- David Ubben, College Football
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2011 overall record: 11-2
2011 conference record: 7-0
Returning starters: offense: 6; defense: 7; kicker/punter: 0
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)
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.
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?