By Wendell Barnhouse
2014 record: 12-1 overall, 8-1 in Big 12, defeated Ole Miss 42-3 in Peach Bowl.
Returning starters: 9 on offense, 6 on defense.
Top players returning: Senior QB Trevone Boykin, senior RB Aaron Green, senior WR Josh Doctson, senior WR Kolby Listenbee, senior C Joey Hunt, senior K Jaden Obrekrom, senior DT Davion Pierson.
Key players to replace: LB Paul Dawson, LB Marcus Mallet, SS Sam Carter, DT Chucky Hunter, CB Kevin White, OT Tayo Fabuluje.
The uncertainty and change of Spring 2014 has been replaced by the excitement and expectations of Spring 2015. A year ago, TCU was coming off a 4-8 season and facing doubts about its ability to compete in the Big 12.
Now, after a conference title that nearly landed the Horned Frogs in the first College Football Playoff, TCU is No. 2 in many preseason national polls.
One of the main reasons for TCU's success was the switch to last season's no-huddle spread offense that produced a school-record 604 points and turned quarterback Trevone Boykin into a national star. He returns for his senior season as does nine other starters.
The development on the defensive side will be crucial for TCU. Coach Gary Patterson must replace five starters. In the team's 4-2-5 scheme, the linebackers are crucial components. Gone are starters Paul Dawson and Marcus Mallett who combined for 236 tackles, 31½ tackles for loss and 7½ sacks.
Patterson's message to his team at the start of spring practice was that the challenge has changed from a year ago when simply competing to win the Big 12 was the biggest challenge.
"When they pick you low, you have to prove them wrong," Patterson said. "When they pick you high, you have to prove them right. For us right now, we have to prove them right. Because there are still people out there who don't think we can do it."
So this year's TCU motto is: "Prove Them Right." The phrase is full approved by Patterson.
"It's got a blue-collar attitude to it, but it's got some spark," he said.
Junior Cameron Echols-Luper won the long jump title at the Big 12 Indoor Track and Field Championship just before spring practice started. The plan for football was to have him move to cornerback but injuries at wide receiver kept him on the offensive side during the spring. His eventual position will be worth watching when practice starts in August.
TCU's staff underwent changes when veteran defensive coordinator Dick Bumpas retired. Safeties coach Chad Glasgow and linebackers coach DeMontie Cross will share the role of defensive coordinator in 2015. Head coach Gary Patterson, though, is heavily involved on the defensive side and does the play calling during games.
Senior quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate Trevone Boykin missed the last week of spring practice to undergo surgery on his left (non-throwing) wrist. The procedure was needed to repair an injury he suffered during the season and Boykin was expected to be fully cleared for workouts at the end of May.
Coach Gary Patterson on …
Replacing five starters on defense:
"A lot of production came out of those five guys. That's why those guys played so well the last couple of years. So how do you get these guys, this group here, to where they know and react so they can play, not just do their job? When the whole group talks to each other, like we did a year ago, life is pretty easy. If everybody stands there and worries about just their job, then you have a lot of problems. Not just in our defense — every defense."
Finding two new starting linebackers:
"Right now we don't have starters. We've got a bunch of guys who are 2s. (Junior) Sammy Douglas is the guy that is really trying to make an effort to be what we want him to be. He's an unbelievable athlete. He can do all that. It just takes time to play linebacker."
Who will be Trevone Boykin's backup at quarterback:
"I wouldn't say we feel like we have a backup that we feel like we can win a Big 12 title with at this point. But I think we're a lot farther along than what we were when we started 15 practices ago."
|Sept. 3||at Minnesota|
|Sept. 12||Stephen F. Austin|
|Sept. 26||at Texas Tech*|
|Oct. 10||at Kansas State*|
|Oct. 17||at Iowa State*|
|Oct. 29||vs. West Virginia*|
|Nov. 7||at Oklahoma State*|
|Nov. 14||vs. Kansas*|
|Nov. 21||at Oklahoma*|