Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Crichton starting tonight vs. UTA

In a surprising move, Jim Schlossnagle is starting his usual Friday night starter- sophomore Stefan Crichton- tonight against UT-Arlington in a non-conference game. The Frogs will be seeking a bit of revenge after the extra-inning loss at UTA two weeks ago, and are catching the Mavericks on the tail-end of a back-to-back after they upset Texas A&M, 3-2, in College Station last night.

I'm not exactly sure the reason for starting Crichton tonight, other than it's obvious that Schlossnagle is trying to shake things up in order to earn some much-needed W's down the stretch of this regular season in which a great deal of his usual tactics do not seem to be working. Freshman Preston Morrison made the transition from long reliever to Sunday starter last weekend with a successful result, so perhaps this move will bring TCU some good fortune. It may be that a younger pitcher- perhaps Brandon Finnegan or Jerrick Suiter- slides into Crichton's slot in the rotation this weekend against Air Force, or it could be that the sophomore will be kept on a strict pitch count tonight. I guess we'll know by the 4th inning or so.

UTA hasn't announced who will be starting for them tonight, but they will likely be using a plethora of pitchers in this one. On top of having played on the road last night, they have played four games in the past seven days- a grueling stretch for a college team. Judging by how much each of their pitchers were used this weekend, I'd say two guys we're likely to see tonight would be freshman Zach Thompson and sophomore Kasey Merck...both of whom have a bit of sibling rivalry with the Frogs. Thompson, who started and pitched 5 ⅔ strong innings in the previous game between the two schools, is the younger brother of former TCU signee and current Rangers farmhand Matt Thompson. Merck, who has a 4.50 ERA in nine appearances for the Mavs this year, is the younger brother of current TCU closer Kaleb Merck.

Aside from trying to gain confidence by turning things around, the fore-mentioned revenge factor and the need to improve on their 3-5 record in midweek games, this is also one of the last games in which the Frogs can do a whole lot to improve their RPI ranking. UTA is currently #45- six spots ahead of TCU. The only other games that the Frogs have remaining against Top 100 teams are single home games against Texas A&M (#6) and Louisiana-Monroe (#91) and a home & home midweek pair against Oklahoma (#66). Outside of those, the Frogs may not be able to impress the computers even with wins over teams like Air Force (#253), Manhattan (#197) and San Diego State (#138).

Here's a mid-season highlight video to get you pumped for tonight's game (be sure to check out Brance Rivera's amazing catch at the 1:20 mark):

Bobby Petrino and the absurdity of the GP to Arkansas rumors

It must have come as a real shocker to Arkansas AD Jeff Long and Razorback fans everywhere when Bobby Petrino turned out to be a scum bag. I mean...Long must've thought Petrino was full of integrity after he hired him away from the Falcons (without asking permission to talk to him first) and had the coach slip out of Atlanta with three games left in the regular season without saying a word to his players. Yeah, big surprise.

Petrino is out as coach at Arkansas now after his infamous motorcycle wreck (although the rumor mill is swirling with stories that the bike accident was a cover up for him having gotten his ass kicked by his home-wrecker mistress's husband. Think about it...why wasn't she hurt in this wreck? Did she jump off the bike while it was going down and land on her feet?), leaving a VERY late in the game coaching vacancy at a high-profile program that has lost just five games in the past two seasons.

As is the case with just about any high-profile job opening, Gary Patterson's name has been tossed into the ring by the media. Travis Haney, a blogger from ESPN, buys into the idea of GP bolting Fort Worth for Fayetteville because "TCU is embroiled in an uncomfortable drug scandal" (that he's dealt with, Travis) and because "the move to the Big 12 makes winning all the more difficult". Saying that implies that Patterson is afraid of competition, which he isn't- and the lapse in logic is only compounded by stating that a move to the SEC would be the solution. I'm guessing Haney was about as good for his high school's debate team as Skip Bayless was for his high school basketball team.

I have to chuckle, time after time, when Patterson's name pops up on these lists for supposedly "better" jobs. All of those ill-informed fans that think football programs are elite based on the number of fans in the stands will go on and on and on about how "TCU sucks" and that "they couldn't do anything in a real conference"...until they get their hopes up in regard to hiring Patterson as their new coach. Then it's all about the incredible work he's done to turn TCU into an elite national program and how he's a defensive genius and an underrated recruiter...until he tells them no. Then it's back to ignorantly dismissing the masterful job Patterson and the entire TCU program have done.

While the rest of the country slowly comes to terms with the fact that TCU is indeed a force to be reckoned with on the football field, they will also need to come to terms with the fact that Patterson isn't going anywhere. He and his wife love it here, and he's been granted everything he's asked for- a salary that puts him on par with the other elite coaches in the country, an administration that not only buys into but shares his dreams for the future and a sparkling new stadium that will some day bear his name. He is doing what the most legendary of coaches have done by turning a moribund program into a powerhouse. He is, without a doubt, the King of Fort Worth- and he's not about to give that up.

So thank you, Arkansas, for thinking of us when drafting your invitation list to the late-season coaching carousel. We'll graciously decline. Rather than trying to stir up some drama somewhere else, you all should just hire Butch Davis like we all know you're going to and we can all root against Petrino when he takes the Saints' interim job.

Spring Questions revisited: #7

For years, TCU defenses have excelled in large part due to the quality play on the defensive line. Junior-to-be Stansly Maponga is just the latest in a long line of star defensive ends to have worn the purple and white (and black...and silver...and red?), but one elite pass-rusher does not a great line make. The uncertainty of who would be lining up opposite #90 and the depth behind the starting duo is what made defensive end the #7 question facing the team heading into spring practice.

Before we can get to the issue of depth, we have to start with Maponga himself. Near the end of spring practice, Patterson commented that Maponga was "not as good as you'd want him to be. He's now a junior. We need him to be more. We need him more in leadership, we need him being physical, we need him in every area."

So did Maponga have a bad spring? Has he hit a wall in his development? I guess those are possible, but I think this is a motivational tactic by Patterson. He knows he's got a great player in Maponga, and this is his way of challenging him to reach his potential.

On the subject of leadership, another name mentioned as a candidate to fill one of those roles on defense was Ross Forrest, the former walk-on who recovered the late fumble against Boise State that opened the door for the Frogs' comeback win. He is likely the other starter, but may be pushed for that spot when Matt Anderson (who was hurt all of last year and into the spring) comes back.

There weren't a whole lot of mentions of the players lower on the depth chart battling for spots in the rotation, but Patterson did make the comment that "at least two of those four young ones will push the older guys for positions."

My best guess is that the four "young ones" are sophomore Cliff Murphy, redshirt freshman Austin Terry, and the true freshmen that will be here in the fall- Devonte Fields and Terrel Lathan. Which means that the "older guys" would be Maponga, Forrest, Anderson and Jon Koontz- who played was a pleasant surprise in his reserve role last fall.

While defensive tackle wasn't on our list of questions before the spring, the plentiful depth at that position has been worn a bit thin. DJ Yendrey is obviously gone, and sophomore David Johnson was also hurt during the spring. We aren't sure of the severity of his injury or how long he'll be out, but in his place guys like Chucky Hunter, Jon Lewis, Ray Burns and Davion Pierson got some extra reps in practice.

Morning Dump