TCU starts its third time through the Big 12 batting order on Monday when they start fall practice and preparation for their 2014 campaign.
The Frogs finished 4-8 in their second season in the Big 12, and the disappointing record led to significant coaching changes in the offseason. Gary Patterson has hired Doug Meacham and Sonnie Cumbie, two pass-first, spread offense coaches to jump-start a unit that was mediocre at best last season.
Let's take a look at five pressing questions that the Frogs must answer in fall camp.
1. Cumbie and Meacham may be great offensive coaches, but their schemes will hardly matter if the Frogs cannot find someone to rely upon as their quarterback. TCU seemingly has four options heading into camp. Trevone Boykin has a less-than-impressive record as the Frogs starter, but he is the most experienced of all the QBs. Matt Joeckel is a senior transfer from Texas A&M who ran a similar spread scheme while playing under Kevin Sumlin. Then, the Frogs have two freshmen in Grayson Muehlstein and Foster Sawyer.
Boykin and Joeckel would seem to be the front runners heading into camp. The key for Joeckel will be picking up new terminology and forging a synergy his new teammates. On the other hand, the key for Boykin is proving that he can make plays with his arm. His 2012 performances against Texas Tech and Baylor showed his immense potential, but he has not been able to duplicate those performances.
Several sources said that Boykin has thrown the ball well in summer workouts, and he impressed his new offensive coaches. Throwing a wrench into the plans are the fact that Boykin would also help the Frogs immensely at receiver. He's a rare talent that can do it all on the football field. The big question is if quarterback is his best spot.
Mark me down for betting that Trevone Boykin is the Frogs starter at quarterback against Samford. Boykin has his deficiencies, but better coaching and footwork could help him finally meet his potential.
2. Sure, the quarterback is important in any offense, but one could make an argument that receivers are just as important in the Meacham/Cumbie scheme. The spread concepts place a premium on playmaking ability at the receiver position.
Cumbie and Meacham have made it a point to recruit faster, better receivers. The big question is who will emerge as a go-to guy for the Frogs this fall. Brandon Carter was rightly dismissed from the team, but his absence leaves the Frogs without a clear number one at the position. In the new offense, receivers must take a three yard pass and turn it into 10 yard gains. That’s what made Jakeem Grant and Bradley Marquez so good last year at Texas Tech. Both took short passes and turned them into big gains.
Both David Porter and Josh Doctson showed big-play potential last year. Porter runs crisp routes, and he will line up frequently in the slot -- a position that is utilized more than anything else in the Frogs new offense. He seems likely to have a breakout year.
Sophomores Cam Luper and Ty Slanina are also poised to have breakout years if they can get comfortable in the new offense. They have elite athleticism and both have a high football acumen. Along with Porter, they are the most likely candidates to break out.
Jordan Moore is built like Zeus, but he's unpolished at the position. He'll show flashes of brilliance, but he's hardly ready to be a primary option.
On Twitter, @ASullivanMusic asked what we can expect this year from Ju'Juan Story and Kolby Listenbee. They are both wild cards this season. Both think too much when they are on the field. They'll need to settle down and cease making mental errors. Both are talented, but too often, they are their own worst enemies. Expect one to make an impact this year. My bet is on Story.
3. I'll take the next question from Twitter as well. @Mulloy_K wants to know which freshman or transfer will have the biggest impact.
Junior college transfer Kenny Iloka will make an impact in the secondary. Despite losing Jason Verrett, the secondary should be a strength for the Frogs. Iloka may not even start because Kindred, Hackett, and Carter have a hold on the starting safety spots, but Iloka is too physical and talented to keep off the field. Patterson will use him frequently, and he showed in the spring game (a game in which he scored the only touchdown) his propensity to make big plays.
The other person that I will mention is Frank Kee. Kee is 6'3, 340 pounds, and he will slide into a starting guard spot if all goes to plan this fall (Bobby Thompson or Matt Pryor will likely start at the other guard spot). Kee plays with good leverage, but he needs to continue improving his footwork, so he can use his lower body to drive defenders off the line while run blocking. The TCU offensive line will be much better and bigger this season. Kee is a big reason why they will be improved.
Honorable mention: Desmon White. His speed and quickness make him hard to keep off the field. The new offensive coaches are innovative. They'll find him a way to get some touches.
Who will emerge as the fourth linebacker?
Paul Dawson and Jonathan Anderson left the spring as the starters. That left Marcus Mallett as the third linebacker, but head coach Gary Patterson repeated that the team needed to find a fourth linebacker.
The Frogs will need to develop that depth in case of injury or in case of poor play. Both Paul Whitmill and Sammy Douglas had good springs, but neither was consistent enough to please their head coach. The dark horse in this is incoming freshman Ty Summers. He’s 6’2 and 225 pounds, but he must pickup Patterson’s complex schemes before he can be trusted to play the critical LB position for the Frogs.
It’s a toss-up between Douglass and Whitmill. Douglass is slightly faster, but Whitmill has played better in the box. One has to step up. I’m just not sure which one it will be.
The final question comes from @RadarNick on Twitter. Is the secondary good enough to mitigate the loss of Jason Verrett?
The answer: absolutely.
The Frogs are more talented at the safety position this year than they even were last year. Kenny Iloka, as mentioned, gives them good depth there. Plus, Ranthony Texada emerged this spring as a dependable second cornerback to pair with Kevin White. You’ve got to like the speed that Texada brings to the table.
TCU’s cornerbacks play on an island frequently, so speed is crucial for not giving up deep balls. Texada has fluid hips and a quick recovery step.
Texada is a lean 170 pounds, so the question is if he can stay healthy. The Frogs have no idea who their third cornerback is. That is a spot to keep an eye on throughout fall camp. Cydney Calvin is a candidate for that third cornerback spot, but no one has an edge on the position currently. Travosky Garrett was a step slow throughout spring practice. He may no longer have the speed he possessed before his injuries.