Coming off of a difficult 2016 campaign, TCU coaches, players, and fans will be hungry to get back to their winning ways next fall. With a small senior class having graduated, TCU will have a very veteran group returning to the field next fall. This is how things may shape up looking ahead.
Kenny Hill (Southlake Carroll) has one more year of eligibility left, and depending on your view of the QB situation in Fort Worth, that could be a good or bad thing. But entering his third year on campus and third year in the Sonny Cumbie/Doug Meacham offense, he should have a mastery of the playbook and improve in his ability to lead the offense and read opposing defenses.
With the announcement last week that presumed backup QB Foster Sawyer (Fort Worth All Saints) would be transferring, there will likely be an open competition for the number two spot between redshirt sophomore Grayson Muehlstein (Decatur) and freshmen Brennan Wooten (Central) and Jordan Kitna (Waxahachie).
A name to watch is early-enrollee Shawn Robinson (DeSoto), the highest rated QB recruit to ever commit to TCU. Though it has been speculated he would redshirt in his first full year on campus, if he comes in and performs at a high level, it’s not out of the question he could compete for snaps right away.
Kyle Hicks (Arlington Martin) returns at running back, as do a pair of players who flashed serious potential in freshmen in Sewo Olonilua (Kingwood) and Darius Anderson (George Ranch). The top six receivers all return for Hill, and with three of the state’s best high school WRs expected to sign in February, what was a young and inconsistent corp should be significantly improved next season.
The offensive line play should also be better with all but Aviante Collins (Willowridge) returning to the fold.
The defensive line takes several significant hits from graduation, with Aaron Curry (Keller Fossil Ridge), James McFarland, and Josh Carraway (Flower Mound Marcus) all gone. But there is some exciting youth along the front line, including freshmen Brandon Bowen (Byron Nelson), Isaiah Chambers (Aldine MacArthur), and Ross Blacklock (Elkins) – all of whom redshirted in 2016.
Mat Boesen and Chris Bradley will be seniors, and both were productive last season. Rising junior Tipa Galeai (Euless Trinity) has star potential, and Semaj Thomas (Fort Worth Southwest) and Ben Banogu are intriguing names to watch as well. The secondary will be a very experienced group, with starters Ranthony Texada (Frisco Centennial), Niko Small (Arlington Bowie), Nick Orr (DeSoto), Jeff Gladney (New Boston), and Julius Lewis (Mansfield) all back.
Leading tacklers Ty Summers (San Antonio Reagan) and Travin Howard (Longview) will be seniors, with the rest of a solid linebacking corp returning as well, the Frogs should be strong up the middle. Having been a top ten unit nationally as far as sack numbers a year ago, the TCU defense will need to make up some of the production, but have the young players in place to do so. Coach Patterson spoke after the season about needing his front lines to get bigger, and that will surely be an off-season focus.
One of the biggest points of consternation among TCU coaches and fans in 2016 was the lack of a reliable place kicker. Once Jonathan Song (Fort Worth All Saints) went out with a leg injury in fall camp, the all-important field goal/extra-point job fell on the shoulders of a pair of untested walk-ons in Brandon Hatfield and Ryan Graf. Both struggled early, but Hatfield eventually won the job and earned his spot with a game winner against Kansas.
But after missing three FGs against Texas Tech and two against Georgia, it’s clear he is not the answer. Fortunately, Song appears to be fully healthy and should participate in spring drills. With a powerful leg and solid accuracy, he should stabilize one of the biggest areas of concern heading into next year.
Punter Adam Nunez (Houston Second Baptist) will also be back for his sophomore year, and after averaging nearly 40 yards a kick and forcing 28 fair catches in 2016, he has staked his claim as one of the best young players at his position in the country.
A healthy KaVontae Turpin and the return of Des White (DeSoto) should bolster the return game – Turpin averaged over 12 yards per punt return and ver 28 per kick return when he was on the field.