Monday, April 16, 2012

Spring Questions revisited: #4

Linebacker, as it has been for years now, was not supposed to be a major question mark for the Horned Frogs. Kenny Cain, the team's leading tackler in 2011, would be back- as would 2010 leading tackler Tanner Brock. The only real question was who would join them in the 2012 rotation and become leading candidates to start in 2013. Then obviously Brock was dismissed from the team, and linebacker shot up to #4 on my list of pre-spring questions.

As if linebacker depth weren't already strained enough, we learned very early on in spring practice that Greg Burks' career was ending early due to medical reasons. The special teams ace will not get the chance to take his bone-jarring hits to the defense as a senior this fall. Two other prospective linebackers will be plying their trade at other positions this coming season. Sophomore Antonio Graves, the high school quarterback turned safety/turned wide receiver/turned linebacker...has moved BACK to safety. Redshirt freshman Laderice Sanders has moved over to offense where he'll fill the void left at fullback by Luke Shivers' graduation.

With all of those departures and Kenny Cain being sidelined with an ankle injury (he's ok now, folks) early in spring practice, some of the younger guys got their chance to shine. Sophomore Deryck Gildon, who performed admirably on special teams as a true freshman last year after graduating from Arlington Martin a semester early, figured to be the favorite to win a starting job alongside Cain- whom Patterson called "the closest thing" to a leader for this defense.

Gildon, though, did not apparently do enough this spring to cement his status as a starter. He remained running with the first team in practices, but Patterson would not officially grant him the #1 middle linebacker job. Could this be a motivational tactic to get more out of what we all viewed as a future star, or is Gildon simply not progressing? I suppose time will tell.

The two names we kept hearing coming out of spring practice over and over were the pair of sophomore walk-on linebackers from Aledo- Danny Heiss and Joel Hasley. Patterson seemed to be praising these two guys quite often, and they look to comprise the second team for now, and the possibility remains for one of them to challenge Gildon to start.

Here's another place for a clear delineation between optimistic Frog fans...and those that constantly think that the sky is falling. Should we be worried because TCU's linebacking corps has been reduced to depending on non-scholarship players? Or are Heiss and Hasley's ascents up the depth chart another example of Patterson & his staff finding hidden recruiting gems and developing walk-ons into contributors like Jared Kessler, Ryan Christian, Bart Johnson and Robert Deck before them?

Three steps in the right direction

It was a good weekend all around for the TCU baseball team as they swept the visiting Air Force Falcons, stretching their winning streak to six games and improving their overall record to 20-13. The wins bumped the Frogs up a few spots in the RPI rankings, where they currently reside at #43, and helped move them into a 1st place tie in the MWC with New Mexico after the Lobos dropped a game against San Diego State. A few other notes from the weekend:

-Andrew Mitchell is Andrew Mitchell once again. There were big expectations this year for the sophomore from Houston, and he's starting to show why. On Friday night, he spread just 3 base hits over 7 scoreless innings, walking just 1 batter while striking out 13. He's improved to 4-2 on the season, and his ERA is down to 3.15 while his opponents' batting average is down to .188.

-The rest of the rotation isn't too shabby, either. Freshman Preston Morrison and Stefan Crichton both improved to 5-0 on the year with strong outings of their own on Saturday and Sunday. The Frogs' weekend starters can stand toe to toe with the 1-2-3 guys from any team in the country.

-As good as the starters were this weekend, the bullpen was even better. Juniors Kaleb Merck and Kevin Allen along with freshmen Trey Teakell, Brandon Finnegan and Travis Evans combined to allow just 4 hits in 7 ⅔ scoreless innings, walking 2 while striking out 8.

-Josh Elander and Jantzen Witte led a resurgent offensive attack. Elander (5-10, 4 RBI on the weekend) and Witte (5-11, 2 RBI) both went deep in Sunday's win, and the Frogs as a whole collected 26 total hits on the weekend to inch their team batting average back north of .240 for the season.

-Timely hitting by young guys. In the 1st inning of Friday night's win, freshmen Jerrick Suiter and Kevin Cron both delivered two-out, RBI singles to give the Frogs an early 2-0 lead. After Elander doubled to open up the 3rd inning of that game, Cron and Derek O'Dell followed his lead by each driving in a run on doubles of their own- expanding the TCU lead to 4-0 and knocking Air Force starter Cameron White from the game early.

-11,923 fans passed through Lupton Stadium this weekend, making this the 9th-best three game series in stadium history. Through 20 home games, the season total attendance is 83,460- which averages out to about 4,173 per game.

Highlights from Game 1:


Game 2:


Game 3:

Morning Dump

Baseball:

TCU sweeps Air Force as MWC Baseball race heats up Star-Telegram

Frogs complete sweep with 6-2 win gofrogs.com

Matt Carpenter goes 4-4 with first career HR and 5 RBI for Cardinals ESPN


Other Sports:

Men's Tennis blanks Air Force, 7-0 gofrogs.com

Women's Tennis defeats Rice, 4-3 gofrogs.com