Big 12: Ed Wesley

Season report card: TCU Horned Frogs

January, 18, 2013
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We're grading each Big 12 team's season right now, and we'll move on to the next team on the list: The TCU Horned Frogs.

OFFENSE: You have to wonder what could have been for TCU in Year 1 in the Big 12 if Casey Pachall had stayed on the team, Ed Wesley hadn't left in May and Waymon James' knee had remained healthy more than a couple games into the season. Ifs and buts, candy and nuts, etc., but that wasn't the case. The early season was plagued by turnovers and missed opportunities in the red zone even with Pachall, and that's factored into this grade. The toughest thing for this offense to swallow was how strong its receivers were, but Pachall's replacement, Trevone Boykin, couldn't get Josh Boyce and Brandon Carter the ball consistently enough to make this an offense good enough to hang in the upper half of the Big 12. Boykin played gutsy ball and used his legs well, and had an ability to hit the big play when TCU often needed it, and clearly grew throughout the season. After TCU got blasted at home by Iowa State, I all but eulogized TCU's season. A bowl game was out. And then it wasn't. Against K-State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, the offense looked really, really rough, and let winnable games slip out of reach. The Frogs had a really impressive season, but the post-Pachall offense wasn't the reason why it happened. GRADE: C

DEFENSE: The Frogs got my vote as the Big 12's best defense. Stansly Maponga was a bit underwhelming on the defensive line, but Devonte Fields was better than anyone could have ever thought, winning the league's Defensive Player of the Year honors as a true freshman who only started to begin the season because DE Ross Forrest missed the season with a shoulder injury. Jason Verrett emerged as the league's best shutdown corner, a far cry from his awful outing to begin 2011 when RG3 torched Verrett and the Frogs. Elisha Olabode and Sam Carter filled out a strong secondary that forced 32 turnovers, tied for the most in the Big 12. Joel Hasley and Kenny Cain played well for an underrated linebacking corps that was gutted by the loss of Tanner Brock before the season and rising star Deryck Gildon being ruled ineligible and leaving for junior college. Nobody dealt with losses as heavy as TCU, and they happened on both sides of the ball. Gary Patterson strung together an amazing defense, despite it all, and led the league in total defense and yards per play. The Frogs gave up just 4.92 yards per play, nearly half a yard per play fewer than any other team in the Big 12. GRADE: A+

OVERALL: It's tough to grade the Frogs, whose seven-win season felt like a 10-win season, considering the circumstances. The offense had to play with one hand tied behind its back at times, without basically its entire offensive backfield. The defense lost almost as much, but filled in the holes at linebacker and Fields was a breakout star. Every win down the stretch was emotional, but you can't ignore there were only two of them in the final seven games of the year. TCU's impact on the Big 12 in Year 1 was bigger than its number in the win total. It showed a lot of toughness and to some degree, answered the "depth" question. Still, 7-6 is 7-6. GRADE: B-

More Big 12 report cards:

TCU youth forced to learn on the fly

October, 23, 2012
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Trevone BoykinAP Photo/Cal Sport MediaTrevone Boykin has racked up 863 yards and nine touchdowns since taking over for Casey Pachall.
Gary Patterson walked onto the practice field on Sunday unsure of what he'd find.

The Horned Frogs have played 16 true freshman this season, tied with Texas for the most in college football. Before this season, Patterson had never played more than six true freshmen.

It has just 11 scholarship seniors and nearly 70 percent of the 76 players who have taken the field this season for the Frogs have been either freshmen or sophomores.

On Saturday, Patterson's Tadpoles rallied from a double-digit deficit in the game's final three minutes to force overtime, but lost an emotional home game in triple overtime.

How his young players' spirits would respond was anyone's guess.

What he found brought a smile to his face: His team practiced better after the emotional loss than it did after a road victory at Baylor the previous week.

Coaches love to say the true measure of a team is how it responds to a loss. Patterson's got his answer in the toughest of scenarios.

"They’ve done what they have to. We’ve got to keep showing up and find a way to win, but really, through everything, they’ve handled it well," Patterson said. "They’re good kids."

Truth is, they've only had to play because TCU's faced unprecedented losses since the end of last season. The most high-profile case was earlier this month when junior quarterback Casey Pachall left the team to seek treatment for addiction after a DWI arrest. In January, four players were removed from the team after being swept up in a campus drug sting as part of nearly 20 student arrests.

One of three 700-yard rushers from a year ago, Ed Wesley, left the team for personal reasons after the spring and entered the NFL supplemental draft. The team's best remaining running back, Waymon James, suffered a knee injury earlier this season and will miss the rest of the year. Matthew Tucker missed last week's game, too, leaving much of the backfield duties to freshman B.J. Catalon.

True freshman Devonte Fields only earned a starting job after one of the team's leaders, Ross Forrest, injured his knee in the preseason and will miss the season.

Totaled up, more than 20 players Patterson thought he'd have this fall after the 2011 season are missing from the roster.

"Some years you just have those kinds of years. What I’ve always told them is in great programs, the next guy always steps up and that’s what has to happen, the next guy has to step up," Patterson said. "I think they’ve been good. Freshmen don’t know any better. They came in here to win championships."

Doing that in 2012 will be difficult with undefeated Kansas State looking strong in the driver's seat and TCU trying to weather the tougher back half of its schedule with redshirt freshman Trevone Boykin at the helm, replacing a seasoned veteran in Pachall.

Still, Patterson's been impressed with his team's response.

"What the kids understand is what we haven’t done as a coaching staff is we haven’t quit. We just keep coaching ‘em up and trying to find a way to win and I think kids respond to that," he said. "We’re trying to coach them like they’re juniors and seniors, get them to grow up and they have, even though we lost last week, I think we played better than we did last week against Baylor, as a football team."

The inaugural season in the Big 12 hasn't gone as planned, but there's still plenty on the table to play for in Fort Worth. Most of all, respect, and sending a message to the rest of the Big 12 that personnel losses won't affect the Frogs' ability to compete. So far, it hasn't, with wins over Baylor and a near-upset of a top-15 team in Texas Tech.

Patterson has no choice to play freshmen and sophomores now, but when those players become juniors and seniors, they'll be plenty tested and ready to chase those championships they signed up to earn for TCU.

"The kids have played hard, we’ve just got to keep moving forward," Patterson said.

What we learned in the Big 12: Week 8

October, 21, 2012
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Here's what I learned after five Big 12 games in Week 8:

K-State is the unquestioned leader for the Big 12 title. Any questions? Kansas State has three road victories against Top 25 teams this year and walked into Oklahoma and West Virginia and handed both Big 12 contenders humbling losses. Coach Bill Snyder has this team playing up to its potential, doing the same things it did last year ... just better.

Baylor has work to do to get into the postseason. The Bears are stuck in a three-game losing streak and are slumming at the bottom of the Big 12 standings at 0-3, just ahead of Kansas at 0-4. Baylor is a pretty good team, but the Big 12 is deep, and somebody has to get swallowed up. Baylor has four ranked teams left on its schedule and stands at just three wins overall. With Iowa State, Kansas and Oklahoma State left, the opportunities will be there for the Bears, but only KU looks like a gimme, and the Jayhawks nearly beat Baylor last year, even with RG3.

TCU is playing gutsy, gutsy football. The Horned Frogs have lost more players than anybody in the Big 12, but they keep chugging along and nearly grabbed a huge win against Texas Tech. Trailing by double digits with three minutes to play, Trevone Boykin hit LaDarius Brown for a 60-yard score to get the Frogs back in it. TCU played without Brandon Carter for much of the game, and its best offensive lineman, Blaize Foltz, was missing, too. Preseason All-Big 12 DE Stansly Maponga was out, and the team's top two backs after spring football, Ed Wesley (left team) and Waymon James (knee), are gone this season. Boykin is playing only because of the Casey Pachall mess earlier this fall, but TCU keeps hanging on. Saturday would have been one of the most emotional wins in a long time for the Frogs, but this team is still good and will be scary in 2013.

[+] EnlargeJ.W. Walsh
Richard Rowe/US PresswireJ.W. Walsh and Oklahoma State could still defend the Big 12 title, but a murderers' row awaits.
Texas Tech is a force to be reckoned with. The Red Raiders have one bad loss to a very good team in Oklahoma and eked out a triple-overtime, comeback win on the road against a good TCU team. How good are the Red Raiders? Well, they're one of just three teams (K-State, Oklahoma State) to control their fate in the Big 12 title race, so we'll find out exactly how good next week when they travel to Manhattan, Kan. The Red Raiders look legit, but in case you weren't watching on Saturday night, so did K-State, and significantly more so.

There is still hope for Oklahoma State. Beating Iowa State by three touchdowns isn't easy, even if the Cyclones' offense is struggling. Oklahoma State did it, and did it with its backup quarterback, J.W. Walsh. I generally think the quarterback "controversy" is a joke. This offense is built to run with Wes Lunt commanding things, and it will be his when he comes back, but when will that be? Oklahoma State is crazy if it hasn't had a frank conversation about a medical redshirt at this point. The Cowboys have just one Big 12 loss but a whole lot to prove with five more ranked teams on the schedule in the next five weeks. OSU still hasn't really beaten anybody, but it'll have plenty of chances.

West Virginia has hit rock bottom ... I think. Geno Smith said it after the game, and he's right: This is a terrible, terrible time for a bye week. The Mountaineers have two weeks to do some soul searching before hosting a young but improving TCU team. Those offensive issues last week against Texas Tech may have been a sign of things to come, and TCU knows a thing or two about playing some defense. Coach Gary Patterson learned a lot from these past two games, I'm sure. We know the WVU defense can't stop anybody, but will the offense regain its form? We won't know for another couple of weeks.
Hasn't TCU suffered enough attrition since the end of last season?

Apparently not. Add the team's leading rusher in 2011 and 2012 to the list. Waymon James won't be on the field for the Horned Frogs for the rest of 2012 after suffering a knee injury in last week's 20-6 win over Kansas.

From our news story:
TCU junior running back Waymon James will miss the rest of the season, a TCU official confirmed to ESPN.com Wednesday afternoon.

James suffered an apparent knee injury in the fourth quarter of last week's 20-6 win over Kansas, and coach Gary Patterson told reporters this week he believed James would be a game-time decision for Saturday's game against Virginia.

James' injury, which TCU declined to go into detail on, will keep him off the field for the rest of TCU's first season in the Big 12.

For now, that means the TCU running back spot belongs to Matthew Tucker. That's a pretty big surprise, but Tucker will be capable.

Even still, expect more of the offense to fall on junior quarterback Casey Pachall's shoulders. With less depth at running back and plenty at receiver with a capable passer in Pachall, it may be time for TCU to depend a little more on the passing game.

TCU's team is a prime example of how quickly depth can disappear. Tucker entered spring camp as the team's third running back in carries and rushing yards a year ago, despite the Frogs triple threat of running backs that each turned 120 carries into at least 700 yards in 2011.

In late May, Ed Wesley left the team because of family reasons and entered the NFL's supplemental draft. After James' injury, the Frogs are down to just one proven commodity in the backfield.

Tucker will get help from senior Aundre Dean and freshman B.J. Catalon, but TCU entered the season with arguably the best backfield in its new league, the Big 12.

Now? The Frogs are pretty average at the position.

And after all, that's the last thing TCU needed. The biggest question about the Frogs entering the Big 12 was if they had enough depth to win on a weekly basis in a major conference, rather than spending a whole season preparing for one big game to start the season or a big midseason showdown with Utah or Boise State, and then a bowl game.

Now, it looks like TCU won't even get a chance to prove whether or not that's the case. Here's who TCU won't have now in 2012 that at the end of 2011, it believed it would have:
  • The team's best linebacker and probable best overall defender, Tanner Brock (drug arrest, removed from team)
  • The team's second-best linebacker, Deryck Gildon (academics)
  • The team's second-best running back, Wesley (left team) and best running back, James (injury).
  • Starting defensive end Ross Forrest (knee injury)
  • Probable starting safety Devin Johnson (drug arrest, removed from team)
  • Probable starting offensive lineman Ty Horn (drug arrest, removed from team)
  • Probable starting defensive lineman D.J. Yendrey (drug arrest, removed from team)

That's a huge, huge deficit that Patterson's team has to try and make up when conference play heats up this fall. The result: TCU is playing 15 true freshmen already this season, as many as any team in the country and far more than any team in the Big 12.

Through two games, that lack of depth and experience hasn't shown up. It may not for awhile. TCU will likely favored to win its first seven games before a brutal finish to 2012.

TCU's final five games are on the road at Oklahoma State, at No. 8 West Virginia, home vs. No. 15 Kansas State, at No. 12 Texas and home vs. No. 6 Oklahoma.

TCU can hold court until then, barring an upset.

But once it gets to that stretch, will the Frogs have enough to make their first season in the Big 12 one to remember?
Y'all. It. Is. Game. Week.
I saw colleague Heather Dinich's look at the longest 1,000-yard rusher droughts in the ACC earlier this week, and got curious: What about the Big 12 droughts?

No big surprise, Texas Tech leads the way by a long, long time.

Florida State has the nation's longest 1,000-yard rusher drought (Warrick Dunn, 1996), but Tech is only two years behind.

The Big 12 had just three 1,000-yard rushers last year among teams that return for 2012, but every other team in the Big 12 has had at least one 1,000-yard rusher since 2007.

The last team to have two 1,000-yard rushers? Oklahoma's record-setting offense in 2008, which scored more points than anyone in college football history. DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown both topped quadruple digits.

The Big 12 is known for its passing acumen, and perhaps no one is synonymous with that than Texas Tech. Last year, Eric Stephens was well on his way to a 1,000-yard season before dislocating his knee, among other damage.

Here's how long each team's drought has been:

No drought
  • Baylor: Terrance Ganaway, 2011: 1,547 yards
  • Oklahoma State: Joseph Randle, 2011: 1,216 yards
  • Kansas State: Collin Klein, 2011: 1,141 yards

One year

  • Oklahoma: DeMarco Murray, 2010: 1,224 yards
  • TCU: Ed Wesley, 2010: 1,078 yards

Two years

  • West Virginia: Noel Devine, 2009: 1,465 yards
  • Iowa State: Alexander Robinson, 2009: 1,193 yards

Four years

  • Texas: Jamaal Charles, 2007: 1,619 yards
  • Kansas: Brandon McAnderson, 2007: 1,135 yards
13 years

  • Texas Tech: Ricky Williams, 1998: 1,582 yards

 

Assessing the contenders: TCU

August, 15, 2012
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To begin the season, I see six teams with a legitimate chance to win the Big 12. Today we'll continue our series looking at why each team will or will not win the league. Next up: The other new guys -- TCU

More contenders:
Why TCU will win the Big 12

1. Experience on offense. TCU is throwing out two seniors, two juniors and a sophomore on the offensive line, including one of the league's best in Blaize Foltz at right guard, with James Dunbar helping form another solid piece on the right side of the line at tackle. Quarterback Casey Pachall grew up a lot on the field as a sophomore first-year starter and has what should be four great targets, if you count LaDarius Brown. We know Josh Boyce will be an elite talent at receiver. Skye Dawson and Brandon Carter might join him. And at running back? Forget any questions there, even with the loss of Ed Wesley. Waymon James and Matthew Tucker are more than capable of handling the load.

2. They're well-equipped to handle the transition. The framework that Gary Patterson built his program upon is still very much in place. The players know what's expected of them in this program, even if they don't know what to expect in the fall. Never underestimate that. Patterson's studied up on Big 12 teams and recruited many of the same players he'll be facing. That's a big deal, too. There's plenty of familiarity for TCU and the rest of the league, and that's got to inspire confidence.

3. Big games? Who cares? That's nothing new. So TCU's been in the Mountain West? News flash: The Mountain West has been better than the Big East the past few years, where West Virginia's coming from. The bottom of the league is nothing short of awful, but at the top? Boise State and TCU played a classic last year, and BYU and Utah are solid teams, too. TCU also took down a very good Wisconsin team to win the Rose Bowl. TCU hasn't played quite as many Top 25 teams as the rest of the Big 12, but they've played 11 since 2008. And which Big 12 team has the best record against Top 25 teams over that period? That would be the Horned Frogs.

Why TCU won't win the Big 12

1. The defensive losses are just too much. TCU played without Tanner Brock last season, but he probably would have been the best player on this defense. He's gone after the drug scandal in the offseason. Grades took down Deryck Gildon, one of the players on the defense with the biggest upside who could have broken out this year. Likely starter Devin Johnson is gone, too. The Horned Frogs are replacing two more safeties. Defensive end Stansly Maponga is a load, but one impact player on the entire defense won't be enough.

2. It can handle big games, but can it handle them (literally) every week? Scoff if you want, but it's going to be an issue late in the season for the Frogs. They may be favored in their first seven games of the season, but TCU closes its season with five games against the other five teams on my list of Big 12 contenders in six weeks -- who could all be in the Top 25. Three of those games (Texas, West Virginia, Oklahoma State) are on the road. That's just absolutely brutal. The Frogs close with Oklahoma at home. Anybody believe TCU can get through that stretch 4-1? That's what it will take to win the Big 12.

3. It doesn't have enough high-level Big 12 talent. TCU's first team is definitely good enough to win this league. No doubt in my mind. However, injuries happen and guys get banged up, especially in a stretch like I described in my last point. TCU's recruiting hasn't been strong enough to the point where freshmen and sophomores are going to be serviceable replacements in the Big 12 that will allow the Frogs to keep winning. Ask Texas Tech. A handful of injuries can turn you from a truly great team into a very mortal one.

Mailbag: TCU loss, All-Big 12 NFL gripes

June, 1, 2012
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Thanks for all your e-mails this week. Here's where you can reach me. Let's get to it.

Dan in Fort Worth, Texas, writes: Hey David, I know losing Ed Wesley and Deryck Gildon were big for the Frogs, but I think Tucker and James and our various players at LB can pick up the slack there. My biggest concern is the losses on the O-line. By my count we've lost three this offseason for various, non-graduation-related reasons. We could be fairly shallow at that position. I know Casey will have a good season but how limited will he be by an inexperienced offensive line? And if you had to take the over or under on 9 wins for the Frogs now, which way would you go?

David Ubben: Yeah, depth will be an issue on the offensive line, but I like TCU's chances to have a really solid starting five alongside James Fry and Blaine Foltz, the two returning starters. It's definitely a question mark, but I tend to lean toward the positive side of things when that question comes up. Running back will be fine, and even without Ed Wesley, Waymon James and Matthew Tucker will be capable of producing even if the line isn't great.

I totally disagree with you on the linebackers, though. That's huge. I've really got no faith now in TCU at that position. Tanner Brock was a stud. Deryck Gildon could have become one. That's plenty to build around. Now?

The Big 12 is known as a passing league, but teams are more than willing to take advantage of defenses that can't stop the run. Just ask Texas Tech from last season. Its linebackers were awful, and the Red Raiders finished dead last in rush defense. If TCU doesn't have it shored up, it can't count on having a great secondary to get by. Texas Tech's safeties were pretty good, and the defense was still awful.

I've got no real questions about TCU's offense, even without Wesley. However, if the Horned Frogs are indeed falling away from title-contender status, it's because of all the offseason attrition on defense for various reasons. Very troublesome.


Jon in Davis, Calif., writes: Really, the drug scandals are what mars the season? What about Penn State?

DU: Clearly, Penn State was the most tragic incident of the past year, but it's been a rough year everywhere for college football. I was just focusing on the drug issues. The coaching scandals (Tressel, Petrino), a stinker of a national title game and the Penn State issues all marred the season, but our series in the past week tried to look at a different facet on each day.


Luke in Oskaloosa, Kansas, writes: I can somewhat understand why you put Bradford ahead of Freeman (although I think most would disagree) on the All-Big 12 Offensive Team. But in no way can you convince me, or anybody else for that matter, that Jordy Nelson does not beat out Dez Bryant. Are you serious? Honestly, what has Dez done that is in any way impressive? What has he accomplished that make you go, "Wow"? Jordy was one amazing, diving touchdown catch away from becoming a Super Bowl MVP two years ago (which would have totaled 3 for the game). He also has to compete with a way more talented receiving core than Bryant. 1,263 receiving yards and was the second in touchdowns for recievers in 2011 with 15 (only behind "Megatron"). Poor Jordy gets nowhere near the credit he deserves! Please, do your worst, and convince me.

DU: Numbers-wise, I'd probably agree with you. Nelson has been more productive. But really, if you're picking between those two receivers, you're taking Nelson. ... Really? No way. He's a great receiver, but consider who's throwing him the ball. Aaron Rodgers is the game's best quarterback. Also, consider that Nelson is probably his team's second or possibly third-best receiver. The Super Bowl MVP doesn't really mean anything. It's one game.

Bryant was his team's best receiver, and had to play without Miles Austin for much of the year. How often is Nelson seeing double coverage? That's Greg Jennings' job. Meanwhile, Bryant's got to fight for everything he gets, and has a less-talented quarterback throwing him the ball. The numbers aren't the only factor.

If you went around and asked NFL coaches who they'd rather have, you're crazy if you think they'd say Nelson. Productive, yes. Talented, yes. Better than Dez Bryant?

Uh, no.


Kevin Nowicki in Columbus, Ohio, writes: Don't mean to be disrespectful, but your article was useless. No one cares about marijuana use in NCAA football. Clearly you can smoke weed and still be good at your respective sport. You can even be pretty well conditioned and smoke weed. I know plenty of players have come through Ohio State and are able to have success on and off the field and be a marijuana smoker. Marijuana being a "bad" drug is a joke. All the negatives that can be said come from short term effects. This is sports. No more no less. This isn't the professional world where you have to manage way more things and don't have time to smoke. They make mad money. They are mad talented and can get away with it. Santonio Holmes was high while he caught the game winning Super Bowl catch. I guess lady mary jane really affected his motor skills on that play... not. Marijuana is harmless. Removing all the local bars around campuses would have more of a positive effect on the universities rather than cutting down on the most harmless drug of all time.

DU: On this issue, I don't think anyone's making the argument that marijuana affects your talent level to a noticeable degree. The NBA has been proving that for awhile.

But that's not the issue here. Above all else, it's illegal. You can't have players in your program using (or in TCU's case, selling) illegal substances. Have a problem with marijuana being illegal? This isn't the place to debate that. It's illegal. Players are getting caught using and dealing. A lot of people don't have a huge problem with kids drinking before they're 21. That doesn't make it legal.

That's breaking laws, and in the case of TCU, enough to bring about felony charges. And that's not an issue worth writing about?


Shawn in Claremore, Okla., writes: Hey Mr. Ubben I'm not sure if anyone has asked these questions but with the recent suspensions of the three Oklahoma Sooners wide receivers how do you think Landry Jones is gonna perform during this next season considering one of them was one of his top returning targets in Jaz Reynolds? Do you think it will hurt the offense enough to keep them away from a conference or national title?

DU: For OU, it's pretty simple. How ready are all these young receivers? I'm completely sold on Trey Metoyer. He's going to be a factor, and more likely a stud. But what about Sterling Shepard? Durron Neal? Juco transfer Courtney Gardner? What can those guys bring? How long will these guys be suspended? That's still not official.

The offense is going to take a hit early, but those freshmen receivers have a lot of potential. They're also needed immediately. It's going to be difficult. It's possible, but I'm not really buying OU as a national title contender. Big 12 title contender? It'll be a fistfight at the top (look for the Big 12 champ to have two losses), but OU's definitely the favorite in my book, even with the losses at receiver.


Josh in Manhattan, Kansas, writes: Would it ever be worth the time for the B12 to invite Arkansas? I know they have old ties with Texas schools and such and money wouldn't be much different. What are your thoughts?

DU: I've always thought Arkansas was a better fit in the Big 12, but it's never going to happen. As someone who grew up in Northwest Arkansas, the fans love the SEC and would revolt if the administration ever considered leaving. The Hogs would have a lot more geographic rivals (well, one less now that Mizzou is in the SEC), but it's hardly worth even thinking about. Arkansas fans still hate Texas more than any other program, but the school has moved on. It's hardly even worth discussing.

Lunch links: Meet HS graduate Wes Lunt

May, 29, 2012
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Technical fouls will be assessed for any comments that get out of hand today. You've been warned.
Just when you thought the offseason couldn't get worse for TCU, it does. Arguably the team's most talented rusher will leave the team.

TCU running back Ed Wesley will leave TCU because of family reasons, according to a report in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Coach Gary Patterson confirmed Wesley's exit, which leaves the Frogs with two 700-yard rushers entering fall camp in August.

Wesley was second on the team with 726 yards and six touchdowns in 2011. The Irving, Texas native was the Mountain West Conference freshman of the year in 2009 and earned all-conference honors in 2010. He was a semifinalist for the Doak Walker Award as the nation's top running back and would have been a senior in 2012.
Waymon James and Matthew Tucker will pick up the slack for the Frogs, and Nebraska transfer Aaron Green will be ready to go in 2013, but losing James is still a big gut punch. The senior was a leader, and accounted for 120 carries in 2011. James and Tucker will have to handle more of the load.

It could get worse for the Frogs, too. The Star-Telegram also reported linebacker Deryck Gildon, offensive lineman Carter Wall and fellow lineman Nykiren Wellington were off the team because of grades.

That's the last thing TCU needed this offseason. The Frogs already lost their top defender, Tanner Brock, after a campus drug sting before spring camp. Safety Devin Johnson, DL D.J. Yendrey and reserve OL Ty Horn were also removed from the team.

The biggest question for TCU heading into its inaugural Big 12 season was: Do the Frogs have the depth to win big? Offseason attrition is doing its part to make the answer to that question very clear.
I've been inspired by the boys at the Big Ten Blog, and this should be a fun walk-through each week in the new-look Big 12 next season. I'll pick one game a week during the season that I'd attend if it were entirely up to me. I don't make the call, and things change as games are played, of course. I'll include road nonconference games, too.
Here's the Week 14 slate in the Big 12:
  • Oklahoma State at Baylor
  • Kansas at West Virginia
  • Texas at Kansas State
  • Oklahoma at TCU
My pick: Oklahoma at TCU

Really, really tough call here. I may do some research between now and then and try to be two places at once. Ultimately, this one will come down to what the Big 12 standings look like at season's end.

I could easily see Kansas State and Texas both a) play for a game with serious Big 12 title implications and b) play the Big 12 game with the fewest pass attempts since, uh, a long time ago.

For now, though, I'll go with two teams with two of the best offenses in the Big 12 and close my Big 12 regular season with another visit to newcomer TCU.

The Sooners' linebackers are solid, but face a tough task in Matthew Tucker, Ed Wesley and Waymon James, the best trio of running backs in the Big 12, who all topped 700 yards and 100 carries in 2011. Quite the platoon, no doubt.

Oklahoma could have a lot on the line in this one, and one final game away from home for senior Landry Jones, who's improved away from Owen Field tremendously throughout his career. TCU's defense wasn't outstanding in 2011, but Gary Patterson's staked a claim as a defensive coach, and this could be a game that gives the Horned Frogs a chance to prove themselves and perhaps earn a Big 12 title on the final weekend of the season.

It'd be quite the dream scenario for the boys in purple. Oklahoma's been by far the best Big 12 program in the history of the league. Now, the Sooners come to town with the Big 12 title on the line?

What an atmosphere that would be in brand-new Amon G. Carter Stadium. I know the Horned Frogs will be dreaming about that one all season if the wins start rolling in.

Could TCU win a Big 12 title in its first season in the league? Could Oklahoma wrap up its eighth since 2000? I can't wait to find out.

Spring superlatives: TCU Horned Frogs

April, 10, 2012
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Time to continue our series breaking down each team's best and worst positions entering the 2012 season. TCU is up next.

More spring superlatives:
Strongest position: Running back

Simply put, this position is pretty absurd for TCU. The Horned Frogs have by far the deepest set of running backs in the league. Ed Wesley, Waymon James and Matthew Tucker all topped 700 yards rushing but each got at least 120 carries and not more than 123. That's crazy balance.

The Horned Frogs may not have a gamebreaker in the unit, and they put those numbers up in the Mountain West, but it's still impressive. Casey Pachall spearheads a great passing attack, but the Horned Frogs are more than capable of getting physical on the ground. Balance has been a benchmark of Gary Patterson's program, and it'll be especially true this year. Nobody in the Big 12 can boast anything close to three 700-yard rushers coming back, and TCU will use them all liberally.

Weakest position: Safety

TCU's safeties outpace the linebackers here, but after Tanner Brock got mixed up in the campus drug sting, there's a big question mark at both positions. Tank Carder was a stalwart at the position for the past three seasons, including the Rose Bowl win in 2010, but he's gone now. Brock missed 2011 with an injury, but the former All-American was expected back. He almost certainly will not return.

Safeties Tekerrein Cuba and Johnny Fobbs are both gone, and the position was already a trouble spot last year. You saw plenty of it in the loss to Baylor that opened the season. Devin Johnson, a likely starter this season, was also arrested in the drug sting and barring a stunning turn of events, won't be with the team this year. Now, it's up to sophomores Sam Carter, Jonathan Anderson and juniors Elisha Olabode and Trent Thomas to fill the void.

The good news? Coach Chad Glasgow is back to coach them after a year coordinating the defense at Texas Tech. The Horned Frogs were the nation's leader in total defense in 2008, 2009 and 2010 with Glasgow. That'll change in their new home in the Big 12, but hopes are still high.
TCU FansCal Sport Media/AP ImagesThe Horned Frogs move to the Big 12 next season, an AQ conference with a perfect geographic fit.
We'll cap our moving week by introducing a new team to the big stage: TCU, welcome to the Big 12.

Our former Southwest Conference teams surely remember the Horned Frogs, but it's time to get everyone acquainted. To help me out, we've got College Nation blogger Andrea Adelson.

David Ubben: Andrea, you've been around this program the last year or so. Most fans won't have to travel far when they make it to the newly renovated Amon G. Carter Stadium, but what can they expect for a game-day experience?

Andrea Adelson: TCU might not have a stadium as big as Texas or Oklahoma, but fans sure get loud and provide a really good home-field advantage. The Horned Frogs have won 26 of their last 27 home games, and coach Gary Patterson has lost only seven times there in his 11 seasons as head coach. The newly renovated stadium should provide even more of a home-field advantage as the student section has now been reconfigured to run goal line to goal line behind the opponent bench. Students typically get dressed up all in purple and there is one spirit organization known as the HyperFrogs that leads chants throughout the game to get everybody fired up. Word is that playing a full slate of Big 12 competition is going to spur even more excitement at games and lead to many more sellouts.

DU: I'm excited to see it. I've done baseball and basketball at TCU, but I've never been to a football game. I'll have to end that this year. I'm definitely buying the idea that TCU's attendance issues have been accentuated by some less-than-stellar opponents. I'm not impressed by the home record, though.

The Horned Frogs already have their hand signal ready, a signature of Texas teams from that old Southwest Conference, but what's this move, getting reacquainted with some old friends, mean to TCU?

AA: It means everything, David. TCU was so desperate to get into an automatic qualifying conference, it agreed back in 2010 to join the Big East and then tried to tell everybody that geography did not matter and making the move was the perfect fit. The truth is, TCU always had designs on the Big 12, but the league had no interest in the Horned Frogs. Maybe that is because they were viewed as the pesky little brother that needed to be kept locked in his room. But the shifting sands of realignment made it increasingly obvious that TCU was the no-brainer choice to join the Big 12. It is no wonder TCU jumped ship for a conference closer to home without ever having played a down of football in the Big East. The Horned Frogs have finally achieved the goal set when the Southwest Conference broke up -- and it took only three (and a half) league homes to get there.

DU: Yeah, people want to knock TCU for conference jumping, but how can you not when the non-AQ leagues are shifting as much as they have in the past couple of decades. There's no doubt about it: TCU is home. I was at the news conference when they announced the move, and I've never seen so many people in suits wearing enormous smiles.

Big 12 fans may know TCU's combo of quarterback Casey Pachall and receiver Josh Boyce, but who are a few names Big 12 fans should keep an eye out for in 2012?

[+] EnlargeEd Wesley and Waymon James
Troy Babbitt/US PresswireEd Wesley and Waymon James are part of TCU's deep running back corps.
AA: TCU has a three-headed running back trio in Ed Wesley, Matthew Tucker and Waymon James, and all three return for this season. The three nearly split their carries evenly in 2011 -- each getting over 100 -- and combined for 2,337 yards and 24 touchdown runs. On the defensive side of the ball, watch for DE Stansly Maponga, a first-team Mountain West selection who really blossomed in his sophomore season. Maponga had nine sacks, 13.5 tackles for loss and five forced fumbles and will be expected to anchor what should be a solid defensive line. I am also going to be intrigued to see how receiver Brandon Carter does in his sophomore season. He did play as a true freshman and had 352 yards and three touchdowns, but bigger things will be expected. He was one of the big gets in the 2011 recruiting class, a four-star prospect out of Euless, Texas.

DU: OU fans may remember Brandon Carter. He was almost a Sooner, but they wanted him to play corner. Safe to say he's feeling good about his decision now.

Time to put you on the spot, AA: Forecast the Horned Frogs' first year in the Big 12. Win total, conference record, bowl game and Big 12 finish.

AA: Without knowing the actual schedule, as in home games and away games, I am going to say at least eight wins and a finish in the top four. So that would project out to Alamo or Insight, and of course that depends on who else is eligible to be selected.

DU: Yeah, the Big 12 isn't really making this one easy on us.

I like what TCU's got coming back. This is a team that could run the table outside of the Big 12, but they may hit a few speed bumps in the transition. I'll say TCU wins nine games, finishes fourth in the Big 12 and heads to the Insight Bowl. Not a bad debut for a program that could see its success sky-rocket in years to come.

What to expect from WVU, TCU in 2012?

December, 21, 2011
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West Virginia, barring an injunction or other legal shenanigans, will be in the Big 12 in 2012. It, like Missouri and the SEC, has every intention of making this a reality.

So what can we expect on the field?

Brian Fremeau of Football Outsiders says the Mountaineers are one of three teams poised to take the next step. Insider

For West Virginia, who is in the BCS this year, that means winning at the same rate among more difficult competition: the Big 12 elite.
But the next step for head coach Dana Holgorsen in Year 2 is to dominate -- and do so against a stronger set of opponents.

Scan down the list of West Virginia's total offensive contributors this season and you'll find no seniors -- all 5,515 yards generated this season were earned by Mountaineers who will be back for at least another year under Holgorsen's tutelage.

The key is quarterback Geno Smith's continued development and Holgorsen finally getting a full offseason as the man in charge to fully install his vision of a ruthlessly efficient and potent attack. According to our opponent-adjusted ratings, West Virginia had a top-10 offense this year but has plenty of room to improve, especially in limiting mistakes. In their three losses, the Mountaineers had eight turnovers and collected only one turnover on defense.

Additionally, top teams like Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Baylor won't be quite as potent next year while the Mountaineers return a ton on the most important side of the ball to win in the Big 12.

Big East blogger Andrea Adelson weighed in with the other side of the ball:
1. The defense loses its best players in Julian Miller, Bruce Irvin, Keith Tandy and Najee Goode. Irvin, Tandy and Goode all made the Big East first-team. Miller should have been recognized as well. Also, does Jeff Casteel return as defensive coordinator? If yes, how will his unique stack defense fare against the wide-open Big 12 offenses?

First off, I'm not sure what she means when she talks about "defense." The term feels familiar, but yet, strangely foreign.

West Virginia isn't the only team to bring a lot of offense and experience into the Big 12 next season. TCU's top weapons -- quarterback Casey Pachall, receivers Josh Boyce and Skye Dawson, and running back Ed Wesley -- will all be back.

Expect strong showings in Year 1 for the Mountaineers and the Horned Frogs in a wide-open Big 12 race.

Big 12 new member update: TCU

October, 31, 2011
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Time for our weekly checkup with the league's new members. We'll kick off the first West Virginia update later today. But first, keeping up with the Horned Frogs so you don't have to.

Yet, anyway.

Record: 6-2 (3-0 Mountain West)

National rank: Receiving votes in AP, USA Today polls. Unranked in BCS standings.

Last result: Beat BYU, 38-28, at Cowboys Stadium on Friday night.

What to know: While you were busy watching Game 7 of the World Series, Gary Patterson's crew was busy beating up on BYU inside JerryWorld. Another prospective Big 12 member was across the sidelines, but for a fourth consecutive season, the Horned Frogs emerged as winners. TCU led 35-10 until a late charge made the final score respectable.

The crowd was late-arriving, but despite the unfortunate timing of the game, an announced crowd of 50,094 showed up at Cowboys Stadium for the game. TCU scored on a 48-yard pass to speedy, shifty Skye Dawson (He'll be one of the most fun players to watch in the Big 12 next year. Trust me on that.) on the second play of the game, and didn't look back. Casey Pachall finished with 147 yards and two scores on 13-of-23 passing. Ed Wesley had 59 yards on 12 carries.

A rolling snap meant an illegal kick from BYU, who also had a punt blocked by the Horned Frogs. BYU's punter dropped a snap on another punt to set up another TCU score. Big day for the Frogs' special teamers.

Up next: at Wyoming (5-2) on Saturday

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