With TCU’s spring practice in the books, here’s what we know and what we learned about the Horned Frogs.
TCU travelled in reverse in 2016, going 6-7 after winning 23 combined games in the previous two seasons. The Horned Frogs are determined to return to Big 12 contention in 2017, which will require more consistency from the passing game and the defense. The long journey to the Sept. 2 opener with Jackson State continued with this spring’s 15 practice sessions.
1. QB Kenny Hill Tops Depth Chart, But Shawn Robinson Looms Large
This is an enormous offseason for Hill, the linchpin of the 2017 team. And he’s approached it accordingly, tinkering with every aspect of his game. However, there were still inconsistencies at practice, as Robinson inched up to No. 2 on the post-spring depth chart.
Ideally, Hill recaptures his swagger this fall, engineering enough blowouts for Robinson to letter in preparation for taking the reins in 2018. If the incumbent doesn’t build off his Frog debut, though, the cries to kick off a new era in Fort Worth could reach a shrill level. Robinson, pursued by the likes of Alabama, Clemson, LSU, Michigan and USC, is the most heralded quarterback to ever sign with the Frogs.
2. More Receivers, Same Concerns
The problems with the 2016 passing game don’t fall entirely on Hill. The receivers must get their act together as well.
Jackrabbit KaVontae Turpin is back after an injury-plagued sophomore season and a brief academic suspension in March. Ditto Shaun Nixon, who missed all of last year after catching 47 passes as a rookie in 2015. On the outside, Taj Williams and John Diarse are entering their senior seasons with the program. But an uptick in returning letterwinners alone is not going to solve TCU’s passing game hiccups. The receivers were still dropping too many passes and generally not helping elevate the QBs this spring, a troubling omen for a program that must improve in 2017 at complementing Kyle Hicks’ ground output.
3. Don’t Sleep on Rebuilt D-Line
Gary Patterson has a long and distinguished track record of coaching up defensive players. And he has his work cut out for him up front this season.
The Horned Frogs lost a lot of talent in the trenches, headlined by All-Big 12 DE Josh Carraway and DT Aaron Curry. Suggestions TCU will be vulnerable at the point of attack, though, might be greatly exaggerated. Ends Mat Boesen and Tipa Galeai and tackles L.J. Collier and Chris Bradley were productive in 2016, combining for 17.5 sacks. Plus, DT Ross Blacklock and DE Ben Banogu made plays throughout the spring, en route to spots on the first team. Banogu is a Louisiana-Monroe transfer who doesn’t look as if he’ll have any problems transitioning to a tougher conference.