Thursday, April 12, 2012

Spring Questions revisited: #6

For a long time, the excitement of a three and out produced by the TCU defense was immediately followed by the excitement of what could turn into six points at any moment on the punt return. Cory Rodgers, Brian Bonner and Jeremy Kerley made the Frogs one of the most dangerous punt return units in the nation for most of the '00s. Last year, TCU ranked 42nd in the nation in punt return yardage- down from 5th the year before. That's why the punt (and kickoff) return game was the #6 question heading into spring.

The total amount of information that has come out of spring practice on this team is not a lot, but this was one particular area in which we really did not hear much at all. I'd love to be able to tell you all about some young player showing signs of being a return-game prodigy or that one of last year's guys had suddenly figured it all out, but that's just not what we're hearing.

I could only find one mention of the return game anywhere in the various practice reports, and it was that there wouldn't be much change. Seniors Ed Wesley and Skye Dawson, along with sophomore Brandon Carter, remain the top candidates to drop back deep after a defensive stop. Dawson and junior Waymon James are the likely kickoff return men. Patterson did mention that they are working on some things with these guys to make them "tougher mentally and tougher handling the ball"

There will, I'm sure, continue to be plenty of speculation by fans as to who will perform the punt and kick return duties this fall. Along with the guys mentioned, redshirt freshman David Bush and incoming true freshmen Deante' Gray and Jordan Moore also seem to have the speed necessary to be a threat dangerous enough to take a kick back for six.

A much, much-needed W

With one of the few remaining games in which they could give their RPI ranking a boost, the Frogs came through with a 5-1 win- gaining a measure of revenge at the hands of UT-Arlington after having lost to the Mavericks in extra innings two weeks prior. TCU, who is for the first time in a while not an absolute lock to make the NCAA tournament, won their third straight, improved to 17-13 overall and moved up five spots in the RPI to #46. Some of the other positives to take away from last night:

-Kevin Cron hit his first home run of the season (and career). You may recall that I got a little ahead of myself by predicting he'd go yard AT LEAST once in the opening weekend against Ole Miss. Better late than never for his first collegiate four-bagger, and hopefully now that he's broken the ice he will regain some of the power-hitting confidence that led him to hit 28 as a high school senior in Arizona last year.

-Stefan Crichton threw just 48 pitches in his four innings of work, so he may be available to throw another couple of innings Saturday or Sunday against Air Force.

-The top of the order did what the top of the order is supposed to do. Brance Rivera and Kyle Von Tungeln both had two hits, and Rivera also walked once. That's an on-base percentage of .555, which is a great way to set the table for the middle of the order. Von Tungeln added a stolen base as well.

-Brandon Finnegan got his first win of the season (and career). Coach Schlossnagle has had a lot of great things to say about the potential of the freshman lefty from Fort Worth Southwest, but Finnegan had caught some tough breaks early in the season and lost his place in the starting rotation. Like Cron, hopefully Finnegan will gain some confidence from this first taste of success.

-The bullpen's overall line from last night: 5 innings pitched, 0 runs, 5 hits, 6 K's and 1 walk. For a team that has had offensive struggles all season long, having a strong pen is going to be a major asset going forward.

-Travis Evans got his first action of the season (and career). The freshman from Round Rock came in to start the Top of the 9th, and retired both batters he faced- including one strike out. I'm not sure how much Evans will be used the rest of the year, but it has to make Schlossnagle happy to have another left-handed relief option.

-Two insurance runs were added in the 7th using good base-running, patience at the plate and sacrifices. Freshman Keaton Jones collected the only Frog hit of the inning, and then stole second to get things moving. Walks by Rivera and Suiter helped things along, and RBIs were collected by Von Tungeln with a sac bunt and Elander with a sac fly. For a team that hits so few extra-base hits, it's good to see them manufacturing runs.

-It seems like I mentioned the contributions of freshmen quite a bit, didn't it? I don't think this team wants to use the excuse of youth for their early-season struggles, but the lack of experience sure hasn't helped them in some situations. It's nice to see more and more of the younger players stepping up.

Morning Dump

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