Friday, February 24, 2012
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?
Posted by Lyle Lanley at Friday, February 24, 2012