Posted on: March 7, 2011 12:26 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice . So we here at the Eye on College Football will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers . Today, we look at TCU , who began practice over the weekend.
Spring Practice Question: Do the Horned Frogs have the offensive firepower to slam the door in the Mountain West's face on their way out?
Remember how when NBA legends like Julius Erving would announce their retirement, their final season would be a long series of tearful goodbyes as the legend-in-question would be showered at each road venue with gifts and well-wishes? And you know how this is TCU's final season in the Mountain West, the conference it's won three times and helped shape into a national power on the cusp of an automatic BCS bid? Yeah, that season is going to be the complete opposite of that NBA thing.
Because the Mountain West has done all it can to skip the bouquets and send the Horned Frogs off to the Big East with a giant kick in the pants. Not only did the league unilaterally force TCU to forgo their biggest home game of the year in exchange for a brutal road game at Boise State, they ignored the Frogs' choice for a bye week in favor of giving them weeks off before New Mexico and UNLV ... two miserable teams the Frogs could have swept in a doubleheader the week after going to Boise if they had to. It's safe to say there's nothing the MWC wants more than to see TCU flail their way out of a league that spent the year proving it didn't need them; it's equally safe to say there's nothing Gary Patterson would like more than to say good-bye with the raised middle finger of a third straight conference championship.
But entering spring practice, the odds look much longer than they did in either 2009 or 2010. While part of that is the enhanced schedule -- even the Frogs' undefeated showdowns with Utah the past two seasons won't present nearly the challenge of taking on the Broncos on the blue turf -- the much larger part is facing down that schedule with so much lost on offense. Eight starters are gone from the unit that helped bring home a Rose Bowl title, a group headlined by four-year quarterback starter and career 10,000-yard passer Andy Dalton.
But the losses go much deeper than that. The Frogs' second-, third- and fourth-leading receivers are all departed, including top go-to possession wideout Jeremy Kerley and the reliable Jimmy Young. Bookend 6'6" tackles Marcus Cannon and Zach Roth have both graduated. In the interior of the line, the Frogs must replace 300-pound guard Josh Vernon and 308-pound All-American center Jake Kirkpatrick, only the 2010 Rimington Trophy winner.
The good news for TCU is that particularly at the skill positions, they seem positioned to weather the storm. Quarterbacking heir-to-the-throne Casey Pachall was one of Patterson's most highly-regarded recruits, has drawn rave reviews in practice, and should be more than ready as a redshirt sophomore. The tailback tag-team of juniors Ed Wesley and Matthew Tucker -- who combined for 1,787 yards and 18 rushing touchdowns in 2010 -- returns intact. Top receiver Josh Boyce is back after a breakout redshirt freshman season that saw him average an eye-popping 19 yards per reception.
But there's only so much all that skill-position talent can do if the four new starters up front aren't up to the task. Spring camp should give Patterson and the TCU fans an excellent chance to gauge their progress across from one of the perennially best-coached defensive fronts in the country (not to mention Tank Carder). If the line shows potential, Pachall lives up to the hype, and some member of the Frog receiving corps steps up to provide some measure of balance across from Boyce, it won't be too early to start dreaming about yet another BCS season.
But if not? Boise's going to start licking their chops (to say nothing of teams like BYU, San Diego State, Baylor, etc.), and the MWC bigwigs can start their dreaming about having the last laugh.
Tags: Andy Dalton, Baylor, Big East, Boise State, BYU, Casey Pachall, Ed Wesley, Gary Patterson, Jake Kirkpatrick, Jeremy Kerley, Jimmy Young, Josh Boyce, Josh Vernon, Julius Erving, Marcus Cannon, Matthew Tucker, Mountain West, NBA, New Mexico, Rimington Trophy, Rose Bowl, San Diego State, Spring Practice Primer, Tank Carder, TCU, UNLV, Utah, Zach Roth
Posted on: November 13, 2010 6:24 pm
Edited on: November 13, 2010 6:25 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Scary stuff from Fort Worth today: during the first quarter of the San Diego State - TCU game, TCU offensive line coach Eddie Williamson suffered a heart attack, according to head coach Gary Patterson. Williamson was hospitalized, obviously, but at the very least, he's reportedly in stable condition.
Williamson is in his late 50s, and has been a member of the TCU staff since 2001. His offensive lines have been among the best in college football recently, and TCU center Jake Kirkpatrick is the only offensive lineman still in the running for the Lombardi Award.
It's hard not to immediately harken back to Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio, who survived a heart attack immediately after his team's overtime victory against Notre Dame. That's scary enough. But during a game, as what happened to Williamson? It's almost unfathomable. Thank goodness Williamson is recovering, and that fans in Fort Worth didn't have to witness something truly awful.
Posted on: November 11, 2010 1:06 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
There are still four weeks of regular season football left, but the Lombardi Award has evidently seen enough to select four finalists already. The finalists for the Lombardi Award, given annually to the top lineman or linebacker in college football (no linebackers are in the running this season), are listed below.
Clayborn is unlikely to win, as his 2010 statistics aren't nearly at the level of last season; it'll take an Iowa win over Ohio State that prominently features Clayborn in a disruptive role to bring him into the conversation as a potential winner. Even then, it might not do much to the overall narrative.
Nick Fairley was relatively unheralded coming into the season, but he has been an absolute terror on the interior and is easily the defensive MVP for the undefeated Auburn team. His 18 tackles for a loss lead all defensive tackles; he's got to be a unanimous All-American at DT this season.
TCU's offense is rolling, and Jake Kirkpatrick is the presumptive winner of the Rimington Award this season, but an offensive lineman hasn't won the award since Orlando Pace won at Ohio State in 1995 and 1996. Though we mean zero disrespect to Kirkpatrick, he is not the transformative blocking talent that Pace was, and Kirkpatrick will probably be the first to agree (humility is sort of an offensive lineman's "thing"; this usually only intensifies toward the middle of the line).
That leaves Da'Quan Bowers, the star defensive end for Clemson. Bowers leads the nation in both sacks and tackles for loss, and has generally made iife hell for opposing quarterbacks; while the Clemson defense's touchdowns and yards per pass are generally pretty pedestrian, its overall pass efficiency defense is one of the better in the nation. The incompletion percentage and interception percentages, meanwhile, are relatively high. That means one thing: pressured passes ahoy, and plenty of that credit goes to a terrorizing defensive line. Unless Clemson collapses down the stretch, this award is Bowers's to lose, and it would be an honor well-earned.
Posted on: November 2, 2010 6:56 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
If there's been one defining, overarching narrative to the 2010 season to date, it's been ... well, maybe it's been the upheaval at the top of the polls that's seen preseason outsiders Oregon and Auburn seize control of their national championship destiny with four weeks remaining in the season. But if there's been two co-defining narratives, the second, without question, would be the rise of non-AQ teams like Boise State , TCU , and Utah into not only the BCS bowl picture but the BCS national championship picture.
So it's perhaps something of a shame that the lists of semifinalists for the Lombardi Award and the Thorpe Award -- given to the nation's best down lineman or downhill linebacker and best defensive back, respectively, and both announced within the past week -- do little to acknowledge that rise. The lists:
Lombardi AwardSam Acho, Defensive End, Texas, 6-3, 260, Sr., Dallas, TX
Jeremy Beal, Defensive End, Oklahoma, 6-3, 267, Sr. Carrollton, TX
Da'quan Bowers, Defensive End, Clemson, 6-4, 275, Jr., Bamberg, SC
Adrian Clayborn, Defensive End, Iowa, 6-4, 285, Sr., St. Louis, MO
Jared Crick, Defensive Tackle, Nebraska, 6-6, 285, Jr., Cozad, NE
Nick Fairley, Defensive Line, Auburn, 6-5, 298, Jr., Mobile, AL
Cameron Heyward, Defensive Tackle, Ohio State, 6-5, 288, Sr., Suwanee, GA
Rodney Hudson, Offensive Guard, Florida State, 6-2, 282, Sr., Mobile, AL
Greg Jones, Linebacker, Michigan State, 6-1, 240, Sr., Cincinnati, OH
Ryan Kerrigan, Defensive End, Purdue, 6-4, 263, Sr., Muncie, IN
Jake Kirkpatrick, Center, TCU, 6-3, 305, Sr., Tyler, TX
Drake Nevis, Defensive Tackle, LSU, 6-5, 285, Sr., Marrero, LA
Thorpe AwardPrince Amukamara, Sr., Nebraska
Mark Barron, Jr., Alabama
Chimdi Chekwa, Sr., Ohio State
Brandon Harris, Jr., Miami (Fla.)
Cliff Harris, Soph., Oregon
Tejay Johnson, Sr., TCU
Joe Lefeged, Sr., Rutgers
Rahim Moore, Jr., UCLA
Patrick Peterson, Jr., LSU
Tyler Sash, Jr., Iowa
Congratulations are in order for all 22 of these players, each of which is, without question, an outstanding college football athlete and certainly deserving of the honor of becoming a semifinalist.
But it feels remiss not to note that in this year of unprecedented prominence for non-AQ programs, only two of those 22 players represent a non-AQ team, and those two -- TCU 's Jake Kirkpatrick and Tejay Johnson -- each represent the same team. The other 53 teams? Nothin'.
This can be explained, to some extent, by the undeniably true fact that most of the game's best athletes and players ply their trades in BCS leagues. But no one on the Boise State defense that currently ranks third in both scoring and total defense (or Utah's, which ranks sixth in both categories) is worthy of inclusion? Marshall defensive end Vinny Curry , tied for third nationally with 9.5 sacks and seventh nationally with 13.5 tackles for loss (one of only four players to rank in the top 10 in both categories) can't get a nod? Strong safety Domonic Cook of Buffalo leads the country in both passes broken up and interceptions; there's not room enough for him here?
There's no question that it's always going to be an uphill climb for non-AQ players who rarely play on national television and even more rarely receive the sort of fawning from scouts and writers that helps buoy campaigns for national honors, and that's fine. But it's worth wondering whether, in a season like this one, if the climb ought to be quite this steep.
Pictured: Boise State defensive lineman Ryan Winterswyk.
Tags: Adrian Clayborn, Boise State, Brandon Harris, Cameron Heyward, Chimdi Chekwa, Cliff Harris, Da'quan Bowers, Drake Nevis, Greg Jones, Jake Kirkpatrick, Jared Crick, Jeremy Beal, Joe Lefeged, Lombardi Award, Mark Barron, Nick Fairley, Patrick Peterson, Prince Amukamara, Rahim Moore, Rodney Hudson, Ryan Kerrigan, Ryan Winterswyk, Sam Acho, TCU, Tejay Johnson, Thorpe Award, Tyler Sash, Utah