Dallas Colleges: Waymon James

Big 12 media days live: Day 2

July, 22, 2014
Jul 22
9:40
AM CT
The Big 12 media days continue on Tuesday in Dallas, as Oklahoma's Bob Stoops and new Texas coach Charlie Strong each take the stage. Keep this page open throughout the day's proceedings as we bring you the latest from our reporters, who will cover all 10 teams at the event.

Spring battle spotlight: TCU RB

March, 6, 2014
Mar 6
1:00
PM CT
Even though TCU’s new offense is sure to put the football in the air, the Horned Frogs will undoubtedly try to run the football and establish balance this fall. Several talented running backs should battle to emerge as the main ball carrier for the Horned Frogs this season, and that battle for carries begins this spring.

Departed: Senior Waymon James.

Spring contenders: Junior B.J. Catalon, junior Aaron Green, redshirt freshman Kyle Hicks, redshirt freshman Trevorris Johnson.

Summer contenders: True freshman Shaun Nixon.

[+] EnlargeCatalon
Jim Cowsert/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Getty ImagesB.J. Catalon looks like the favorite to emerge as TCU's lead RB, but that doesn't mean other backs won't find their way on the field too.
The skinny: Finding the strengths of each running back could be as important as developing overall depth or finding a clear starter at the position for TCU this spring. Once the Horned Frogs identify the strengths and weaknesses of each guy they can start to prepare them for different roles during August practices with a goal of having fresh (and capable) legs in the offensive backfield at all times.

Catalon has game-changing quickness and playmaking ability so he could be considered the favorite to earn the bulk of the carries after leading the squad with 569 rushing yards as a sophomore. He averaged 5.32 yards per carry in 2013, so the fact he didn’t surpass the 1,000-yard mark lands more on the shoulders of the coaching staff than Catalon.

Green brings terrific talent in his own right but wasn’t the playmaker that Catalon was a year ago. This spring is his chance to show he deserves more opportunities this fall.

Hicks was a highly regarded signee in the Class of 2013 as the No. 220 player in the ESPN 300. He has the ability to be an every-down back but would really help his cause if he shows he can excel as a receiver and pass blocker during spring drills.

Johnson is easily the most overlooked competitor in this battle but could bring a physical running style to the table that earns him a short yardage or goal line role. He probably has a ways to go before he’s considered a threat to rise atop the depth chart but should not be dismissed as a non-contributor despite the overall talent at the position.

Nixon fits in perfectly with this group as another talented option. But his overall versatility and big-play ability could help him rise up the depth chart and make an immediate impact as a true freshman.

Prediction: Catalon separates himself from the rest of the pack during the spring. His athleticism, desire and versatility will cement himself a spot in the lineup. Yet don’t be surprised if other running backs also cement places in TCU’s offensive attack. The Horned Frogs offense wasn’t exactly overflowing with playmakers in 2013, so if any of the remaining backs prove they can make big plays if given the opportunity, new offensive coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie will probably find ways to use them, even if that means playing alongside Catalon at times.

Big 12 predictions: Week 11

November, 7, 2013
11/07/13
9:00
AM CT
Welp, it finally happened. I finally lost to a guest picker. And to a 14-year-old, no less. Thanks, Caymen. I thought you weren’t going to embarrass me?

Anyway, this reporter’s pride is on the line again. This week’s guest picker submission:

My name is Claire Stallings and I would love to one day be a guest picker for you. It’s about time a lady shows these men how to pick a perfect week! I love the Big 12 and of course Baylor. I worked for the team all through college and I am that girl who knows more about Baylor football than most of the men on campus. I think it would be interesting to throw a girl into the “man’s world.” Don’t worry, I can hold my own. #GirlPower

The last time a girl challenged me to something, I was destroyed by my wife in a 5K. So this is my shot at redemption. #BringTheNoiseClaire.

Tonight, Max and national writer Mark Schlabach will be in Waco for Oklahoma-Baylor. Saturday, Brandon will drive to Stillwater to check out Kansas-Oklahoma State. Due to my horrific picking, I've been benched for the weekend.

To the Week 11 picks:

SEASON RECORD

Trotter last week: 2-2 (.500)

Guest picker (14-year-old Caymen) last week: 3-1 (.750)

Trotter overall: 43-14 (.754)

Guest picker overall: 29-11 (.725)

THURSDAY

Baylor 52, Oklahoma 34: The Sooners’ best chance in this game is to pound the ball, wear out the clock and keep Baylor’s high-powered offense on the sidelines. But without star fullback Trey Millard, I’m skeptical OU can pull off such a game plan. The Sooners have no viable tight end, and none of their other fullbacks are capable receiving threats off play-action. OU’s remaining firepower keeps the game interesting into the second half. But a Sooners defense playing two freshman linebackers finally capitulates to the overwhelming speed of the Baylor offense, as the Bears make a statement they belong in the national title picture.

Claire’s pick: The media (including you, Jake) keeps saying K-State laid out the blueprint on how to beat Baylor, but then again, Mack Brown made it clear that OU is far from invincible. Between Baylor’s dynamic receiving duo, Antwan Goodley and Tevin Reese, along with Lache Seastrunk and Bryce Petty’s Heisman-worthy performances, this pick was easy. #GoingTarpless. Baylor 56-35

SATURDAY

West Virginia 26, Texas 23: I find it strange the voters still haven’t put Texas back in the Top 25 polls. I actually had the Longhorns ranked 14th in the ESPN power ranking, the highest of the 19 voters in the ESPN poll. But this is a tough spot for Texas. West Virginia has been a far better team in Morgantown than away from it. The Mountaineers also have a ton of momentum from last week’s comeback overtime win over TCU, with a bowl appearance in their sights. Texas QB Case McCoy comes back to earth a bit and the Longhorns get caught peeking ahead to next week’s clash with Oklahoma State, as Charles Sims runs wild again to hand Texas its first Big 12 loss.

Claire’s pick: The Horns will win if they keep the ball with Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray. But they have to make sure Case doesn’t make too many mistakes on the road. If they are not careful, West Virginia will upset Texas, just like they did to OSU. #TexasStayawayfromBriles. Texas 31-28

Kansas State 37, Texas Tech 34: With receivers Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson back in the fold, the Wildcats are finally firing on all cylinders offensively. QBs Daniel Sams and Jake Waters have been terrific lately, and, much to Bill Snyder’s satisfaction, have been taking care of the ball, too. Tech has had a great run. But turnover-prone teams usually don’t fare well against Snyder-coached teams, and only six offenses in college football have turned the ball over more times than the Red Raiders. As a result, K-State continues its late-season push and hands Tech a third straight defeat.

Claire’s pick: I grew up in a Tech-loving family from Midland, Texas. I have lost sleep over this pick, and I may lose friends and a chunk of my inheritance after this is published. Unfortunately, the clock has struck midnight for Cinderella, and they are beginning to look reminiscent of last year’s West Virginia squad. #SorryDad. K-State 38-35

TCU 19, Iowa State 13: Will either side have enough players left to actually stage the game? Iowa State figures to be without running back Aaron Wimberly, who’s been its best offensive player, and could be without QB Sam B. Richardson, too. TCU cornerback Jason Verrett and running back B.J. Catalon are questionable on a team that also will be missing running back Waymon James and receiver Brandon Carter. The difference in this game proves to be TCU QB Casey Pachall, who finally showed signs of returning to his old self last week.

Claire’s pick: This is the “Battle of Who Could Care Less” between two struggling teams. TCU’s players are dropping like flies. TCU barely wins, but for sure is not making a bowl. #NotYallsYear #ByeFelicia. TCU 14-10

Oklahoma State 55, Kansas 9: Kansas has been hanging tough in Big 12 play. That ends here. The Cowboys have finally found their identity offensively with Clint Chelf at QB and the tough-running Desmond Roland at tailback. Oklahoma State keeps rolling in its return to the thick of the Big 12 title race.

Claire’s pick: I have always liked Kansas -- they have great school colors for game-day outfits. But that is all they have. Chelf is a real threat and the Cowboys' backfield has exploded these past few games -- they might actually steal the Big 12 title right out of Baylor’s little paws. #ButPleaseDont. Oklahoma State 56-14

Where the TCU offense went wrong

October, 30, 2013
10/30/13
10:15
AM CT
Going into the season, coach Gary Patterson felt optimistic about the TCU offense. So did almost everyone else, too.

Veteran Casey Pachall was back at quarterback. So was backup Trevone Boykin, who gained valuable experience in 2012 filling in for Pachall.

[+] EnlargeCatalon
Jim Cowsert/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Getty ImagesB.J. Catalon looks like the favorite to emerge as TCU's lead RB, but that doesn't mean other backs won't find their way on the field too.
Waymon James and B.J. Catalon, TCU’s 2011 and 2012 leading rushers, were also back to anchor the ground game.

And Brandon Carter seemed primed to take over as the No. 1 receiver.

All of that, combined with a star-studded defense, made the Horned Frogs the players’ preseason pick to win the Big 12.

But somewhere along the way, it all went wrong. And as a result, TCU is in danger of missing out on a bowl game for the first time since 2004.

When did the offense begin to go south?

“I think everybody feels good going into (a season),” Patterson said. “You lose a starting quarterback -- but I don’t know if I can actually answer that question for you. Obviously, we’re not doing well, but I don’t feel like we felt like we were going to go south; but I’m not sure we did that. We just haven’t done what we needed to do.”

TCU (3-5, 1-4 Big 12) ranks 114th nationally and ninth in the Big 12 with an average of 320 yards per game. The Horned Frogs have 19 touchdowns. They have 18 turnovers, only one shy from tying for the Big 12 lead. And they have produced just five first-half touchdowns offensively all season.

The truth is, there were early signs this offense might have problems.

Before the first day of practice, starting right tackle Tayo Fabuluje quit the team. A few days later, guard Michael Thompson had to give up football due to injuries. That left the thinnest unit on the team with two less bodies.

The problems have only ballooned from there.

TCU actually put up 27 points in the opener against LSU. But that came on only 13 first downs and 259 yards of offense, as Catalon’s 100-yard kickoff return turned out to be TCU’s only first half touchdown.

After Pachall was picked off on the first play of the third quarter, Patterson replaced him with Boykin. And the quarterback position has been a disaster ever since.

The following week, Pachall was lost to a fractured forearm for five games. And although Boykin was more effective than Pachall the first two games, he struggled once he took over as the full-time starter.

Boykin ranks 15th in the Big 12 with an Adjusted QBR of 39.4 (scale of 0-to-100, with 50 being average).

Pachall, who returned from the forearm injury last week, hasn’t fared any better. He produced a QBR of just 13.1 in the 30-7 loss to Texas while completing only 38 percent of his passes.

But the offensive woes can’t all be pinned on the quarterbacks.

“When it’s not going well,” Patterson said, “there are a lot of ways to point fingers.”

Carter has been a major disappointment this season. While flanking Josh Boyce last year, Carter had 36 catches for 590 yards and six touchdowns, positioning himself to become TCU’s primary receiver after Boyce declared for the draft.

But since getting benched in the SMU game on Sept. 28, Carter has just four catches for 41 yards.

Without a true go-to guy, the Horned Frogs’ receiving corps has been wildly inconsistent. In the Texas loss alone, the Horned Frogs had seven drops.

With the passing attack posing little threat, defenses have loaded up to shut down James and Catalon. And for the most part, the two have been contained. Catalon ranks 10th in the Big 12 in yards per carry (4.95); James is 13th (4.75).

“We gotta find a way to score points,” Patterson said. “Gotta find a way to move the ball.”

The Horned Frogs have four games left to find a way. If they don’t win out, they won’t go to a bowl.

“At this time of year, you don’t end up really being able to fix a lot of things,” Patterson said. “You are what you are, so how do we make it better? And that’s what we’re trying to get accomplished.

“If you don’t do that, then you go home for Christmas.”

What to watch in the Big 12: Week 5

September, 26, 2013
9/26/13
9:15
AM CT
Oklahoma's visit to Notre Dame highlights a very light week in the Big 12. Half of the league’s teams are on byes but there are still some interesting things to learn from the four games involving Big 12 teams this weekend.


Here's what to watch in the Big 12 for Week 5.

  1. Can Oklahoma strike for the Big 12 Conference? The Sooners have the chance to earn the biggest nonconference win of any Big 12 team this season if they can knock off Notre Dame in South Bend on Saturday. OU has its eye on inserting itself into the BCS title conversation and that could begin with a win against the Fighting Irish.
  2. What does Dana Holgorsen have in store for his former colleagues at Oklahoma State? Holgorsen spent one season as the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State before he was named coach in waiting at West Virginia. He played a major part in transforming OSU’s offense into what it is today so both teams will be very familiar with the other’s offensive attack. Add in the Mountaineers’ struggles on offense this season and you have to expect Holgorsen will have some new, creative wrinkles to confuse OSU’s defense and spark WVU’s offense.
  3. How will TCU respond to a 1-2 start? TCU coach Gary Patterson didn’t like how his team was handling its start to the season, saying his group was "feeling sorry for themselves." Yet the Horned Frogs have had two weeks to get things going back in a positive direction and, even though they’ve stumbled at the start, they still have one of the top defenses in the conference. And that’s a terrific foundation to build upon.
  4. [+] EnlargePaul Rhoads
    David Purdy/Getty ImagesPaul Rhoads and Iowa State are off to a slow start.
  5. Can Iowa State get its first win of the season? The Cyclones opened the season with losses to Northern Iowa and Iowa. Worst yet, Paul Rhoads’ crew has played just two games heading into tonight’s game at Tulsa, making it tough to find any kind of rhythm and confidence on either side of the football. ISU’s defense has been particularly bad allowing 27.5 points and 417.5 yards per game thus far. It’s a young roster, full of inexperience, so if the Cyclones don’t win tonight, things could snowball in a hurry for the Cyclones.
  6. Will OSU stumble in Morgantown? The Cowboys will be a big favorite when they step on the field in Morgantown, W. Va., after WVU’s embarrassing 37-0 loss to Maryland last weekend. It would be easy for the Pokes to overlook the Mountaineers and stumble on the road in a conference play, particularly since WVU does have some talented, albeit young, players on the roster. WVU will be looking to prove it is better than it showed against the Terps while OSU will simply be looking to get off to a good start in conference play. Motive advantage: WVU.
  7. Can TCU find some type of offensive identity? What is TCU’s identity on offense? Does anybody know? The Horned Frogs have looked uncertain during their first three games, particularly with Trevone Boykin under center. Don’t be surprised if TCU re-commits its offense to the running game with talented runners B.J. Catalon and Waymon James in the backfield while putting Boykin on the back burner.
  8. How will OU quarterback Blake Bell do in his first road start? The Sooners signal caller has the opportunity to send a message with a stellar performance in his first road start. The Fighting Irish will be looking to stop the run and play physical, forcing Bell to beat them with his arm. If he can do it on a national stage, the junior will remove all doubt who should be leading the Sooners’ offense for the next two seasons.
  9. Is OU’s defense the real deal? The Sooners' defense has been terrific in OU’s first three games. Yet it hasn't been tested like it will be against the Fighting Irish. OU’s defense is built for speed and handling the spread offenses in the Big 12 so if ND comes out and tries to ram the football down OU’s throat, the Sooners will have to have an answer or risk being compared to last season’s disappointing unit.
  10. Will Ford Childress reward Holgorsen for sticking with him? The WVU quarterback has kept his starting job after throwing more touchdown passes to Maryland defenders than his teammates last weekend. He threw more interceptions than he completed passes to WVU receivers in the loss. Yet Holgorsen didn’t hesitate when asked if he was sticking with the redshirt freshman. Childress will be looking to reward that loyalty against OSU.
  11. Will Iowa State find an answer to its offensive woes? This was supposed to be a breakout season for quarterback Sam Richardson. It’s not looking good for the sophomore thus far. His numbers aren’t horrible (502 passing yards, 62 completion percentage) but he’s been unable to spark the Cyclones offense and take the entire team to another level like ISU fans would have hoped. If Richardson hopes to turn things around, he can start against a Tulsa defense that gave up 51 points to Oklahoma on Sept. 14.

Big 12 predictions: Week 5

September, 26, 2013
9/26/13
8:00
AM CT
Our guest picker this week is Omar Ahmad, out of Huntington, W.Va. Here was Omar’s clever submission:

I should be your Big 12 guest picker for Week 5. Why? Because when it comes to challenging the experts at ESPN, nobody Bears down like I do. I'm like an unstoppable Cyclone of correct predictions. I'm not a Wildcat with my selections (you'll never catch me picking a Longhorn to do anything other than be a horn that's long). I strive for the highest summits of analysis the likes of which no Mountaineer has ever seen. While you may be a college football maverick, I'm the Red Raider with guns-up accuracy. No Jayhawk can hang with my stuff (or anyone's stuff, for that matter). So stop being a Cowboy with your reckless game-picker selections. You know you're gonna tab me Sooner or later. Horned Frogs.

Last week, I correctly picked Texas to bounce back and beat Kansas State, but Omar’s Mountaineers burned me with a no-show performance in Baltimore. I was also called out in front of my ACC colleagues via this tweet from a @beedubss: “I hope Andrea Adelson and Heather Dinich get to give @ESPN_Big12 a really hard time about his #WVUvsMD prediction. #GirlsRuleBoysDrool #GoTerps”.

Come on, guys. We’re better than this.

If you want to be next week’s guest picker, contact me here, and tell me why. And, as always, creativity counts.

To the Week 5 picks:

SEASON RECORD

Trotter last week: 4-1 (.800)

Guest picker last week: 4-1 (.800)

Trotter overall: 25-5 (.833)

Guest picker overall: 10-3 (.769)

Tulsa 30, Iowa State 27: Dating back to last year, Iowa State has now lost six of seven, which includes a two-touchdown loss to Tulsa in the Liberty Bowl. Tulsa, meanwhile, has played better since an embarrassing 27-point loss at Bowling Green in its opener. This game is in Tulsa, where the Hurricane has not lost since falling to eighth-ranked Houston in November 2011. The Cyclones just don’t have the offensive firepower right now around quarterback Sam Richardson, who also faces the possibility of playing the rest of the season on a bum ankle.

Omar’s pick: The Golden Hurricane is a young team, but can still run the ball. The Cyclones cannot, and the return of Tom Farniok won’t change the fact that Sam Richardson is currently the team’s biggest threat on the ground. Tulsa, 31-27

TCU 31, SMU 16: Coach Gary Patterson rode his team hard during the off week, even calling them out in the media for “feeling sorry for themselves.” Despite the disappointing 1-2 start, the Horned Frogs have too many veteran players to feel sorry for themselves for very long. This is still a good team, with good players on both sides of the ball. If TCU can uncover an offensive identity post QB Casey Pachall -- perhaps running the ball more with B.J. Catalon and Waymon James to take pressure off QB Trevone Boykin -- the Frogs will be fine. This SMU game is a golden opportunity for TCU to figure out some things before going to Norman next weekend.

Omar’s pick: Despite the 1-2 start, TCU’s defense is still arguably the best in the Big 12. Garrett Gilbert will get his yards, but Boykin and Catalon run wild on a Mustang front seven that’s one of the smallest and most inexperienced in the nation. TCU, 36-20

Oklahoma State 42, West Virginia 14: Both teams are running Dana Holgorsen’s offense. Only one is running it well. After the 37-0 loss to Maryland, Holgorsen rightfully called West Virginia’s offense as inept as it could be. Omar's Mountaineers don’t have any playmakers at receiver, the offensive line is not getting any push in the run game and QB Ford Childress is too young to overcome either deficiency. Poor Charles Sims, by the way, picked the wrong year to transfer. Imagine Sims on the same team with Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. Now that would be an offense that could outscore Oklahoma State. This West Virginia offense cannot.

Omar’s pick: The Cowboys are getting it done by land and air so far, while the Mountaineers are trying to rebuild the offense through Ford Childress. The WVU defense keeps it closer than most expect. OSU, 34-21

Notre Dame 24, Oklahoma 21: The Sooners feel good about themselves after Blake Bell’s performance against Tulsa. But this isn’t Tulsa. And this game won’t be played in Norman. The Irish have looked lackluster so far this season, but they’ve played a difficult schedule featuring Michigan and Michigan State. The Sooners, meanwhile, have yet to play anybody. Notre Dame will win the battle in the trenches, force Bell into a couple of critical mistakes in his first start on the road and make the plays in the fourth quarter like it did last year in Norman. They will move to 10-1 all-time in the series while preventing the Big 12 from picking up its first Top 25 non-conference victory.

Omar’s pick: Blake Bell has a cool nickname; Tommy Rees does not. OU, 28-23

TCU season preview

August, 12, 2013
8/12/13
12:00
PM CT
Today, we break down TCU, which figures to be one of the contenders for the Big 12 crown:

TCU HORNED FROGS

Coach: Gary Patterson (116-36 overall, 13 seasons; 116-36 at TCU, 13 seasons)

2012 record: 7-6 (4-5 Big 12)

Key losses: WR Josh Boyce, OG Blaize Foltz, DE Stansly Maponga, LB Kenny Cain

[+] EnlargeCasey Pachall
AP Photo/Jake SchoellkopfTCU quarterback Casey Pachall played just four games in 2012, but finished with 948 yards, 10 touchdowns and an interception.
Key returnees: QB Casey Pachall, RB Waymon James, WR Brandon Carter, DE Devonte Fields, DT Chucky Hunter, CB Jason Verrett, S Sam Carter

Newcomer to watch: With leading receiver Josh Boyce having skipped his senior year for the NFL, TCU will need receivers to step in and produce. One of those could be Ja’Juan Story, a transfer from Florida. Story was formerly rated the No. 6 receiver recruit coming out of high school.

Biggest games in 2013: The month of October will determine whether TCU is a contender or pretender for the Big 12 crown. The Horned Frogs travel to Oklahoma on Oct. 5, go to Oklahoma State two weeks later, then on Oct. 26 play host to Texas. By then TCU could be in the driver’s seat -- or out of the race altogether. Oh, and the Horned Frogs have that season opener against LSU in Arlington, Texas.

Biggest question mark heading into 2013: Even though top-returning tackler Joel Hasley left the team in the preseason, TCU’s defense figures to be the Big 12’s best. Especially when All-American defensive end candidate Devonte Fields returns from a two-game suspension to begin the season.

TCU, however, doesn’t win the Big 12 title unless prodigal quarterback Casey Pachall returns to form. Pachall left school last year four games into the season to seek treatment for substance abuse. When he left, Pachall had 10 touchdowns passes to just one pick. If he can rediscover that kind of groove, TCU will be formidable.

PODCAST
TCU head coach Gary Patterson joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the maturation of quarterback Casey Pachall, the wide-open Big 12 conference, his expectations for his team heading into the 2013 season and his thoughts on Twitter.

Listen Listen
Forecast: In just its second season in the Big 12, TCU has its sights set on winning the conference. And the Horned Frogs have the defense to do it.

TCU was the only Big 12 team to rank in the top 35 nationally in total defense. The Horned Frogs were 16th. Even without Hasley, they return eight defensive starters, including Fields, who is the overwhelming favorite to earn Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors after winning the Associated Press’ award as a true freshman last year.

Fields will be surrounded by experience and talent in coach Gary Patterson’s 4-2-5 scheme, too. TCU’s top four defensive tackles are back, and the secondary is loaded. Cornerback Jason Verrett is also an All-American candidate in a secondary that returns all five starters, including standout safety Sam Carter.

All that said, TCU was stout on defense last season, too. And the Horned Frogs finished just 7-6. Whether they emerge as a true contender this season hinges heavily on how improved the offense can be with the return of Pachall and running back Waymon James, who missed almost all of last season with a knee injury. James led the Horned Frogs in rushing in 2011 and was averaging 9.9 yards per carry in 2012 before injuring the knee the second game of the season. By the end of the month, TCU had lost Pachall, too, causing the offense to be wildly inconsistent the rest of the season.

If Pachall, James and a host of up-and-coming receivers like Brandon Carter can turn the Horned Frogs into a consistent offensive force, TCU just might be the team to beat in a wide open Big 12.

It won’t take long for the Horned Frogs to find out about their offense. TCU opens with a showdown against LSU in Cowboys Stadium. But if the Horned Frogs can win -- and move the ball consistently -- the rest of the Big 12 will be on notice.

Opening camp: TCU Horned Frogs

July, 31, 2013
7/31/13
4:00
PM CT
Three Big 12 teams open fall camp on Thursday, but all 10 will be preparing for the season by next Thursday. We'll take a closer look at each team around the time camp begins. Let's get started.

Schedule: TCU opens camp on Thursday in preparation for its season opener on Aug. 31 against LSU at Cowboys Stadium.

Setting the scene: TCU returns 15 starters -- more than every Big 12 team but Texas -- from last year's seven-win team, but the return of quarterback Casey Pachall is the biggest story in Fort Worth this fall. The Frogs earned a ton of respect across the league in their first season, fighting for a successful season despite dealing with more injuries and losses than any team in the Big 12. It lost a couple of key players in Josh Boyce and Stansly Maponga, but no team in the Big 12 has more proven impact players on defense.

PODCAST
TCU head coach Gary Patterson joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the maturation of quarterback Casey Pachall, the wide-open Big 12 conference, his expectations for his team heading into the 2013 season and his thoughts on Twitter.

Listen Listen
All eyes on: Pachall. For now, he's not officially the starter after returning to the team in January following a drunk driving arrest in October and a subsequent stay in a drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility. Coach Gary Patterson talked about bringing him to media days and has continually dropped hints throughout spring that Pachall is likely ready to reclaim his spot from Trevone Boykin. Boykin is a solid runner who played well considering his circumstances and inexperience a year ago (he practiced as a running back the week of Pachall's arrest before being moved to starting QB), but Pachall gives TCU a much higher ceiling. He didn't throw a ball from October to January, but he'll have to prove he can look like his old self through fall practices after a summer working out and throwing with teammates.

Stepping up: Boyce and receiver Skye Dawson are gone, but TCU needs a promising receiving corps to have big camps in preparation for a big year. Brandon Carter is the headliner who's proven himself as a situational playmaker in the past, catching 36 balls for 590 yards and six scores as a sophomore a year ago. Florida transfer Ja'Juan Story has turned heads this offseason, but LaDarius Brown and Cam White are a bit more experienced and should give Pachall plenty of great targets.

Outlook: The Big 12's media picked the Frogs to finish third in the league, but they garned nine first-place votes from 43 voters. That was more than every team but league favorite Oklahoma State. However, the players across the Big 12 apparently view TCU as the favorite to win the league. Expect TCU to be somewhere between No. 15 and No. 20 in the preseason polls heading into its opener against LSU.

On the mend: Waymon James is back on the field after suffering a knee injury against Kansas last season and missing the final 11 games of the season. He's the best back in a group of really good ones for the Frogs. Matthew Tucker and Aundre Dean are gone, but I spent some time with James during media days, and he was singing the praises of a much-improved B.J. Catalon heading into fall camp. Add in hyped Nebraska transfer Aaron Green and TCU should be well prepared for any injuries at that spot.

Quotable: Gary Patterson, on playing defense in the Big 12: "You've got to get it to where you have an advantage as far as you know it's a passing down. ... And you've got to minimize the big plays. You can't allow them to score within 1:30. It's really hard to win ball games if you allow people to do that. I said a year ago you've got to learn how to make people kick field goals, and we did that to an extent. It's one thing to play in the middle of the field, and it's another thing to play in the red zone. We've got to keep emphasizing that, along with everybody else, I'm sure, in the league is doing that."

Big 12 well-stocked with impact transfers

July, 19, 2013
7/19/13
1:37
PM CT
Colleague Travis Haney named his top 15 impact transfers across college football , and a third of his list is coming to the Big 12. One more is leaving, too.

West Virginia running back Charles Sims tops the list, bringing his impressive résumé to Morgantown after scoring 14 touchdowns and accounting for 1,219 yards last season. Most importantly for his new offense, he caught 37 passes a year ago. That versatility will give him a lot of opportunities.

Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters is No. 4 on the list. Color me skeptical that juco transfers should count (I kid!), but if he can beat out Daniel Sams for the quarterback job, I totally agree with Haney. Bringing back most of his offensive line and having John Hubert, Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson surrounding him is a recipe for success.

BYU transfer Jake Heaps is hoping to have better fortunes than another impact transfer to Kansas at quarterback a year ago: Dayne Crist. Heaps will definitely have a big impact one way or another, but there's no telling how this experiment will go. He'll have a better supporting cast on offense than Crist did, but nobody forecast a midseason benching for Crist.

Nebraska transfer running back Aaron Green will debut at TCU this fall, but with B.J. Catalon and Waymon James in the backfield finding immediate carries won't be an easy task. I think he'll develop into a big-time player eventually, but finding time now and making a huge impact is asking a lot.

The Sooners' backup quarterback, Drew Allen, graduated and headed to Syracuse and made No. 15 on Haney's list, but we'll close with No. 14, who's coming to Norman.

Oklahoma's secondary needs playmakers, and Arizona transfer Cortez Johnson will try to provide it. He followed Mike Stoops and Tim Kish from Tucson, and Oklahoma will probably need him to start opposite Aaron Colvin. The Sooners are going to be very young all over on defense, which is the biggest reason I see a down year ahead in Norman, but a nice debut from Johnson could help change that.
Nine Big 12 players are on the list for the Doak Walker Award, given annually to college football's top running back.

Very nice haul from the Big 12. Running back is probably the Big 12's strongest position of any to start the season, and you can see that on this list. Two teams (Baylor, TCU) have multiple backs on the watch list, and there's no question about any of those guys. I'm very surprised Texas didn't get a name on the list. In theory, Johnathan Gray, Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron all had a case to be on here. Texas Tech's Kenny Williams probably could have been added to this list, too, and perhaps Oklahoma's Brennan Clay.

Seastrunk has a great chance to win this award, but guys like Williams, Sims, James and Hubert could all make the list of finalists.

Texas' Cedric Benson (2004) was the last player from the Big 12 to win the award. The Longhorns are the only school in college football with three winners all-time. Texas Tech (Byron Hanspard, Bam Morris) is one of just three schools in college football with multiple winners since the award began in 1990.

Tracking the Big 12 rushing race in 2013

July, 12, 2013
7/12/13
2:30
PM CT
The field of Big 12 running backs is deep in 2013, and the vote for the league's leading rusher reflected that. Baylor's Lache Seastrunk has had a brief run of success, but the spectacle of that success has him on the short list of the league's best returning offensive players.

He's my pick to lead the Big 12 in rushing this season, but collected just 26 percent of the fan vote from our readers. "The field" earned a solid 38 percent of the vote. Oklahoma State's Jeremy Smith would lead that group for me, possibly followed by Waymon James at TCU, despite a crowded backfield. We'll get to your emails and some surprising picks in a bit.

Kansas State's John Hubert would be my No. 2 pick to lead the league in rushing, but he earned just 15 percent of the vote. Like Seastrunk, Oklahoma's Damien Williams isn't very experienced at the major college level, but he earned 13 percent of the vote. Kansas' James Sims brought up the rear of the vote with 8 percent of the vote. Kansas' backfield is crowded with Tony Pierson and Taylor Cox, and Sims is a workhorse who's tough to bring down near the line of scrimmage, but his yardage comes with a big pile of carries.

Who would the fans campaign for? Here's a bit of what you had to say:

Marshall Stirtz in Iowa writes: For the Big 12 leading rusher in 2013, I believe that maybe not as an individual but as a team Iowa State should have one of the best rushing offenses in the Big 12

Cole in Wilson, N.C., writes: Charles Sims -- West Virginia. Saw he was the 5th ranked 2014 pro prospect (RB) and he is on a team desperate for offense and has not even named a QB ... so looks like they will be executing a lot of running plays as well as screens and WVU's favorite "drop pass" that they made popular in the Orange Bowl against Clemson

Phillip in Vernon, Texas, writes: I think with a healthy OL and new OC, Johnathan Gray will have a breakout year 2013 and challenge for the leading rusher title in the Big 12!!!

Stephen Lopez in Fort Worth, Texas, writes: What about Waymon James and/or Aaron Green? James rushed for 99 yards vs Kansas before being taken out in the fourth quarter (Lache Seastrunk rushed for 103 yards vs Kansas) and had 168 yards in two games. I bet if he wasn't injured, he would have had an incredible season and would be on this list. And Aaron Green was same situation as Lache Seastrunk was in before transfering: 5 star recruit out of high school, went to a school where they didn't have a lot of playing time, then transferred. I think he is poised for a grand season. And don't you forget about B.J. Catalon, Kyle Hicks.

Clifford Mitchell in Guthrie, Okla., writes: You know Jeremy Smith will lead the league in rushing. He's a better runner than Randle was, Tailback U for a reason. We have the best O-line returning and we're the only spread in the country that proves year-in-year-out we can run the football. Kid at Baylor tremendous talent, but I am afraid his mouth has already written some checks his you-know-what won't be able to cash. One of those runners from UT would look good in OSU's backfield unfortunately for them poor line and no qb play...keep up the good work and Bedlam decides Big 12 ship and I'm goin with the Pokes

Sean in Flower Mound, Texas, writes: I would make a strong case for the Big 12's most overlooked RB -- TCU's Waymon James. To refresh memories, he went out in the 2nd game in 2012, but had already accumulated 168 yards rushing on a rediculous 9.9 per carry mark for the season at the time of the injury ... ran for 99 yards on 12 carries while adding two receptions and a season-long 28-yard kickoff return in that game at Kansas. He's TCU's human bowling ball who increased his ypc mark each year and looks to explode next year as the featured back with a true throwing threat back to force defenses not to load the box.

Alex in Ames, Iowa, writes: Referring to your rushing leader question, I think you have to have the ISU backfield at least on the radar. I don't specify an individual because there are too many options to be certain. James White and Shontrelle Johnson are the obvious frontrunners, but DeVondrick Nealy and Aaron Wimberly are two guys that have impressed coaches in the spring. Woody, of course will do his work as a pound-it-out back as well. The biggest reason for the excitement is the focus on the pistol offense ISU will have with the new OC, coupled with the strong offensive line. The Cyclones may not field the Big 12's leading rusher, but don't be surprised if they lead the league as a team.

TCU Horned Frogs spring wrap

May, 1, 2013
5/01/13
10:15
AM CT
2012 record: 7-6
2012 Big 12 record: 4-5
Returning starters: Offense: 6; defense: 9; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners: DE Devonte Fields, CB Jason Verrett, WR Brandon Carter, S Sam Carter, S Elisha Olabode, RB Waymon James, K Jaden Oberkrom, RB B.J. Catalon

Key losses: WR Josh Boyce, LB Kenny Cain, DE Stansly Maponga, C James Fry, OG Blaize Foltz, RB Matthew Tucker, WR Skye Dawson

2012 statistical leaders (*returners)

Passing: Trevone Boykin* (2,054 yards)
Rushing: B.J. Catalon* (584 yards)
Receiving: Josh Boyce (891 yards)
Tackles: Kenny Cain (86)
Sacks: Devonte Fields* (10)
Interceptions: Jason Verrett* (6)

Spring answers

1. Offensive line getting straightened out. James Fry and Blaize Foltz were big losses on the interior of the offensive line, and replacing them was a big concern for the Frogs' quiet spring. The spring ended with senior Eric Tausch atop the depth chart at center and sophomore Jamelle Naff winning the right guard job to replace Foltz. Tausch started at left guard last season and moved over, but sophomore Joey Hunt slid up to replace him. Neither Naff nor Hunt have much experience (Hunt earned his lone career start in a loss to Iowa State), but they'll be leaned on this season.

2. New targets acquired. Josh Boyce and Skye Dawson took their talents to the next level, leaving the Frogs in search of a pair of new starters. LaDarius Brown and Brandon Carter were sure things, but strong springs helped fellow juniors Cam White and David Porter win starting jobs at receiver. There aren't many open gigs for a team returning 15 starters, but that's one that will have a big impact.

3. Mallet dropping the hammer. Junior Marcus Mallet emerged late last season and finished with five tackles for loss and a forced fumble among his 18 stops. Now, he looks like the likely candidate to replace departed Kenny Cain and a possible breakout talent on a loaded TCU defense. The 6-foot-1, 216-pounder finished atop the depth chart after a good spring.

Fall questions

1. Is Casey Pachall back to his old self? It's probably safe to operate under the assumption that Pachall will win his job back in fall camp, but beating out Trevone Boykin isn't the same as leading the Big 12 in passing efficiency, like he was last year before his DUI arrest that ended his season. You don't win a Big 12 title with average quarterback play, which brings me to my next question.

2. Can TCU really handle a Big 12 schedule? TCU was competitive last year, sure, and only had one game that it wasn't competitive in. But TCU's not trying to be competitive. It didn't come to the Big 12 to do that. It came to win, and it's proven exactly nothing in that realm just yet. Managing a difficult week-to-week schedule is one thing. Winning just about every week is another. Ask K-State's 2012 team and Oklahoma State's 2011 squad how easy that is.

3. Is the defense for real? On paper, this unit should be absolutely dominant after finishing No. 1 in the Big 12 in total defense and returning nine starters, including Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Devonte Fields at defensive end. That sounds like Texas' defense from last year, who fell off the map and allowed more rushing yards than any team in school history. Sometimes, you just never really know. This is a new season and last year means nothing. Prove it again.

Respect earned, despite TCU's struggles

April, 1, 2013
4/01/13
1:26
PM CT
FORT WORTH, Texas -- On some days last season, Gary Patterson had to look down at his depth chart and cue up his own version of the Talking Heads classic, "Once in a Lifetime."
You may ask yourself, "Well, how did I get here?" ...

And you may tell yourself, "This is not my talented stable of running backs"
And you may tell yourself, "This is not my accurate, experienced QB"

It was a rough season for the Frogs in purple, especially for a coach like Patterson who had won fewer than seven games in a season just once since 2002, his second season as the full-time head man in Fort Worth. TCU struggled through more injuries than any team in the Big 12 last season, and lost six games, capped by a heartbreaker in a bowl game it dominated for more than three quarters.

It won just seven games, but a funny thing happened the end of a season that felt exhausting from a weekly grind in a new Big 12 the Frogs had longed for since being left outside of major conference football following the breakup of the Southwest Conference in the mid-90s.

"I think we gained a lot more respect fan-wise from being 7-5 than a being 11-2 beating Boise State at Boise State, which to me is an unbelievable win," Patterson told ESPN.com in a recent interview. "To me, that speaks volumes to where we’re at and I think our kids should to understand that, what we’re doing."

[+] EnlargeGary Patterson
John Rieger/US PresswireGary Patterson's Horned Frogs faced plenty of adversity last season but fielded a competitive team.
How'd that happen? People took notice of the Frogs' struggles off the field and saw they were still competitive on the field.

"Everybody was wondering how we could handle things on a week to week basis, and I thought we, except for one half of football against Oklahoma State, we felt like we were in every ball game that you had," Patterson said.

Four players were kicked off the team following a campus drug sting in January, including star linebacker Tanner Brock and a pair of other likely starters.

The Frogs left 2011 planning on having three backs in 2012 who ran for at least 700 yards, but Ed Wesley left the team after spring practice and Waymon James missed the final 11 games after injuring his knee in the Frogs' Big 12 opener against Kansas in Week 2.

Quarterback Casey Pachall, then the nation's leader in passer rating, left the team less than three weeks later to seek inpatient treatment for drug and alcohol addiction in the wake of a DUI arrest.

Defensive end Ross Forrest, who had six tackles for loss, suffered a shoulder injury in fall camp and fellow end Stansly Maponga battled an ankle and foot injury for much of the season, missing two games.

Matthew Tucker, the lone running back left with major experience, played through an ankle injury of his own, missing just one game.

Still, the Frogs battled on, losing a three-overtime heartbreaker to Texas Tech and losing to Big 12 co-champion Oklahoma after a possible game-winning touchdown pass was batted down as time expired to help the Sooners clinch their eighth title since 2000.

"I’ve been through 7-5 seasons before, and a couple plays here or there and, now you could have just as easily been 5-7, but you could have won 9 or 10, too, so how do you make up the little things?"

That's the challenge ahead for the Frogs, who look fit to contend for a Big 12 title in 2013 behind a defense that finished No. 1 in the league in total defense despite injuries and being forced to rely on more freshmen than ever before under Patterson. Pachall's back, too, battling to regain his job from Trevone Boykin.

Being competitive isn't good enough anymore. TCU's not out for respect anymore. It's time to start hunting trophies, preferably of the crystal bowl variety with the Big 12 logo etched on it.

"We’re not into moral victories. We’ve played well against those teams in the past, the key is to be able to recruit depth," Patterson said. "We’ve got to keep getting better at every position."

Year 1 was certainly one of the most difficult for Patterson, who took over the TCU job back in 2000. It won't get much easier in a deep Big 12 in 2013, but this time around, the Frogs would love it if the offseason isn't littered with personnel losses.

"You’ve got to come with it every week in our league," Patterson said. "As far as I’m concerned, you wouldn’t want any different."

Breaking down the Big 12 football bracket

March, 21, 2013
3/21/13
11:14
AM CT
It's hard not to wake up with a smile on your face on a day like today. Sure, I cover football, but the first two days of the NCAA tournament are two of the best of the year. In just a few hours, 16 college basketball games will tip off and we'll do the same thing again on Friday.

To celebrate, we'll have a little theoretical bracket competition in the Big 12 with next season's teams.

Here's how I'm seeding the league's 10 teams:
  1. Oklahoma State
  2. TCU
  3. Texas
  4. Oklahoma
  5. Baylor
  6. Texas Tech
  7. Kansas State
  8. West Virginia
  9. Iowa State
  10. Kansas

So, how would a 10-team bracket play out? Here's how I slot it. Feel free to provide your own conclusions in the comments. The Big 12, like this year's NCAA tournament, is wide open. Anything could happen, but assume that these games are played during this week. (Note: Players injured this spring will be included, as will early enrolling freshmen. Freshmen not on campus are not eligible for these games).

Play-in games (at Hutchinson Junior College in Hutchinson, Kansas):

No. 7 Kansas State vs. No. 10 Kansas: KU's got a bit more experience on its side, but experience doesn't mean much in this latest iteration of the Sunflower Showdown. Bill Snyder gets the best of the Jayhawks on the kind of field he knows very, very well. Kansas State 38, Kansas 20

No. 8 West Virginia vs. No. 9 Iowa State: This game was too close for comfort in November, but Iowa State's Sam Richardson makes enough plays to outgun an inexperienced WVU offense and a still-learning defense. West Virginia goes with experience at quarterback in Paul Millard, but the timing is still a bit off. Iowa State 31, West Virginia 30

FIRST ROUND (in the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas)

No. 1 Oklahoma State vs. No. 7 Kansas State: These two have had some classic battles over the past two years, but OSU quarterback Clint Chelf finishes without a turnover, and that gets the job done. If OSU hadn't thrown an interception against Kansas State in Manhattan last year, the Pokes might have pulled the upset. Cowboys running back Jeremy Smith goes off against Kansas State's new defensive line. Oklahoma State 47, Kansas State 31

No. 2 TCU vs. No. 9 Iowa State: Iowa State beat the heck out of TCU in Fort Worth last year, but that was just days after the Frogs lost quarterback Casey Pachall. Pachall is back, and so is running back Waymon James. Iowa State's green linebackers get bowled over by James' power. TCU 21, Iowa State 13

No. 3 Texas vs. No. 6 Texas Tech: Texas Tech is still searching for its offensive identity, and Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat isn't all about giving the Red Raiders time to do it. The Red Raiders get off to a nice start, though Texas' running game seizes control in the second half. Tech's Michael Brewer hits Jace Amaro for a pair of long gains and finds Eric Ward for the game-winning touchdown in the final seconds. Sounds oddly familiar, no? Texas Tech 31, Texas 27

No. 4 Oklahoma vs. No. 5 Baylor: Oklahoma's quarterback gets off to a decent start, but Baylor's defense is still red-hot and Baylor's Bryce Petty outguns Oklahoma's Blake Bell in the debut for both quarterbacks. It's a breakout game for redshirt freshman Baylor receiver Jay Lee, too. The Sooners' young defense is caught off guard. Baylor 41, Oklahoma 31

SEMIFINALS (at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas)

No. 1 Oklahoma State vs. No. 5 Baylor: Baylor sprung the upset late in the season, and leads by double digits early in this one before Chelf rallies with a pair of touchdown passes to Charlie Moore and a third to Blake Jackson. The senior is trying to prove he deserves the job permanently, but OSU seals the game with a late score on the ground from J.W. Walsh in the short-yardage formation, overcoming 185 rushing yards from Baylor's Lache Seastrunk. Oklahoma State 44, Baylor 31

No. 2 TCU vs. No. 6 Texas Tech: Texas Tech's offense gets completely suffocated by TCU's defense, and defensive end Devonte Fields makes life tough for Tech's Brewer. Tech can't establish the running game to offset the rush, and TCU's cornerbacks lock down the Red Raiders' screen game, too. Ugly, ugly game to watch. For anyone but TCU fans, anyway. TCU 20, Texas Tech 10

CHAMPIONSHIP (at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas)

No. 1 Oklahoma State vs. No. 2 TCU: Are we allowed to have a Big 12 title game (and semifinals) without Texas or Oklahoma involved? The league's top two squads in my book survived a pair of games to reach the finals, and both teams are solid on both sides of the ball. Oklahoma State's offense is better. TCU's defense is better. Both teams' weaker units are still solid, though. At the end of the game, it's exactly what we wanted to see. Chelf, Smith and Tracy Moore going head to head with Fields and Jason Verrett for the Frogs. OSU has been there before and drives the length of the field before kicker Bobby Stonebraker proves Oklahoma State's edge in the special teams is the difference with a 45-yard, game-winning field goal. Oklahoma State 31, TCU 28

Cue up One Shining Moment!

TCU a Big 12 title contender or pretender?

March, 20, 2013
3/20/13
4:00
PM CT
We're back again looking at a different Big 12 team with title aspirations next fall. The Frogs limped (literally) through their first season in the Big 12, dealing with more injuries and personnel losses than any team in the Big 12, but still managed to finish 7-6 and earn a whole bunch of respect in its first season as a team in a BCS automatic qualifier conference.

SportsNation

What do you think of TCU's 2013 Big 12 title chances?

  •  
    57%
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    43%

Discuss (Total votes: 4,255)

So what happens in Year 2? Do you buy that a Big 12 title is in reach? Vote in our poll whether you believe TCU has a real chance or not. With Casey Pachall back on the field and back in practice, hopes are certainly high, but the Frogs' biggest asset is the Big 12's No. 1 offense from 2012 that returns nine starters.

Pachall still has to officially beat out Trevone Boykin, who was streaky but showed some promise filling in for Pachall over the last 2/3 of the 2012 season.

Defensive end Devonte Fields, the AP's Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, highlights the Frogs' hyped defense alongside cornerback Jason Verrett, the league's top shutdown corner from a year ago who led the league with six interceptions and 16 pass breakups. Great secondary play is a must-have in the Big 12, and TCU's got it.

The Frogs have to deal with the loss of receiver Josh Boyce, but the position is still strong with Brandon Carter returning and LaDarius Brown looking ready for an increased role after catching 27 passes for 385 yards and five scores last season.

The running backs will be a strength for the Frogs next season with Waymon James returning from a knee injury and B.J. Catalon and Nebraska transfer Aaron Green providing depth and variety to James' powerful running style.

Will it be enough to truly contend for a Big 12 title for the first time ever? Or are the Frogs a paper tiger bound for disappointment in 2013? Cast your vote. We'll revisit the results later.

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