Big 12: Greg McCoy

TCU spring wrap

May, 9, 2012
5/09/12
7:00
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2011 overall record: 11-2
2011 conference record: 7-0
Returning starters: offense: 6; defense: 7; kicker/punter: 0

Top returners
QB Casey Pachall, RB Waymon James, DL Stansly Maponga, RB Ed Wesley, RB Matthew Tucker, WR Josh Boyce, LB Kenny Cain, DB Jason Verrett

Key losses
LB Tank Carder, LB Tanner Brock, S Tekerrein Cuba, S Johnny Fobbs, WR Antoine Hicks, S Devin Johnson

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Waymon James* (875 yards)
Passing: Casey Pachall* (2,921 yards)
Receiving: Josh Boyce* (998 yards)
Tackles: Kenny Cain*(72)
Sacks: Stansly Maponga* (9)
Interceptions: Tank Carder, Kris Gardner, Greg McCoy (2, none return)

Spring answers

1. Filling a hole at linebacker: TCU was ready to lose Tank Carder, but the loss of Tanner Brock was unexpected. Thus, TCU entered spring with big questions at linebacker. Danny Heiss and Joel Hasley have stepped in to help fortify a position with a lot to prove in 2012. TCU has a feel for who its guys will be, but are those guys good enough?

2. Beware of the TCU receivers: TCU already felt good about Josh Boyce and Skye Dawson after 2011, but sophomore Brandon Carter is bigger and better this spring. LaDarius Brown may join the fold as a big factor, though. It's not impossible for him to become one of the team's best targets. Casey Pachall has to love adding a 6-foot-4, 220-pounder to his targets, and freshman Kolby Listenbee proved he can contribute right away after enrolling early this spring. He'll play.

3. A change in identity: There's no doubt TCU has big questions on defense, especially at linebacker and in the secondary. But offensively? The Horned Frogs have to shore up the offensive line, but its skill-position players are as deep and as talented as any in the Big 12. It's not often that offense has to carry the load for a Gary Patterson team, but it looks like that'll be the case this year.

Fall questions

1. How will TCU handle the jump? Complain about the question all you want, Frogs. It's not that anyone's beating it into the ground, it's that TCU hasn't had a chance to answer it. Fact: The Big 12 will be much more difficult than the Mountain West Conference. TCU brings back a good amount of talent that's built to have success in the Big 12 immediately. Can they do it, though? I'm betting yes, that TCU will flirt with double-digit wins.

2. Will the secondary, especially the safeties, improve? TCU's rise under Gary Patterson has been marked by suffocating defense, but TCU slid to a finish outside the national top 30 in total defense last season after leading the nation in total defense in 2009 and 2010. The loss to Baylor personified those struggles more than any game all season. Patterson wasn't happy with his secondary this spring, either. The bad news: There are lots of Baylors in the Big 12. The good news: Safeties coach Chad Glasgow is back after serving as defensive coordinator at Texas Tech for one season.

3. Can TCU handle gut-punching defensive losses? The Horned Frogs suffered the biggest off-field scandal in the Big 12 this offseason when four players were arrested in a campus drug sting. That's a problem of its own off the field, but on the field, TCU still has to replace 2011 big contributors in Tanner Brock, Devin Johnson and D.J. Yendrey. How much will those losses hurt in the fall?

Plenty of work to do for TCU defense

March, 2, 2012
3/02/12
2:45
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Colleague Ryan McGee broke down his five position groups with the most work to do this offseason, and one Big 12 team made the cut.

You'll need ESPN Insider to see the other four teams, Insider but here's what McGee had to say about the Horned Frogs' defense, which has its work cut out for it this spring:
Gone: Tank Carder, Tanner Brock, Devin Johnson, Johnny Fobbs, Tekerrein Cuba,Greg McCoy

Talk about bad timing.

For seemingly forever, the Horned Frogs ranked among the nation's top passing defenses. But last year, TCU's final season in the Mountain West, they finished outside the top 12 for the first time in four years. Still, they were tough. But graduation cost them four members of that back seven and February's bizarre drug scandal tossed returning leaders Tanner Brock and Devin Johnson off the team.

And all of this just happens to coincide with TCU's arrival into the PS3 pass-happy offensive world of the Big 12. Trent Thomas and Travaras Battle are returning DB's, joined by linebacker Kenny Cain, who had 72 tackles last fall. There is also arriving spring help from early enrollee JUCO cornerback Keivon Gamble.

TCU's spring practices are all closed this year, so we'll be left to the word of coaches and players to get a real feel for how the defense is progressing with lots of new names on the field.

One thing is for certain, though: With the offenses in the Big 12, this group will face big tests almost every week in 2012.

Big 12 new member update: TCU

December, 22, 2011
12/22/11
11:00
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Time for what's probably our final checkup on TCU before the Horned Frogs join the Big 12.

Record: 11-2 (7-0 Mountain West)

National rank: No. 18 in the BCS standings. No. 16 in the AP poll. No. 15 in the USA Today poll.

Last result: Beat Louisiana Tech 31-24 in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.

What to know: Anybody who watched could tell TCU was a bit uninspired, perhaps disappointed it narrowly missed out on a third consecutive trip to the BCS.

Either way, the Horned Frogs erased a 24-17 fourth-quarter deficit to win 31-24.

Skye Dawson hauled in a 42-yard touchdown pass from Casey Pachall on a rollout to take the lead for good with 4:26 left to play.

The secondary struggled, and TCU couldn't get off the field for much of the first half, but managed to tie the game at 10 after after a Greg McCoy interception.

We saw plenty of those secondary struggled against Baylor early in the season, but the Horned Frogs rebounded in the second half.

"It didn't turn out the way we expected or how we wanted it to but we came out with a win," Dawson said.

He finished with 85 yards on four catches to earn MVP honors.

Pachall finished 15-of-29 for 206 yards and broke Andy Dalton's single-season school records for completions (228) and passing yards (2,921).

For frame of reference, five Big 12 quarterbacks had more completions, and Missouri's James Franklin needs just five completions to make it six. Five Big 12 quarterbacks had more yards, and Franklin needs 182 yards passing to make it six.

A couple local takes on the game: What's next: The move to the Big 12.

Ironically, TCU is a combined 10-0 against the SEC, Pac-12, Big Ten and ACC.

Against the Big 12, it is just 6-6. The Horned Frogs have won 11 games in seven of the past nine seasons, and in the Big 12, that pace figures to slow as they adjust to more grueling week-to-week schedules. Still, most of the offense returns next year, including several contributors. TCU's quarterback (Pachall), leading rusher (Waymon James), top receiver (Josh Boyce) and sacks leader (Stansly Maponga) will all come back next year as juniors.

There's no reason TCU can't contend for a Big 12 title in 2012.

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