Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Randy Shannon & the Continual Rise of TCU Linebackers

All your linebackers are belong to us

The linebacker corps at TCU may be a little thin right now, but the potential for greatness has never been higher. (Well, except when Brock was still on the team)

Out of fear of being compared to Penn State's off the field transgressions, I refuse to call TCU the new "Linebacker University", but over the past few years we have churned out some real talent at the position and sent more than our fair share to play in the NFgoodelL.

Current TCU linebackers in the NFL include:

David Hawthorne - New Orleans Saints (Drafted by the Seahawks)
Drafted 2008

Jason Phillips - Carolina Panthers (Drafted by the Ravens)
Drafted 2009

Daryl Washington - Arizona Cardinals
Drafted 2010

Tank Carder - Buffalo Bills
Drafted 2012

I can understand why we might worry at the position with our current depth and recent transgressions, but the future seems bright with the (all-but-confirmed-by-the-school) hire of Randy Shannon.  The guy should be a recruiting monster for us and provide access to areas in the South East we haven't touched in some time.  Can you imagine being a defensive stud and having Patterson and Shannon show up at your door?  I also have high hopes that he can bring our young talent up to speed quickly.  I for one feel it may even make the situation easier for guys like Hilliard and McFarland who could be called upon to put in significant playing time. Both coach and players will realize how hard they will need to work to be on the same page and get this machine working.

On a side note, does it seem a little odd that Shannon would come in to be a linebackers coach for a 4-2-5 system?  I'm fairly certain this system is new to him.  Perhaps this is a small hint that he may be sticking around for a little longer than some people are speculating.  Perhaps he has aspirations of taking a over for a certain mustachioed coordinator down the line.  Who knows?  I sure as heck don't, but I'd love to hear our dear audience's opinion on it.

What are your thought's on the (alleged) Randy Shannon hire and our current situation at linebacker?

Do our current LBs benefit from it, or does losing Tademy still sting?

Will Shannon be around for a while, or is this just a stepping stone into another DC or head coaching gig?

In Other News...

Hi everybody! Since this is the best week to sneak anything across the radar in sports, I figured it was the perfect time to introduce myself to the denizens of this fine site. My name is Melissa, and I'm a Horned Frog. I have begged my way into becoming a contributor, and I hope to bring my own version of snarkiness and SMU Hate to the party. I promise to never refer to the QB from Baylor by his stupid nickname, to do my part to not let the world forget that #CJK5H, and to tweet obsessively about TCU (@CoachMelissaGB).

A little bit about myself; I'm a TCU graduate, spending my formative learning years in Moudy South. I was there when The Greatest Frog of Our Lifetime hit 406 and when our basketball team was actually good. Being a California Native, attending the Rose Bowl and seeing So Cal decked out in Purple was especially gratifying, even more so since I was a student during some pretty lean years. Thankfully, I'm back in the promised land now, living in FW just a couple of miles from campus.

For my first post, The Finch asked me to write up my expectations for the coming season, in light of Big 12 Media Days and our projected 5th place finish. So, without further ado...


The up-coming football season is kind of a big deal. With the pressures of a new conference, a new stadium, and a little "off-season incident" (maybe you're aware?), much has been written nationwide about whether the Frogs will continue to play at the high standard we've come to expect in Fort Worth, or crash and burn as they deal with the depth and talent of the Big 12.

Pachall dialing up another long TD?
I think most of the Frog Faithful are taking a wait and see approach before going all-in with their expectations - while there is certainly reason for skepticism, there's no shortage of optimism either. TCU returns the bulk of their skill position players on offense, including one of the more dynamic duos in the country, QB Casey Pachall and WR Josh Boyce. Add that to a deep backfield- even with the loss of Ed Wesley not many teams outside of Austin can trot out a three deep that matches what Patterson has to play with - an explosive array of receivers that boast both size (LaDarius Brown) and speed (Skye Dawson), and an offensive line anchored by one of the true athletic freaks in CFB (Blaize Foltz), TCU should have no problem fitting in and keeping up on offense in the high flying Big 12. There are of course questions - the offensive line lost two tackles and an all-conference guard, replacing Wesley is a potential issue, and the backup QB position is in a bit of flux as Matt Brown and Trevone Boykin continue to battle - but what all the pundits keep coming back to is the defense.

Stansley Maponga will wreck you.
Oh, the defense. Since that fateful day in Waco almost a year ago, some of the shine has seemed to come off of Patterson's long standing reputation as the best defensive coach in the country, and the once over-powering TCU D has fallen back to earth. Now, heading into what is probably the top offensive conference in the country, can the team that gave up almost 400 yards per game in the MWC slow down the explosive teams they will see week in and week out? It's easy, if you still believe in GMFP (and count me firmly in that camp), to assume that the defense HAS to be better. After getting torched by the Redskin's new QB (I'm pulling a Bobby Knight and refusing to use his name), Jason Verrett and company improved significantly against the pass. There were bumps in the road, certainly, but JV should be a steady and reliable presence on the back end. JC transfer and early-enrollee Keivon Gamble will have much expected from him, but much like Verrett a year ago, don't be surprised if it takes him some time to fully grasp the nuances of GP and Dick Bumpas' D but ultimately performs well. The safeties are a group I think could really surprise - the freshman duo of Jordan Moore and Zach Johnson, aka The Georgia Smash Bros, will have every opportunity to get on the field and could be absolutely dynamic in the 4-2-5. Junior Elisha Olabode will be counted on as the "veteran" of the group, and had a solid 2011 campaign. The defensive line should be disruptive - all conference DE Stansley Maponga returns and looks to build on his impressive sophomore season, Ross Forrest is consistent and should anchor the other end position. Sophomore D tackles David Johnson, Jon Lewis, and Chuck Hunter , who were young and inexperienced a year ago, come back bigger, stronger, and with plenty of playing time to build on. The biggest question mark is at the LB spot, where the loss of Tanner Brock and Deryck Gildon may loom large in the middle of the defense. Kenny Cain returns after a strong 2011 campaign, but the amount of experience after him is severely lacking. There are some talented young prospects more than capable of stepping in and picking up the slack, but certainly a lot of unknowns. It also bears mentioning that TCU will have a new LB Coach, but if rumors are true and the job is Randy Shannon's, the position should be shorn up by the time camp breaks.

So, what's a realistic record for this season's team? A lot will come down to TCU's ability to win the games they should win - Grambling, Virginia, Iowa State, Texas Tech at home; Kansas, SMU, Baylor on the road. These aren't all gimmies, but you'd imagine the Frogs would be favored in their first seven games. The final five game stretch; at OK State, at WVU, K State at home, at UT, and OU at home; may very well determine the Big 12 champion as well as whether the national media declares TCU's inaugural Big 12 season a success or not. 

Are five conference wins good enough for a first run through the Big 12? Are six overachieving? I certainly have gotten used to 10+ win seasons, but I doubt many people would be disappointed with 8-9 W's in light of everything the team has endured on and off the field this off-season. Ultimately, wins are what matter, but it's also going to be crucial for the program (and the fans) to see the TCU defense bounce back from a down year in 2011 and get back to being one of the top in the country. How quickly the young players, especially the freshmen that will need to have an immediate impact, pick up the system and are able to contribute will be critical. And of course Pachall's continued growth at the QB position and as a leader, plus his ability to put the team on his shoulders and just outscore opponents a la Boise, could make huge difference down the stretch.

There are more questions than answers going into a new, improved conference, but there's no reason not to believe that TCU won't be as well prepared, well coached, or as competitive as any team they face. Thankfully, it's almost time to stop the talking and the speculating, the hand wringing over the drug scandal and the player losses, and let these men do their talking on the field.

Morning Dump

I've never dumped before, so apologies in advance if it's a little loose.

Source: Ex-Miami coach Shannon headed to TCU as linebackers coach SI

Big 12 has Horned Frogs hopping for joy My San Antonio

Horned Frogs will have to wait Statesman.com

TCU embraces new challenge in the Big 12 KansasCity.com

TCU in familiar role as underdog in Big 12 Star Telegram

Big 12 media days: This season is personal for TCU, players say OU Daily

TCU QB Casey Pachall updates where Tanner Brock may be headed