Top 50 Countdown: No. 33 Texas Christian

Coach: Gary Patterson | Staff
In 2006: 11-2, beat Northern Illinois 37-7 in Poinsettia Bowl.
Returning starters: 6 offensive, 9 defensive.
Key losses: QB Jeff Ballard, S Marvin White, WR Quentily Harmon, OL Herb Taylor, RB Lonta Hobbs.
2007 breakdown: Top 10 players | Outlook | Offense | Defense | Special teams | Coaching | Schedule

Breaking down the offense

Overview: Texas Christian must find a new quarterback to replace Jeff Ballard, a second-team all-Mountain West selection last fall. The QB situation could force the Horned Frogs to depend more heavily on Aaron Brown to lead a ground attack that helped Texas Christian rank ninth in the nation in rushing offense a year ago.

TEXAS CHRISTIAN TOP 10
Tommy Blake

1. DE Tommy Blake
2. DE Chase Ortiz
3. LB Jason Phillips
4. RB Aaron Brown
5. S/PR Brian Bonner
6. OL Matty Lindner
7. LB David Hawthorne
8. DT James Vess
9. K Chris Manfredini
10. S David Roach
Best player: RB Aaron Brown: His ability to run with the ball and catch passes out of the backfield makes him doubly dangerous. Brown rushed for 801 yards gaining 5.2 yards per carry and also caught 34 passes for 455 yards on his way to earning second-team all-conference honors as a sophomore last season.

Overrated: WR Marcus Brock: Injuries have prevented this former three-star prospect from having much of a chance to prove his worth. He played as a true freshman in 2003 before undergoing midseason shoulder surgery that knocked him out for the year. Brock sat out the entire 2005 season and caught just three passes for 28 yards last year.

Underrated: C Blake Schlueter: The fact that Schlueter only received honorable mention on the all-conference team last year reflects his status as one of TCU's most underappreciated players. Schlueter was one of the major reasons why the Frogs ranked ninth in the nation in rushing offense last year.

Must step up: The entire receiving corps: With Quentily Harmon gone, the Frogs must find someone to emerge as a go-to receiver. Harmon collected a team-high 52 catches a year ago. No other wideout caught more than 26 passes last season.

Impact newcomer: WR Jimmy Young: The easy answer is to go with redshirt freshman Andy Dalton, who could end up as the Frogs' starting quarterback. You'll read about Dalton elsewhere in this profile. We'll use this space to mention Young, who could benefit from the holes in the receiving corps to earn some playing time as a redshirt freshman.

Shoes to fill: QBs Marcus Jackson and Andy Dalton: Texas Christian's chances of ending the season in the Top 25 again depend on how well Jackson or Dalton can replace Ballard, who often bothered defenses with his combination of running and passing skills.

Position battle: Quarterback: Jackson has more experience after throwing for 386 yards while backing up Ballard last year, but the competition will continue through the fall.

New in 2007: TCU will have a new quarterback coach to go along with its new quarterback. Offensive coordinator Mike Schultz will also coach the quarterbacks following the postseason retirement of Dick Winder. The Frogs hired former Illinois State quarterbacks coach Justin Fuente to coach the running backs.

Grade the units:
QB: C-plus: Jackson and Dalton have plenty of potential, but both lack experience.
RB: B: The combination of Brown and Joseph Turner give TCU a one-two punch that any team would like to have.
WR: C-minus: The inexperience here and at quarterback could force the Frogs to run the ball quite a bit early in the season.
OL: B-plus: The departure of first-team all-conference selection Herb Taylor could hurt, but the Frogs still have plenty of experience here.

Breaking down the defense

Overview: Texas Christian returns nine starters from a unit that ranked second in the nation in total defense and third in scoring defense last year. Brigham Young was the only team to score more than 21 points against the Frogs a year ago. Chase Ortiz and Tommy Blake give the Frogs one of the nation's top defensive-end tandems.

Best player: DE Tommy Blake: After leading the Mountain West in tackles for loss (16.5) and tying for the league lead in sacks (seven) last year, Blake appears poised for an All-America season.

Texas Christian Schedule
Date Opponent
Sept. 1 Baylor
Sept. 8 at Texas
Sept. 13 at Air Force
Sept. 22 SMU
Sept. 29 Colorado State
Oct. 6 at Wyoming
Oct. 13 at Stanford
Oct. 18 Utah
Nov. 3 New Mexico
Nov. 8 at BYU
Nov. 17 UNLV
Nov. 24 at SD State
Overrated: S Steven Coleman: This guy has excellent size and speed, but he still hasn't put it all together on the field. He struggled in last year's loss to Brigham Young and will need a big season this year as TCU tries to replace first-team all-conference safety Marvin White.

Underrated: LB David Hawthorne: He quietly recorded 43 tackles while starting all 13 games last year. Because TCU returns its entire linebacking corps, Hawthorne probably won't receive much attention for his solid performances again this season.

Shoes to fill: Coleman: On a defense that returns nine starters, the guy replacing first-team all-conference selection Marvin White clearly has the biggest shoes to fill. Coleman has that unenviable task.

Must step up: NT Cody Moore: This first-year starter will need a big season to help Texas Christian stop opposing ground attacks as well as it did last year, when the Frogs ranked second in the nation in run defense.

Impact newcomer: DE Clarence Leatch: Whenever Ortiz and Blake need a breather, this redshirt freshman should help TCU continue to provide a potent pass rush.

Position battle: Cornerback: Sophomore Nick Sanders and redshirt freshman Alex Ibiloye are competing for one starting spot. TCU rotates so many people on defense that both guys should earn plenty of playing time.

New in 2007: Not much. Texas Christian returns its entire defensive coaching staff along with nine starters on defense.

Grade the units:
DL: A: It's tough to find a better front four anywhere in the nation.
LB: A-minus: Jason Phillips, Hawthorne and Robert Henson give the Frogs plenty of experience.
DB: B: Texas Christian must find someone to replace White the team's leading tackler last year but he's the only notable loss in the secondary.

Breaking down the special teams

Overview: Texas Christian must find a new punter to replace Bryan Cortney, but the Frogs have plenty of experience in their place-kicking and return units.

Season outlook with bowl forecast
Texas Christian's defense should be good enough to help the Frogs win at least 10 games, but the uncertain quarterback situation prevents us from forecasting a Top 25 finish. TCU will probably lose that Sept. 8 meeting at Texas. It could drop a conference game along the way, but the Frogs should capture the Mountain West title and earn a Las Vegas Bowl berth before finishing with a 10-3 record.
Best player: K Chris Manfredini: He went 12-for-14 on field-goal attempts last year while splitting the place-kicking duties with Peter LoCoco. Now that LoCoco has completed his senior year, Manfredini will be the Frogs' sole kicker.

Grade the units:
K: A-minus: Manfredini has gone 25-for-27 on field-goal attempts the last two years. LoCoco handled most of the long field goals last year, so this season should offer more of a test of Manfredini's range.
P: C-minus: Anson Kelton has a chance to win this job as a true freshman.
KR: B: Donald Massey ranked third in the Mountain West in kickoff return average last year.
PR: A-minus: Bonner led the Mountain West and ranked 16th in the nation in punt return average a year ago.

Breaking down the coaching

Overview: Non-BCS schools that have success typically have to endure plenty of coaching turnover, but TCU's staff has enjoyed remarkable stability since Gary Patterson took over the program in December 2000. Mike Schultz has served as TCU's offensive coordinator since 1998, while Dick Bumpas is entering his fourth year as defensive coordinator. TCU added running backs coach Justin Fuente to the staff this year, which will allow Schultz to work with the quarterbacks now that former quarterbacks coach Dick Winder has retired.

Grade the coaches:
Head coach: A: Patterson has made Texas Christian a consistent 10-win program that finishes in the Top 25 more often than not.
Offensive coaches: B: Texas Christian's defense justifiably garners the majority of the attention, but Schultz's offense finished 17th in the nation in total offense and 26th in scoring offense last year.
Defensive coaches: A: If Bumpas already hadn't proved himself one of the nation's top defensive coordinator, the Frogs' performance last year should have allowed him to stake his claim.
Special teams coaches: B-minus: Special teams coach Dan Sharp managed to alternate the kicking job between Manfredini and LoCoco without any major problems last year.

Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com.

Rivals.com is counting down our Preseason Top 50. Coming tomorrow: No. 32.


 

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