Dallas Colleges: Zach Allen
Defensive returner ready to take the next step: Derrick Kindred has never been "the guy" at either safety spot during his first two seasons, but he started at least one game in 2012 and 2013. The junior should make a seamless transition into a starting safety spot, particularly after starting the final three games of 2013 and finishing seventh on the squad with 48 tackles. He's an active playmaker who is always around the ball and should help TCU's secondary continue to rank among the conference's top units.
Redshirt freshman to watch: Several eyes will be on cornerback Ranthony Texada, who opened the spring as Jason Verrett’s replacement opposite Kevin White. A three-star prospect out of high school, Texada is known for his speed but faces a tough task as the player sliding into Verrett’s spot. This spring will be key for Texada to show he can match the competitiveness and desire that Verrett brought to the table each Saturday.
Most significant position battle: The quarterback battle might not be decided during the spring but its easily the most important competition in this program. New offensive coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie need to find a signal-caller with Trevone Boykin, Tyler Matthews and Zach Allen taking reps this spring. If Matthews or Allen steps up during the spring, it gives the coaching staff the freedom to move Boykin to receiver, where he excelled after Casey Pachall returned to the lineup late in the 2013 season.
Key midterm enrollee: The Horned Frogs are hoping Frank Kee’s arrival at the guard position can help solidify the offensive interior and spur competition among TCU’s offensive front. Kee, a junior-college signee, brings bulk and athleticism at 6-foot-4 and 345 pounds. He’s set to battle Jamelle Naff at left guard this spring.
Question that could be answered: How will Boykin be used? That question could be as important as who wins the starting quarterback job. Matthews or Allen’s emergence during the spring would be the best-case scenario because Boykin looked like TCU’s best receiver when he lined up on the outside in 2013. If Meacham and Cumbie aren’t worried about the quarterback spot, it opens up ways to use Boykin all over the field and, more importantly, it gives the coaching staff the summer months to devise the best ways to use Boykin without worrying about the quarterback position. The talented junior has the most experience at quarterback, but it could be his least effective position in the offense in 2014.
Question that won’t be answered until fall: Can TCU count on Devonte Fields to return to his freshman form? Even if Fields has a stellar spring and looks like the dominant force he was as a freshman, the Horned Frogs are going to make him earn his starting spot back. Fields begins the spring listed with the second-team defense, a sign that he will have to regain the trust of the coaching staff. Fields will need to carry any momentum he creates during the spring into August practices and September games before he re-establishes his name among the Big 12’s best defenders.
Schedule: The Frogs began spring practice on Friday, which will be the first of 15 NCAA-allowed practices. TCU rarely holds a spring game, and will not hold one this season.
What's new: Very, very little, especially on defense. TCU lost coach Randy Shannon to Arkansas this offseason, but returns 15 starters from last year's seven-win team, second most in the Big 12 (only Texas has more) and 24th nationally. Shannon was replaced by DeMontie Cross, who comes to TCU from Kansas' staff under Charlie Weis. On the field, there are big pieces that must be replaced (defensive end Stansly Maponga and wide receiver Josh Boyce), but the Frogs will largely have the same personnel next season as they had in 2012.
All eyes on: Quarterback Casey Pachall. He's the biggest story of spring in the Big 12 by far. Pachall was one of the Big 12's best at the position a year ago, but left the team after a DUI arrest to seek treatment for drug and alcohol addiction. He's back on the team now and TCU's Big 12 title hopes hinge on him returning to form after time away from the game. He's also going to be watched closely when he's off the field. Will he be able to make the necessary adjustments to make his new lifestyle a permanent, healthy change?
New faces: TCU will be welcoming three early enrollees this spring, headlined by quarterback Zach Allen, the nation's No. 56 pocket passer. He'll be joined by tight end Bryson Burtnett from Springtown, Texas, and Georgia offensive tackle Eason Fromayan. There aren't many immediate contributors in that group, I'd say, but it's always good for freshmen to get a head start in spring practice.
Question marks: We've mentioned this previously, but you can't underestimate the importance of offensive line play in the Big 12. It can make any offense look great, and TCU will have to replace two of its best players on the line in guard Blaize Foltz and center James Fry. Sorting out their replacements will be a primary objective this spring.
Position battle: TCU's running back spot is going to be really strong and intriguing. I expect all the backs to get carries in the fall, Waymon James will be returning from a knee injury and trying to hold off B.J. Catalon to retain his starting position. What people really want to see, though, is Nebraska transfer Aaron Green's debut as an eligible player. He was one of the nation's top 10 prospects in the 2010 recruiting class and sat out last season after coming home to Texas.
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