TCU football is now just days away from the start of the 2018 season. And the outlook for the Horned Frogs is promising once again as they enter the fall ranked the No. 16 team in the country.
Undoubtedly, the latest installation of the team, which head coach Gary Patterson has carefully assembled, has the potential to do big things on the football field. But for all the questions that one can answer in the preseason, some are left unknown until Saturdays in the fall.
With fall camp now in the books and the Horned Frogs set to get the ball rolling against Southern on Saturday, here are three of the biggest questions facing the Frogs.
- Just how much as the offensive line grown up?
We’ve heard it repeatedly by now — that the offensive line has been the “biggest surprise” this offseason for the Horned Frogs. TCU lost the majority of its starters on the unit from a year ago due to graduation, and it was a fearsome group of players up front to say the least. Offensive tackles Joseph Noteboom and Matt Pryor were both selected in the 2018 NFL Draft, and could very well receive playing time — if not starting time — in the league this fall.
As the page turns to the 2018 season, Cordel Iwuagwu returns at offensive guard as the most experienced player among the group after starting in every game for the Horned Frogs in 2017. JUCO transfer Anthony McKinney, at 6-foot-8 and just more than 300 pounds, is also set to provide immediate help at tackle. So indeed, the pieces — and an exceptional coaching staff — are present for the group to have made rapid progress. Just how much will be evident in the opening weeks, and it will dictate how effective an otherwise star-studded offense can be.
- Will Shawn Robinson be the real deal at QB?
The hype has been present ever since Shawn Robinson — a former state champion at DeSoto High School — announced in 2016 that he’d be taking his talents to TCU. And now that his time has come to assume the starting quarterback duties for the Horned Frogs on a full-time basis, it’s all eyes on the North Texas native.
Horned Frogs fans got a glimpse of what Robinson was capable of when he started in place of an injured Kenny Hill at Texas Tech last November. But as impressive as Robinson’s 84 rushing yards were in that 27-3 victory, there were plenty of hiccups, ranging from overthrown passes to a lost fumble. With an offseason to develop since then, TCU fans should be excited for what the dual-threat sophomore is able to accomplish both on the ground and through the air this fall. Still, Robinson has yet to find himself under center in a high pressure environment at the collegiate level, and we’ll see how he handles it later this month when the Horned Frogs take on Ohio State and Texas in consecutive weeks.
- How much rotating will there be on defense?
TCU is poised to showcase the top defense in the Big 12 for yet another season this fall, but the unit won’t look exactly how we envisioned it when the Horned Frogs take the field — at least entering the season.
The TCU defense is already down one big name, as defensive tackle Ross Blacklock will miss the 2018 season due to an Achilles injury which he suffered in practice several weeks ago. As other players have dealt with bumps and bruises, Patterson hasn’t been afraid to mix things up. That became all too clear when the Horned Frogs released their Week 1 depth chart last Friday, which featured Ty Summers shifting from his traditional position of linebacker to defensive end. Sophomore Garrett Wallow was also among those shifts, moving from safety to linebacker.
It’s hardly the first time that the Horned Frogs have done some extensive tinkering on defense. Patterson was forced to do so throughout the entire 2015 season as injuries, departures and even suspensions ate away at the unit — and yet TCU still found a way to go 11-2 that year. Sure, Trevone Boykin and Josh Doctson provided enough points on offense to overcome any defensive hiccups, but the point remains that this is hardly Patterson’s first rodeo.
As players return to full strength, expect the unit to take a more concrete shape. Just don’t be surprised if rotations continue either.
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