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Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Take Two: TCU offense vs. WVU defense

By Jake Trotter

It's Take Two Tuesday time, when we give diverging opinions on a topic related to the Big 12.

Today's Take Two topic: which previously beleaguered unit will be more improved due to offseason coaching changes -- the TCU offense or the West Virginia defense?

Take 1: Max Olson -- TCU offense

When Gary Patterson set out to completely reshape how his Horned Frogs move the football, he found two guys who checked all the boxes in Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie.

They’re the protégés of two of the Big 12’s most successful Air Raid coaches (Mike Leach and Mike Gundy), they aren’t first-time OCs, they know the conference well, and they know how to recruit the state of Texas.

Meacham, the play caller, should probably be Oklahoma State’s OC today but instead put in a year at Houston where he coached up freshman QB John O'Korn to conference rookie of the year honors. Cumbie gets a chance to coach quarterbacks and brings plenty of knowledge about this scheme -- both coaching it and playing in it -- after working under Leach and Kliff Kingsbury.

Will TCU instantly become a 40-points-per-game offense because of the two new guys in the room? No. This is a complete offensive transition and that’s never easy, especially when you’re trying to mesh those philosophies with Patterson’s preferences in the TCU run game. Plus, you know, the fact the likely starting QB (Matt Joeckel) didn’t get on campus until June.

But this is a long-term commitment, and it’s going to put the Frogs in position to develop into a true annual contender in the conference.

Scrapping the statistically unpleasant offense of 2013 for this new look not only improves TCU’s chances of inking big-time skill players from the DFW area. This change can also help make TCU’s defense quicker and better adjusted in practice. It’s a win-win all the way around.

Take 2: Jake Trotter -- West Virginia defense

I love the moves Patterson made to boost the TCU offense. Cumbie and Meacham both have impressive offensive coaching resumes in the league and should instantly impact the Horned Frogs’ previous dilemma of scoring points.

But I believe the West Virginia defense will show more improvement this season given the moves the Mountaineers delivered in the offseason. But, even more crucial, given the players West Virginia has coming back.

TCU has a couple of nice pieces offensively, and possibly a big one that has enrolled this summer. Trevone Boykin is a valuable weapon, whether a situational quarterback or receiver. B.J. Catalon is one of the better backs in the league. Jordan Moore was one of the Horned Frogs’ best playmakers in the spring after swinging over to receiver from running back. TCU could also be primed for a major boost from Joeckel, who has more experience operating the Meacham/Cumbie offense than anyone else on the Horned Frogs roster. But the offense also has many holes to fill. The line was dreadful in 2013, and the offense is devoid of any all-conference-caliber receivers, at least on paper.

Meanwhile, the Mountaineers have fewer holes on their defense. They also made a hire in Tom Bradley that was as impressive as any made elsewhere in the league. Bradley coached alongside Joe Paterno at Penn State for more than three decades. As defensive coordinator from 2004-09, Bradley coached the Nittany Lions to six straight top 15 national finishes in total and scoring defense. He was also part of two national title teams and has coached in 26 bowl games.

Bradley brings a ton of experience to the Mountaineers defense. He has a great professional and personal relationship with new coordinator Tony Gibson. Athletic director Oliver Luck also noted that Bradley instantly brought a calming confidence to the team over the spring.

Gibson and Bradley will have some pieces to work with, too. All four linebackers come back to anchor the Mountaineers’ 3-4 attack, which is expected to put more emphasis on rushing the quarterback than previous West Virginia defenses under Keith Patterson and Joe DeForest.

The Mountaineers also return plenty of experience in the secondary, notably safety Karl Joseph and cornerback Daryl Worley, who both have All-Big 12 potential. The defensive line is the biggest question mark. But West Virginia partly addressed that by adding Gardner-Webb transfer Shaquille Riddick, who was an FCS All-American defensive end in 2013.

West Virginia has not finished better than eighth in the Big 12 in total defense since joining the league -- though injuries played a part in the disappointing finish in 2013. But under the new Gibson/Bradley regime, with more depth and an experienced core of players, the Mountaineers should be much improved defensively in 2013.