Friday, February 24, 2012

Top Questions for Spring Practice: #1

Will James Dunbar finally live up to his enormous potential this spring?

One of the major reasons for optimism heading into TCU's first season in the Big 12 is the offensive firepower that the Frogs will bring with them to the new league. Record-breaking quarterback Casey Pachall, potential All-American wide receiver Josh Boyce and a stable full of NFL-caliber running backs will grab a lot of headlines this fall if they lead the Frogs to as many wins as expected. But the foundation of a productive offense is a dominant offensive line, and TCU's need to replace three departed starters makes this unit the top question facing the program entering spring practice.

The two full-time starters returning from last year's squad are center James Fry and right guard Blaize Foltz. Both seniors, Fry and Foltz will need to step up into leadership roles the way Eddie Williamson-coached seniors have done year after year at TCU.

Coming into spring as favorites to fill the starting jobs on the outside of the line are junior James Dunbar at left tackle and sophomore Tayo Fabuluje at right tackle. Dunbar was in a similar situation last year, but failed to capitalize before missing all but five games last season due to academic issues. Fabuluje, who started his college career at BYU, sat out last season per NCAA transfer rules. Pushing them for starting duties this spring will be sophomore Nykiren Wellington as well as redshirt freshmen Carter Wall and Bobby Thompson. None of the three have played a snap at TCU.

Before his dismissal from the team last week, Ty Horn was the likely starter at left guard. Instead, John Wooldridge comes into spring as the leading candidate to start in that slot. A junior from Houston, Wooldridge has played in 12 games over the past two seasons. Gunning for his job will be sophomore Michael Thompson, who was impressive in six games last year before hurting a knee, and redshirt freshman Brady Foltz- Blaize's younger brother. Senior Trevius Jones, who has played in 8 games in his time at TCU, and redshirt freshman Jamelle Naff will provide depth behind the elder Foltz on the right side.

Junior Eric Tausch, a Dallas Jesuit product who has appeared in 14 games over the past two seasons including a start against Portland State last year, is currently listed as Fry's understudy at center.

Like at safety, I wouldn't be surprised to see some mixing and matching all along the offensive line. The coaching staff will want the best five guys in the starting lineup, so you may see players not only moving up and down on the depth chart but perhaps even switching positions along the line. Eric Tausch and Michael Thompson, for instance, among others, could probably slide a slot or two down the line if depth necessitated it.

How do you see the offensive line shaping up this spring? Who will the starters be, and which younger players do you think will open some eyes with their surprising performances? Or are you one of those people who, sans stats, can't tell whether or not an O-lineman is even playing well?

26 comments:

EdK said...

I am really surprised that this is your main concern. Offensive line? Seriously?

I'd put it about 10th. Why? Two reasons:

1) TCU had the same concerns going into last season and a third-string tight end wound up kicking butt at right tackle. There's a lot more depth this year.

2) Eddie Williamson. Has TCU ever had a mediocre offensive line since he's been the coach there? Uh, no. Don't sweat it.

shortnkerley's said...

I'd put it begins LB and secondary, but you're crazy of you think it's 10. There's no experience at tackle. Kind of an important position. Sandra Bullock told me.

EdK said...

You mean the tackle position TCU has had an all-conference selection in all but one season since 2002? Yawn.

shortnkerley's said...

No All-conference tackle last season, and there's gonna be a little better pass rush we are facing this year. It's a huge issue. It may work out, but inexperience and uncertainty mean concern.

VikingFrog said...

Spit

FrogHorn07 said...

It is so hard to judge an offensive line in the Spring, because you don't know if you are watching a great front four on defense ot a bad group of "big uglies" on offense. I wait until we get into conference play to see if they ca really keep Pachall's purple and white from turning green.

Slay Purple said...

I completely agree that it is (or at least should be) our main concern. Everything starts up front as far are establishing a rushing attack, giving Pachall enough time to find receivers, and most importantly limiting skill player injuries. Talent is not lacking, but experience is and that is my only cause for concern. In order to succeed in the Big XII you have to have a great offense (ex. UT's "success" the past 2 seasons). It was definitely my top concern prior to last season & fortunately Coach Williamson proved how essential he is to the operation. GP & Bumpas have been essential to TCU success as of late, but a strong case could be made for Williamson as well. Looks like we should also enter 2013 (my predicted year of winning the Big XII) with all the right pieces in place (especially on the OL).

shortnkerley's said...

Well said Slay Purple. I needed a reasonable voice to back me up there.

EdK said...

1) Finding a free safety
2) Finding two good CBs
3) Is Gildon ready for prime time?
4) Who will be the starting TE?
5) Is Ross Forrest the best option at right DE?
6) How will the offense handle the change in coordinators and play-calling?
7) Will the three-headed monster -- especially Ed Wesley -- be content to share carries three ways again?
8) Can one of the redshirt freshmen step up at strong safety?
9) Are the kicking and punting games going to be alright?
10) Will the young O-Line come together and ease the worried minds of SpitBlood readers?

shortnkerley's said...

TE, our trio of RB's and the kicking game ahead of OL? Child please.

Lyle Lanley said...

Ed-

I'm with you that Williamson is a great coach and that, come the fall, O-Line will probably not be a big area of concern.

But it is, with 3 starters (plus Ty Horn) gone and very little experience amongst the returning tackles, a major question mark heading into the spring.

Since the strength of this team is the returning firepower at the offensive skill positions, a lot of the potential success of the 2012 Frogs will depend on an offensive line that allows Pachall & company to do their thing.

This list was ranking the importance of the unknown variables of the depth chart, not a ranking of team weakenesses. I have no doubt we'll find 5 solid starters and some quality back-ups, but at this point it's very much yet to be seen who will fill what role on the line.

EdK said...

It's just my OPINION.

Recent history has proven that nearly every year TCU has had to rebuild part of its O-Line and every year it has been solid. I, personally, am not worried about it. Foltz is outstanding and Fry is good. The only reason Dunbar didn't start is because Olsen was great -- should have been all-MWC. And the giant from BYU, Thompson and younger Foltz are all expected to be good, as well.

I am glad that Eddie Williamson gets credit on these pages, because he is a great coach.

Lyle Lanley said...

Hey man, you asked "Seriously?", so I felt the need to clarify my own award-winning OPINION.

EdK said...

Lyle ... I enjoy your stuff, seriously. I suppose snk is the one allowed to be flippant.

Boyce of Summer said...

I like EdK's name. Short, concise and to the point. My first name is Ed, and my last name starts with a K. No beating around the bush. Got to respect that.

VikingFrog said...

You know what? We all love Yoohoo. Especially Yoohoo with a little rum.

Cro-magnon Frog said...

EdK,

I appreciate your opinion. I also agree that Eddie Williamson is a great coach and puts together a spectacular squad.

But I remember telling myself last year that I wasn't worried about our young secondary because Patterson always manages to get a hardnosed fast group together and had a proven track record of doing so. Last year, Defense was the least of my concern and I was more concerned about a tightend playing offense. But guess what happened? Our secondary got torched by RG3 and some douchebag from SMU. yea, they held their own against Kellen moore but our defense for ALL intents and purposes took a step back last year from the previous. But did I think it would happen? Fuck no, because GP is a defensive Genius and would make things happen.

So like you I do trust Eddie Williamson but you would be naive and foolish like I was last year to not at least be somewhat concerned about the offensive line seeing as we are having to replace quite a few very key players. Blind faith is no faith at all my friend.

VikingFrog said...

I just imagined Cro-Magnon furiously typing that response as his eyes rolled into the back of his head like Will Ferrell versus James Carville on Old School.

What happened?

shortnkerley's said...

Dunbar didn't start bc of academic issues. He was ineligible. Olson was great, but that's not why he started at LT. And yes, I can be flippant. It's Friday MF'ers.

SnK said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWdd6_ZxX8c

SnK said...

And yes, I shortened the name. Makes things easier since everyone refers to me as that meow anyways.

VikingFrog said...

Looks as though you are just trying to copy EdK

SnK said...

Just realized that it does. But Kerley is gone and the pun has no play anymore.

Travis said...

So...the artist formerly known as shortnkerleys? I would have been lost had I not read today, whew!

SnK said...

Looks like Dunbar and Tayo have flip flopped tackle positions, Tayo moving to LT. And Michael Thompson is out for all of spring ball. But yeah, no question marks along the OL...

Sir Wesley Willis said...

The NEW top question for spring practice, based on the award winning commenters, is whether or not I should change my name to SWW?