Saturday, August 30, 2014

No. 1 - The program and who runs it

Less than 10 hours till the ball goes in the air, and let me tell you, I'm pumped.

Before we dive into Reason No. 1 on this game day, let me pay homage to some great TCU No. 1's:

No. 1  Phillip Epps - speed on top of speed. Truly a great who was a threat to take it all the way any time he touched the ball;
No. 1 Billy Jones - a tough free safety from Baytown who knew his way around the pile. If he didn't get to a play, his voice did. An underrated cover man on the 1984 Bluebonnet Bowl team who'd suit up tomorrow if they'd let him.

And finally ... Reason No. 1.
This final reason was tough to come up with, and, at the same time, so apparent. What TCU Football is and what it represents now is so different from what it was 10 years ago and really different from 20 years ago.  

TCU wins. Period. That's the expectation, and there's no substitute.  

Digest the fact that there are now students entering TCU that don't know anything in their lives but TCU winning. We're going on 16 years of winning and the head man wants to keep it that way.

And he will.

Coach P is the driving force. His personality oozes through every wall, crack and person in the program. 

And it means something to him. The Frogs have only been bowl-less on his watch one other time aside from 2013, and that was 2004.

In 2005, Coach P shifted gears, made adjustments and the Frogs began a run that resulted in back-to-back BCS bowls and a Rose Bowl win.

I believe 2013 set the stage for what will be another run that begins tomorrow at 6 p.m. 

Coach P figures it out. The Frogs win. That's the way it is. Just watch.

See you in a few hours at "The Carter.".

Did I say a few hours? Isn't that great?!

Frog Walk starts at 3:30 p.m. Kickoff is at 6 p.m.

Kick 'Em High!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

No. 2 - A deep stable of running backs

 We’re down to Reason No. 2. And here’s today’s list of great 2’s:

No. 2 - Reggie Hunt – a hard-hitting safety;
No. 2 - Trevone Boykin – you know all about him;
No. 2 - Jason Verrett – no introduction needed; 
(and here’s one I bet you didn’t know)
No. 2 - Kyle Clifton – you’ll remember him as a force at linebacker for the Frogs and the Jets, but what you might not know is that he came to TCU as a quarterback and wore No. 2 early in his career before switching to No. 89.

This deep stable of running backs is flying under the radar.

Not a lot is being said about this group now that the “Meacham Field” Offense has come to town. But this is a group that will make the difference in some games this year.

Returning yardage leader B.J. Catalon (above) has led the Frogs in rushing two years in a row, and Aaron Green is stronger than ever at just over 200 pounds.

Green started to show what he is capable of late last season.   He took over the Iowa State game late in the contest. Add to the mix the very quick Kyle Hicks and fellow redshirt freshman power plant Travorris Johnson at 220, and there’s a wide range of styles and choices when it comes to the run game.

From finesse to ferocious, the Frogs can dial it up and Doug Meacham has said when the space is there, TCU will run the ball.

Gentlemen, start your engines.

Tomorrow, it’s Reason No. 1.

Kick ‘Em High!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

No. 3 - Sonny Cumbie and the QB’s

We're three days from kickoff, so a tip of the cap to three of my favorite TCU 3s:
  • No. 3 QB/FB Kevin Haney (the Decatur Flash – see TCU vs Tulsa 1979 for a 77-yard touchdown run);
  • No. 3 Kicker Ken Ozee from Amarillo (who never kicked my hand in three years of holding for him);
  • No. 3 WR John Washington, who helped the Frogs to a share of the 1994 SWC Championship.

By the way, that ’94 team will be honored at halftime this Saturday. Their coach? Current Samford head coach Pat Sullivan.

There’s much discussion and guessing over who will be the starter Saturday, but one thing’s for sure. No matter who it is, Joeckel or Boykin, they have been coached and prepared by a guy who knows the position, co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie.

Know it? He’s lived it! Under Mike Leach at Texas Tech. Cumbie once hung 70 on the Frogs in 2004 – the longest day of my broadcasting career.

Sonny brings an approach not unlike that of former TCU quarterbacks coach Justin Fuente,
who once tutored Andy Dalton and now is the head man at Memphis.

With a keen eye for fundamentals and an emphasis on footwork and accuracy, Cumbie will have Joeckel and Boykin well prepared for this week’s game. Cumbie also brings an element of “been there/done that” and “I understand” that only a former quarterback can possess.

It’s a higher level of communication and an appreciation for the most difficult position in football. And it could be a huge difference-maker as Cumbie and Doug Meacham launch this new TCU offense on Saturday.

Joeckel has a complete knowledge of this offense, and Boykin has worked hard to slim down, improve his mechanics and prepare under Cumbie’s tutelage.

Sure, there’s a new, bigger offensive line and a fleet of wideouts that should provide ample targets on every play. But a higher level of understanding and communication between the QBs and their mentor mean more production by the offense.

I liken it to a Major League baseball team. You have to have a pitching coach. It’s an ultra-specialized position that demands it. And TCU has it.

Tomorrow, Reason No. 2.

Kick ‘Em High!

Ten reasons you're going to love these Frogs  
Aug. 20: No. 10 - The schedule
Aug. 21:
 No. 9 - The defensive line

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

No. 4 - A huge offensive line

It’s Tuesday and time to zero in on Samford as the Frogs return to the practice field today.

Just four days away, and here’s reason No. 4 in my countdown to the season to be fired-up about these Frogs: the offensive line.

The “Beef,” “Big Guys,” “Hogs,” “Wall.” Whatever you want to call them, they’re BIG. And not just their weight. This bunch is tall! The two-deep for the O-line checks in with 10 guys at 6-foot-4 or taller, with six of them 6-6 or 6-7.

“They’re a long group,” said offensive coordinator Doug Meacham. “I’ve been a lot of places, and I don’t recall having a group like this that can pass block and zone block with those long arms. They’re an impressive group.”

From left to right, this is what the starting O-line looks like: Tayo Fabuluje, Jamelle Naff, Joey Hunt, Brady Foltz and Halapoulivaati Vaitai (Big V). They average 6-5 and 320 pounds! And it doesn’t drop off much from there.

The Frogs needed to add size, and they did it. Hats off to the coaching staff and Donnie Sommer’s strength and conditioning team. This offensive line worked hard in the off-season to get in shape and put TCU in position to push and shove with anybody.

The backup O-line is (again, from L to R): Aviante Collins, Patrick Morris, Austin Schlottman, Frank Kee/Bobby Thompson, Joseph Noteboom/Matt Pryor.

When the Frogs want to muscle up, they can throw tight end Cliff Murphy in there for help at 6-foot-4 and 288 pounds!

No doubt about it. This group is BIG!

Kick ‘Em High!

Ten reasons you're going to love these Frogs  
Aug. 20: No. 10 - The schedule
Aug. 21:
 No. 9 - The defensive line

Aug. 22: No. 8 - The kicking game
Aug. 23: No. 7 - The secondary

Aug. 24: No. 6 - A new offense

Aug. 25: No. 5 - The wide receivers

Monday, August 25, 2014

No. 5 - The wide receivers

Happy Game Week everybody! New Year's Day is just five days away.

As a follow up to yesterday's entry featuring the new offense, it's only fitting that we take a look at Reason No. 5 to be excited: the wide receivers.

A great mix of size, speed and hands, this group should have no trouble being happy in the Frogs' new offense. Four of them should be on the field all the time, and there will be plenty of spirals to go around.

Josh Doctson and JuJuan Story, both 6-foot-4, are big targets. Ty Slanina (above) and David Porter are guys who dig after they catch the ball. Good luck stopping Porter. Just ask Baylor from 2012.

Deep threats include Jordan Moore and Kolby Listenbee. And don't forget Cameron Echols-Luper and Deante Gray.

More size comes with Charlie Reid, Griffin Gilbert and tight ends Buck Jones (great name), Dominic Merka and Cliff Murphy.

Had enough? True Freshmen Emanuel Porter and Keaton Duhon sneak in to this group.

Just be glad you don't have to cover these guys.

Tomorrow, No. 4!

Kick 'Em High!

Ten reasons you're going to love these Frogs  
Aug. 20: No. 10 - The schedule
Aug. 21:
 No. 9 - The defensive line

Aug. 22: No. 8 - The kicking game
Aug. 23: No. 7 - The secondary

Aug. 24: No. 6 - A new offense

Sunday, August 24, 2014

No. 6 - A new offense

I know you were waiting for me to get to this ... the NEW TCU offense. It didn’t arrive here without a lot of soul-searching and deep thought on the part of Coach P.

This offense is a departure from the old ball-control, play-defense, control-the-clock days during the Horned Frogs’ time in the Mountain West Conference. Coach P decided a change was needed, and new Offensive Coordinator Doug Meacham came up Interstate 45 from University of Houston to answer the call.

By the time Meacham got here, he had talked Sonny Cumbie into coming from Texas Tech, where he played QB for Mike Leach. He's became co-coordinator, and the transformation was on.

It’s a fun offense and you’re going to like it….but DON’T BLINK.

It’s a fast, four-wide, one-back setup, mostly, but there are wrinkles and twists for any defense to fall into.

Meacham has thrown out “80 plays per game” as number, although it's not mandatory. He wants to keep the defense guessing (and behind) with a fast pace and a loads of formations and personnel groups.

One play it will be four wideouts. The next: two tight ends. Then an empty set (no backs). Then three backs. Then one tight end. Good luck trying to guess.

It’s a body in motion that will stay in motion as long as the quarterback makes the right reads and is accurate with his throws. Coach Meacham told me before fall camp began, “I don’t think there’s a time when we’ll ever slow down.”

A fast-moving offense needs lots of fresh skill position people, and the Frogs will go two-deep at all wide receiver positions during games. According to Meacham, a backup wide receiver might play as many as 20 snaps a game.

Running backs will get a good workout, too, and not just taking handoffs. Anyone on the field had better be able to catch the ball. They’re all receivers.

I personally can’t wait to see this offense on Saturday. That’s right, SATURDAY! It’s game week. Get ready!

Tomorrow, No. 5

Kick ‘Em High! 

Ten reasons you're going to love these Frogs  
Aug. 20: No. 10 - The schedule
Aug. 21:
 No. 9 - The defensive line

Saturday, August 23, 2014

No. 7 – The secondary

Happy Saturday, Frog Fans!   I’m just back from “Meet the Frogs” and what a great crowd.   We’re just seven days away, so here’s No. 7 in my countdown of reasons that you’re going to love the Frogs.

The secondary has always been a huge part of the TCU defense since Gary Patterson showed up in 1998. This group has to be smart, fast and versatile. Jamming the run and covering deep, seemingly all at the same time.

Good news for you is that this year’s group has all that going for it and then some – especially on the experience side.

Sure All-American Jason Verrett is gone, but what he left behind is a level of play that current Frogs understand and covet. At the corners, Kevin White and Ranthony Texada lead the way while Trevosky Garrett brings size and physicality to the edge. A new face in the mix is Corry O’Meally, a transfer from Ellsworth Community College, who can throw a blanket on a receiver.

The safeties are like three buzzards, circling and pinning down their targets. I like this group a lot.

At strong safety is our man Sam Carter (above) and Travin Howard, a true freshman from Longview. The top two free safeties are Derrick Kindred, who has had a great camp, and the gnarly Geoff Hooker, who seems to always be around the ball.

The weak safety spot is where you’ll find physicality in starter Chris Hackett, who has range, and two big hitters in transfer Kenny Iloka, whose brother George played at Boise State, and the speedy Ridwan Issahaku, a true freshman from Norcross, Ga.

My summary on this bunch: fast, physical and covers lots of ground. Great against the run and solid in coverage, with speed at corner and hammers waiting for receivers at the safeties spots.

Kick 'em high!

Ten reasons you're going to love these Frogs  
Aug. 20: No. 10 - The schedule
Aug. 21:
 No. 9 - The defensive line
Aug. 22: No. 8 - The kicking game

Friday, August 22, 2014

No. 8 – The kicking game

Eight days to go until the umpire hands TCU place kicker Jaden Oberkrom the ball to start the game and says, “Now, son, don’t kick it ‘til I tell ya tew, ya undahstand?” And since we’re 8 days away, a tip of the cap to our favorite No. 8 Davey O’Brien.

Now this gets my motor running. Let’s talk kicking!The return game and key terms: hang time, get-off times, spinning the laces and hitting spirals. There’s a ton of detail in the kicking game. It’s part art and part execution.

Luckily, the Frogs have two of the biggest legs in the country in Oberkrom and punter Ethan Perry.While Oberkrom has struggled a little in fall camp, I think he’ll be alright as the games approach. The one thing I like about Jaden is the way he goes after it, attacking and driving the ball. That’s the way to kick it.Meanwhile, Perry has been great in fall camp with more tight spirals than I’ve ever seen him kick. Tight spirals mean hang time and distance, both of which are critical elements to a punter and the 10 guys running down the field to cover it.Speaking of coverage teams, just sit back and watch as these speed-laden waves of purple seek out kick returner prey. They’re fast! The biggest thing about these two specialists is that they can dictate and control the opponent’s starting field position with each kickoff or punt, making them a key part of the defense.

On the bounceback side (the return game), you may see quarterback Trevone Boykin in special situations, but not a lot as a punt returner. He'll return some kickoffs. I look for wide receiver Cameron Echols-Luper to continue to improve in the punt return game.
Remember, the Frogs also have wide receiver Deante Gray, who took a punt to the house on his first collegiate touch two years ago against Grambling.

Kickoff return should be a lot of fun, too, as running back Kyle Hicks will join running back B.J. Catalon as the primary kickoff return men. Catalon has the ability to go all the way every time he touches one. Remember I told you so!

Tomorrow, it’s No. 7

Kick ‘Em High!

Ten reasons you're going to love these Frogs 
Aug. 20: No. 10 - The schedule
Aug. 21:
No. 9 - The defensive line

Thursday, August 21, 2014

No. 9 - The defensive line

While a lot of attention and talk has been about who’s not here to play on the defensive line, I want to give props to this group that I’ve enjoyed watching during fall camp at TCU.

Coach Dick Bumpas has been around a long time, and he knows D-Line play. He has his gritty group playing fast and a little angry.

I think you’re going to like what this group brings to the line of scrimmage when they dig in for real next week against Samford.

Chucky Hunter (above) is the leader, and I think he’s primed for a season in which he’ll finally be recognized on a national basis for the dominant player he is.

Next door defensive tackle Davion Pierson is lighter and faster at a svelte 305. Mike Tuaua never stops at defensive end. Josh Carraway at the other end knows his way around a block – he’s quick.

The guys who’ll make news this year include defensive tackle Tevin Lawson and defensive end Terrell Lathan. But keep an ear open for the names Bryson Henderson and inside guys L.J. Collier and Chris Bradley – both true freshmen who add depth.

They’ll all get a good test in the first two games as both Samford and Minnesota are power teams who like to feature physical running attacks.

We’re nine days away!


Kick ‘Em High!
Ten reasons you're going to love these Frogs 
Aug. 20:
No. 10 - The schedule

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

10 Reasons You’re Going to Like These Frogs

No. 10
THE SCHEDULE – I’m not saying it’s easy. It’s just well-arranged.

The Frogs play seven home games this year and don’t leave the state of Texas until Nov. 1, when they travel to West Virginia.

The Frogs host both Oklahoma schools, K-State, Texas Tech, non-conference foes Samford and Minnesota and finish up with Iowa State.

Oh, and there are two open dates sprinkled in early on Sept. 6 and 20 to help the Frogs tune up some more for the Big 12 run which starts Oct. 4 when the Sooners come to visit.

Tomorrow, No. 9.

Kick ‘Em High!