Big 12: Keivon Gamble

Weak and Strong: TCU Horned Frogs

March, 19, 2013
Turnover is an annual tradition in college football, but with that, teams' strengths and weaknesses constantly shift, too. Today, we'll continue our look at the biggest strengths and weaknesses for each Big 12 team.

Next up: TCU.

Strongest position: Secondary

Allow me to apologize to the Frogs' running backs, who were narrowly edged out by this solid unit that helped TCU navigate a rocky first season in the Big 12 but emerge with the league's No. 1 defense and seven wins. TCU's secondary was the best in the Big 12 last season and returns all five starters in the 4-2-5 scheme under Gary Patterson. Chad Glasgow returned to coach safeties and had three great ones in Sam Carter, Elisha Olabode and Chris Hackett. TCU gave up just 32 passes longer than 20 yards last season, tied with Kansas State and Texas Tech for the fewest in the Big 12. Those three are a big reason why, and though all three are solid players, it was clear that TCU's best overall player in the secondary was a corner.

Jason Verrett was the Big 12's best shutdown corner a season ago, breaking up 16 passes and intercepting six more, both the most in the Big 12. Kevin White, Deante Gray and Keivon Gamble offer solid depth at the position, too. TCU defended (PBUs or interceptions) 86 passes last season, which was 15 more than any team in the Big 12. The secondary is the biggest strength of what should be the Big 12's best defense yet again in 2013, and if the Frogs win a Big 12 title in just their second year in the league, the secondary will be a huge reason why.

Weakest position: Offensive line

Let me preface this by saying TCU doesn't have a glaring weakness next season if Casey Pachall returns and is anything close to his form from 2011 and early 2012. Still, I'm going with a rebuilt offensive line ahead of an average set of defensive tackles for the Frogs. Guard Blaize Foltz and center James Fry exhausted their eligibility (and opposing defensive lines), but the Frogs will have to find replacements for a line that was just OK last year, and had to deal with losing the team's top three running backs for some period of time after the season. Trevone Boykin's youth and sometimes frustrating indecision was a factor, but the Frogs gave up 29 sacks last season, four more than any team in the Big 12. It also averaged just 3.86 yards per carry, the lowest number in the Big 12. Like I mentioned before, injuries had something to do with it, but the offensive line has a lot to prove in 2013.

More Weak and Strong.

Plenty of work to do for TCU defense

March, 2, 2012
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.

Breaking down spring camp: TCU

February, 24, 2012
Another spring camp is opening, and it's time to take a closer look. Today, the TCU Horned Frogs get started.

Schedule: Practice opens Friday at 5 p.m. ET and will conclude on April 5. Various practices may be open, but the plan has not been officially announced. TCU does not host a formal spring game.

What's new: The task ahead, mainly. You'll see a renewed sense of purpose this spring at TCU. The Horned Frogs know they have to be better to compete for a Big 12 title. In the Big 12, you put it on the line every week, and everybody can beat everybody. Ask Baylor and Kansas about that one. Or Iowa State and Oklahoma State. One win can't make a season, and 1-2 games don't decide a conference title like they do in the Mountain West.

New faces: TCU is welcoming four new faces to campus this spring as early enrolling freshmen: Quarterback Tyler Matthews, running back B.J. Catalon, transfer cornerback Keivon Gamble, and receiver Kolby Listenbee, who also made our 2012 Recruiting All-Name team.

Rekindling old flames: Former safeties coach Chad Glasgow returned to his post in Fort Worth after a season as the defensive coordinator at Texas Tech. He helped TCU lead the nation in total defense in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Those days are over for the Horned Frogs in the offense-heavy Big 12, but TCU fell to 15th last season in the Mountain West. Finishing there in the Big 12 in 2012 would be huge.

Big shoes to fill: Linebacker Deryck Gildon. Tank Carder (and his armbands) wrapped up their eligibility last year, but hopes are high that the 6-foot-2, 235-pound Gildon can be the man to hold TCU's defense together at the linebacker spot. His importance is amplified by the exit of Tanner Brock, who is among four players "separated" from the team while the legal process plays out following their drug sting arrests.

Breaking out: Receiver Brandon Carter. You probably already know about Josh Boyce and maybe Skye Dawson. But Carter, a freshman, could join them for a pretty dangerous third weapon in TCU's passing game for quarterback Casey Pachall. Among Carter's biggest catches last year was the game winner against Boise State, but this could be a big spring for him. And to think, Oklahoma only wanted him as a cornerback.

All eyes on: Player conduct. Four players were arrested in a drug sting by local police and reports indicated that five players tested positive for marijuana while 11 others showed trace amounts in a surprise Feb. 1 drug test administered by the team. However, comments from players to undercover police in police affidavits suggest that usage was much higher. Either way, the microscope is firmly on what's otherwise been a spotless program before these recent troubles.