Gary Patterson is one of greatest defensive minds in college football, and last season put him to the test. Injuries plagued TCU’s defense for a majority of the season losing defensive end James McFarland, linebacker Sammy Douglas, safety Kenny Iloka, and cornerback Ranthony Texada all by the third game of the season. Freshman Travin Howard and Montrel Wilson had to convert from safety to linebacker to aid an already thin linebacker corp. Even with all the injuries to the Horned Frogs in 2015, they still managed a 11-2 record, capping the season with the largest comeback in bowl game history at the Alamo Bowl.
Heading into the 2016 campaign, TCU’s defense should be back to full form and be ready to make another run at the Big 12 Championship. The Horned Frogs will be returning 11 players with starting experience on the defensive side of the ball. This will be coach Patterson’s most experienced group since his 2010 team which went 13-0 and won the Rose Bowl, so expectations are high.
The defensive line will feature last seasons sack leader Josh Carraway and 2014’s sack leader James McFarland, who was sidelined last season due to a broken toe. Aaron Curry and Chris Bradley will be returning starters as well. Incoming freshman and four star recruit Ross Blacklock could see some early playing time as well and junior college transfer Mat Boesen and sophomore Tipa Galeai both performed well in TCU’s spring game.
The linebacker will be one of the deepest positions this year. Both Howard and Wilson will be more knowledgeable of the position after spending a full offseason working at linebacker instead of safety. Howard was last years leading tackler and has but on weight to help take on the punishment of his new position. Wilson was fifth on the team in tackles and Ty Summers, who only had five starts, finished third. Summer had 23 tackles against in the win against Baylor, which was the most by any player under Patterson. Howard and Wilson are currently listed as starters with Summers and Douglas as backups. With Douglas back full strength, TCU with have an experienced group on linebackers to rotate in and out.
TCU’s secondary has been their achilles heel the past two season and heading into 2016 it is still looking shaky. Texada is coming off a knee injury he suffered in the third game last season and is expected to be ready and back to full form by the start this season. However Julius Lewis, who had a breakout year last season, suffered an injury during the offseason and will be sidelined for the upcoming season. Their is still hope for the Horned Frogs as redshirt freshman Jeff Gladney had an impressive spring training. Patterson also moved Tony James from receiver to corner as well. Either Gladney or James will be the second cover with Texada, or if Texada needs more time to recover, both Gladney and James will start.
The Horned Frogs had a lot of injuries in 2015, but that gave their young guys plenty of valuable experience and that defensive unit continued to improve as the season went on. Now TCU has the opportunity to get back to being the top defense in the Big 12. Even with the uncertainties at corner, Patterson always seems to finds a way.
Feature Image Credit: collegefootballnews.com
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