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[2024] Big XII Network - Season Preview Series - TCU

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Big XII Season Previews

TCU Horned Frogs

 

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2023 Season
5th in Big XII
8-4 (5-4) Record
Orlando Bowl Loss (25-27) Virginia Tech

 

Introduction

 

Welcome back to the Big XII Network season preview series.  I’m your host Leo McGarry and I’ll be handling this preview solo.  Today we are going to examine the TCU Horned Frogs who are coached by @DangerZoneh.  After consecutive runs to the playoffs in 2021 and 2022 the Horned Frogs took a step back in 2023 finishing 5th in the Big XII Conference with a loss to the Virginia Tech Hokies in the Orlando Bowl.  As has been the case for the last several seasons, TCU heads into 2024 with one of the most talented teams in all of CFBHC, but will this be the year they finally put it all together? 

 

Key Departures

 

ATH Griffin McHanna 5-10 184 (Sr) Central (Independence, OR) 5.0 of 5.0 [Speed]
WR Finn Nielsen 6-2 194 (Sr) Roscoe (Roscoe, TX) 4.5 of 4.5 [Target]
TE Miguel Aguilera 6-1 192 (Jr) Mesquite (Mesquite TX) 5.0 of 5.0 [Receiving]*
OG Josh Carlisle 6-3 323 (Sr) Cooper (Cooper, TX) 4.0 of 4.0 [Pass Blocking]
DT Kwon Shaw 6-4 284 Jr Port Neches-Groves (Port Neches TX) 5.0 of 5.0 [2-Gap]*
OLB Richard Farrell 6-2 236 (Jr) Bonham (Bonham TX) 4.0 of 5.0 [Blitz]*
CB William Cooper 6-1 170 (Sr) Longview (Longview, TX) 4.5 of 4.5 [Zone Coverage]
K Ian Todd 5-8 200 (Sr) Comanche (Comanche, TX) 5.0 of 5.0 [Power]

 

For most teams losing this much talent would be hard to overcome, but at TCU they recruit well enough to just reload each season.  Griffin McHanna finally moved from WR to RB, for his senior season, and had his best campaign for his time in Fort Worth,  Finn Nielsen and Miguel Aguilera were the Horned Frogs top 2 pass catching options during the 2023 season, so it will be up to the quarterback Taylor Cook to see if he can develop chemistry with their replacements.  TCU also suffered from early decs from DT Kwon Shaw and OLB Richard Farrell, but it seems like there are potentially players ready to step into their positions.  The biggest loss might be that of kicker Ian Todd, a Lou Groza finalist, for the 2023 season.  A kicker that a coach can rely on from anywhere is a big advantage in the college game, so it will be interesting to see how danger adjusts to having an untested option. 

 

Key Returning Starters

 

QB Taylor Cook 6-3 199 (So) Northland Christian (Houston TX) 5.0 of 5.0 [Hybrid]
RB Matteo Cates 5-9 179 (Jr) Robert E. Lee (Baytown TX) 4.0 of 5.0 [Speed]
WR F.T. Grady 6-3 211 (Jr) Brackett (Brackettville TX) 4.5 of 4.5 [Target]
WR Julio Robledo 6-0 163 (So) Apple Springs (Apple Springs TX) 4.5 of 5.0 [Speed]
C James Kaplan 6-2 302 Sr Floydada (Floydada TX) 4.0 of 4.0 [Pass Blocking]
DT Hooker Jackson 6-5 285 (Jr) Irving (Irving TX) 5.0 of 5.0 [2-Gap]
OLB Blake Burns 6-0 241 Sr Calhoun Community College (Tanner AL) 5.0 of 5.0 [Coverage]
CB Patrick Ross 5-9 192 Jr Coronado (Lubbock TX) 5.0 of 5.0 [Zone Coverage]

 

Any article about returning TCU players starts and ends with Taylor Cook and Patrick Ross.  Considered 2 of the top players from their recruiting class they are the most important players on each side of the ball for the Horned Frogs.  If TCU wants to return to playoff contention they need Cook to improve drastically on his 2023 campaign.  The numbers weren’t bad by any stretch of the imagination ~2,900 yards, 22 touchdowns, only 9 picks, but with the balance TCU wants to bring to the game that type of stat line isn’t going to be nearly enough to achieve their lofty goals.  Look for him to elevate his game like the conference’s best quarterbacks before him.  Patrick Ross has an argument as being one of the best players in college football.  He started as a slot corner his freshman year, but in 2023 he moved to the outside and the move paid off to the tune of 5 interceptions and 5 pass deflections.  He brings a lot to the game that isn’t seen on the traditional statsheet either by locking up the opposing team's number one option.  Ross will be critical as the Horned Frogs will be starting new players at CB #2, CB #3 and FS for the 2024 season, he will need to ensure the unit is functioning on the same page.    

 

Matteo Cates had nearly 1,300 yards last season on 4.82 yards per carry.  With the graduation of McHanna the burden will be on Cates to carry the TCU rushing attack.  If he can get that YPC to 5 while increasing his workload to make up for the loss of McHanna that will go a long way towards TCU having an explosive offense in 2024.  

 

New Faces This Year

 

TE Spencer Griffin 6-5 209 Fr Cardinal Mooney (Sarasota FL) 2.5 of 5.0 [Receiving]
OLB Jarvis Bowen 6-2 234 Fr Baker (Mobile AL) 2.5 of 5.0 [Blitz]
CB Yadean Overton 6-2 185 Jr Simmons College of Kentucky (Louisville KY) 4.0 of 5.0 [Zone Coverage]
CB Terrell Mosley 5-9 196 (Fr) Crowell (Crowell TX) 2.0 of 5.0 [Zone Coverage]
FS Gabriel Sanders Jr. 6-0 193 Sr Baton Rouge Community College (Baton Rouge LA) 5.0 of 5.0 [Zone Coverage]
K Kyle Barfield 5-11 189 (Fr) Anson (Anson TX) 2.0 of 4.5 [Power]

 

The most obviously exciting players on this list are TE Spencer Griffin and OLB Jarvis Bowen.  Both of these guys have the potential to make a major impact on day one here in Fort Worth.  Griffin should provide Cook that red zone threat and security blanket that he lost when Aguilera declared for the NFLHC draft.  Bowen has a nose for the quarterback and should allow TCU to start to form some consistency in their defensive strategy.  Both of these guys will be key as TCU looks to make a run back to the playoffs.  

 

The Questions?

 

  • Is Taylor Cook ready to take the next step?
  • Can TCU replace all of the offensive production they lost from the 2023 team?
  • How will Hooker Jackson handle moving back to his natural position? 
  • Can Coach Danager manage such a crowded secondary?

 

The Schedule

SMU

Bye

at USC

Texas Tech

at Florida

Oklahoma

Baylor

at West Virginia

at Oklahoma State

at Texas

Bye

Iowa State

Kansas

at Kansas State

 

The Prediction

 

The maturation of Taylor Cook is going to be the engine that drives the success of the 2024 TCU football season.  The OOC schedule is brutal as the Horned Frogs open up with the defending national champion SMU Mustangs, travel to USC to play the Trojans, and travel to Gainsville to play the Gators.  TCU could make major strides from the disappointing 2023 season and be staring at 0-4 after the first 4 games, their schedule is that hard.  I think a split is more likely and the Frogs will head into a season defining game against the Oklahoma Sooners.  That game will be a must win if TCU legitimately wants to make a run towards the playoffs.

 

On paper TCU is a hell of a team.  They have the talent to win the whole damn thing, but they play a killer first 5 games and have tough games at Oklahoma State and at West Virginia shortly after that brutal stretch.  I think ultimately their schedule will end their at large playoff hopes early.  I foresee a 9-3 regular season finish and an appearance in the conference title game.  If they win that conference title game would it be enough to make them playoffs?  


AMENDED - I actually think TCU starts 4-1 and finishes 10-2 on the season. 

 

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This is awesome! This season is shaping up to be one of the better ones for TCU. It reminds me a lot of the 2021 season. Very difficult out of conference, young QB, high expectations.

 

I think the obvious place to look for the success of this team is at QB. Taylor Cook showed last year that he has the potential to be amazing. He put together some pretty incredible performances but was inconsistent. If he can take the step forward and have more games like against Duke last season, then we'll be tough to beat. It helps that he'll have a more experienced Matteo Cates and a stronger OL with him.

 

Defensively, I honestly think this is going to be the best one that I've ever put out by a mile. Hooker Jackson gets to play his traditional role, hopefully his development hasn't been majorly damaged. The linebacker corps remains strong even after the surprise declaration of Richard Farrell. Honestly, we might have upgraded there, getting a young guy with a ton of potential. The secondary has a ton of young talent and finally the kind of gameplan to get to showcase it. I have 5-6 corners and 3 free safeties who could all make the argument for playing time, so being able to give them a break when necessary will be very nice.

 

Above all, I can't WAIT to see my true freshmen in action! I didn't expect to. The two who are starting are both replacing early declarations. Spencer Griffin came out of high school as the number one ranked TE in the country. Aguilera was Cook's second leading receiver last year, Nielsen was his first. Hopefully he can provide a consistent target for Cook. And if he can, then next year should be really fun with his identical twin brother, who was the #1 ranked ATH, currently redshirting. Same idea for Jarvis Bowen, who was the #4 ranked OLB in the country. He had a tight recruitment with most people putting him at Bama, but he made a surprise signing day decision to come to the Frogs. He's a hope for TCU's outside rush threat in the 3-4 we're running. A consistent pass rusher is something that my teams have very much struggled with, so a guy like Bowen could be huge.

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