playing time the past few seasons. Some out there have speculated that Wesley could be utilized in more of a hybrid running back/receiver role like Ryan Christian was last year, or that Cavness or Fort could change positions to get on the field more often. Before you start moving guys all the virtual depth chart you've got on an excel sheet on your work computer (am I the only one?), remember the plague of injuries that have beset TCU running backs in years past and that you can never have too many fresh legs to tote the rock.

What will be Ed Wesley's role going forward?

10) Can this team do it again in 2010?

I think this is the question on every Frog fan's mind. Was last year a high-water mark produced by everything falling, magically, into place finally? Or was it just the beginning of the elite status that we've been craving for decades? Unfortunately, this is the only question of the ten I've listed today that absolutely cannot be answered during the 15 practices the Frogs will hold this month & next. But if the previous nine are answered, I think we'll all sleep a little better waiting for #10 this fall.


CounselorFrog said...

Does the Texas Hammer have any eligibility left?

Texas Hammer said...

I've researched this one, Counselor. And while it's my contention that I have one game of eligibility left (see USF 2004...ooops!), the NCAA has this silly rule where you have 5 years to compete for 4 years.

I don't know much about Gresham's replacement candidates, but it's safe to say there will be a significant dropoff....Gresham will likely get drafted and that's pretty impressive since he does nothing else.

That being said, I'm pretty sure GP is going to be calling me anyday now to offer me the "Super Duper New Deep Snapper Finder Outer" job.

Sir Wesley Willis said...

You forgot Question #11 - What types of things live in Dick Bumpas' moustache?