For our first installment, I reached out to the TCU blog Frogs of War to get some info on LSU's opponent for their second appearance in the JonesMahall classic. HawkeyedFrog was good enough to fill us in on how the Horned Frog's spring is going so far.
1. Obviously, we have to lead with the status of Casey Pachall -- I understand he's back on the team and going through practices?
Patterson said "Casey Pachall will be a great story or a great waste of time" early in spring practice, and we're certainly all hoping for the former going into the season. He's still got the zip on his throws, but at the moment he's releasing the ball too early. With his favorite receiver leaving early for the NFL it's going to take a little adjustment to get him in the swing of his new targets, but he's looking good. Hopefully he keeps his head on straight.
2. What exactly does that mean for this team in 2013?
If he comes back and is the Casey Pachall that we know from the last two years it means that TCU will have the best quarterback in the Big 12 this year. Casey would have been second team all-Big 12 last year if he had been (mentally) healthy all season, and a full strength Casey Pachall would either ascend to the top of the conference or...be beaten out by inconsistent passer but electric athlete Trevone Boykin. That seems unlikely, but as coaches say "the best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores", and if Boykin grows significantly this offseason he could be the best himself. The most likely scenario is that LSU will see a lot of Pachall and a little Boykin in a wildcat role, which is when the offense shined in the first few games before injuries and idiocy derailed it in the rest of the season.
3. We know about Pachall's return and Devonte Fields after that huge freshman season, but who are some of the other guys LSU fans should know about as we all prepare for the big Dallas opener?
I'll give you two more on offense and defense to think about, because I love talking about TCU guys. First is Jason Verrett, TCU's first team All-American cornerback who was the one player that Frog fans were expecting would go pro after last season. Instead DE Stansly Maponga and WR Josh Boyce heard the siren song of the league, despite likely being mid-round picks, while possible first/second rounder Jason Verrett returned to TCU and will give Frog fans something to cheer as he shuts down the top wideout of opposing teams for another year. Complimenting Verrett as the best of TCU's three safeties is Elisha Olabode, who is a monster in both run support and in coverage and has a knack for forcing turnovers. On offense TCU suffered greatly due to a string of unfortunate incidents to its players (remember the Simpsons episode where Burns hires a ton of major league baseball players for his softball team and all but one end up unable to play? It was like that. Casey Pachall was definitely the Ken Griffey Jr.) but the offense suffered arguably the worst blow when running back Waymon James was lost for the year in week two. James averaged over 7 yards per carry in 2011 and was averaging about ten ypc in 2012 before he landed awkwardly on the ground in Kansas near the end of the game. Without James the running game was awful (which led to backup quarterback Trevone Boykin briefly being moved there before Casey went Griffey Jr.), while with him it's absolutely electric and really opens things up for the passing game. Speaking of the passing game, TCU's next great wide receiver is Ladarius Brown, who is huge, has great body control and really surprising speed. He's a nightmare for small corners as he's almost impossible to bring down alone, while bigger corners he can typically just outrun.
4. What are some areas of concern y'all have your eyes on over at Frogs of War?
The linebacker position was the lone weakness on defense last year, which is rough because TCU actually got great linebacker play from Kenny Cain (the lone senior on last year's defense). That means TCU has two question marks at linebacker this year, and though Patterson has been complimentary of the position in spring so far I'll be concerned about it until I see otherwise. Special teams is also a big area for concern for the frogs, as kicker Jaden Oberkrom could do no wrong early in the year only to turn into a bit of a head case by the end of it and TCU punt returners fumbled punts in each of their last six games. Fortunately the leading fumbler, Skye Dawson, will be fumbling in the NFL this year. Unfortunately, he was still being sent out there after all of those weeks of fumbling, which means that the guys behind him still weren't good enough to take his job? That's scary.
5. It's year two of the transition into the Big 12. What are the expectations for this team going into 2013?
When it comes to TCU football, I'm a homer through and through. I try to be objective, yet when the time comes to make predictions I ended up picking TCU to win all thirteen of their games last year. Now that that's been said however...This is a team that should win the Big 12. Oklahoma, West Virginia, Texas Tech, Baylor and Kansas State will all be breaking in new quarterbacks this season, while TCU's defense returns nine of eleven starters from the best unit in the Big 12 last year. The defense was good enough to keep us in every game last year when we had a quarterback who couldn't throw to our great group of wide receivers and couldn't hand it off because of injuries to the running backs. Now we have a quarterback who can make those throws to a similar group of wide outs and a stable of healthy running backs. If they stay healthy they're the best team in the Big 12 and have a pretty decent conference schedule, getting Texas and K-State at home and Oklahoma and Tech early enough that their new quarterbacks will likely have some growing pains against Patterson's unique 4-2-5. I'm expecting that TCU will collect at least ten wins and a share of the conference title, but check back with me after week 1. Actually, don't -- either I won't be able to stand talking about football or you'll likely have no interest in hearing what I have to say.