BY DANIEL MOGOLLON
COLLEGE FOOTBALL INSIDERS CO-FOUNDER
2006 RECORD: 11-2; MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE: 6-2
Won Poinsettia Bowl vs. Northern Illinois 37-7
LOCATION: Fort Worth, Texas
STADIUM: Amon G. Carter (44,008)
HEAD COACH: Gary Patterson
OVERALL: 54-20 (6 seasons)
AT TCU: 54-20 (6 seasons)
In addition to having the best nickname in college football – who doesn’t love to say Horned Frogs? – TCU has the talent to challenge many of the big name schools around the country. In his six years as headman, Patterson has averaged nine wins a season, with three 11-win campaigns in their last four seasons. The goal for this season is to win a Mountain West Conference Championship, which they did two years ago, possibly setting them up for a BCS bid or to become “this year’s Boise St.” if you must.
WHEN THE HORNED FROGS HAVE THE BALL
OFFENSIVE COORDINAROR: Mike Schultz (7th Season)
OFFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 6
KEY LOSSES: Jeff Ballard, Lonta Hobbs, Quentily Harmon, Herb Taylor
The Horned Frogs must replace a successful if unspectacular leader in Jeff Ballard (won 19 of 21 starts), the biggest hurdle they must overcome in reaching all their goals. It will come down to sophomore Marcus Jackson and redshirt freshman Andy Dalton. When they trailed Baylor last season, Jackson stepped in and led them back, but he is far from a proven commodity. Who the targets will be is somewhat of a question mark as well and their leading returning receiver Donald Massey had only 332 yards through the air. They know what to expect from big play back Aaron Brown, who averaged 5.2 yards per carry as a sophomore and made 34 receptions coming out of the backfield. After an ankle injury slowed him down some last year, Brown could have a breakout season as a junior. The offensive line also continues to be among their strengths, equally adept at protecting their quarterback and opening up holes for their backs.
PRO PROSPECTS: 1) Aaron Brown (JR)
WHEN THE OTHER TEAM HAS THE BALL
DEFENSIVE COORDINAROR: Dick Bumpas (4th Season)
DEFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 9
KEY LOSSES: Marvin White
They return nine starters from a unit that finished second in the nation in total defense and third in scoring defense. Don’t think those numbers are skewed because they play in Conference USA, as TCU held Texas Tech and their high octane offense to a field goal when they played last season. Leading the way is Tommy Blake, who knows how to get into the opponent’s backfield with seven sacks last fall among his 16.5 tackles for a loss. The former running back has retained his 4.5 speed creating mismatches coming off the edge. Taking advantage of the attention Blake commands is fellow MWC First Team selection Chase Ortiz, although his sack totals dropped from nine as a sophomore to just a pair last season (11 tackles for a loss). Leading their linebacker duo is Jason Phillips, as TCU favors an extra safety in the 4-2-5 defensive-alignment they deploy. The secondary is solid with senior Brian Bonner their top safety and Nick Sanders proving he can shutdown receivers as a freshman. There is depth as well.
PRO PROSPECTS: 1) Tommy Blake (SR), 2) Chase Ortiz (SR), 3) Jason Phillips (JR), 4) Nick Sanders (SO), 5) Brian Bonner (SR)
In addition to their win over the Red Raiders, the Horned Frogs have won their last four against Big 12 opposition, including a major upset against the Oklahoma Sooners in Norman in 2005. The streak will extend to five as they host the Baylor Bears to open the season…now if it reaches six they could be in BCS business. Their second game is a visit to Austin and a win over the Horns would open the eyes of voters. In conference play, they host Utah (Oct. 18) and visit BYU, the defending MWC Champs Cougars (Nov. 8).
This has a two-part answer. On the field, it will be the quarterback position and whoever takes over the reins has a horse ready ride. In addition to winning games on the gridiron, if the Horned Frogs are to follow in the footsteps of Utah and Boise St., they must prove to voters that they are worthy. The best way to accomplish that goal is by knocking off the Texas Longhorns or at least giving the big bad boys from Austin a run for their money.
CFI FINAL ANALYSIS
In some respects beauty is in the eyes of the beholder when it comes to evaluating all college football teams, however in the case of schools from the mid-major conferences the view becomes a bit blurrier. We can’t know exactly how effective Blake would have been playing in the Big Ten and going up against the likes of Joe Thomas, Levi Brown and Jake Long on a regular basis. Nevertheless, they are worthy of a spot in the Top 25 and eventually could prove to be deserving of even more recognition. Circle that Texas game on your calendar (Sept. 8), it could tell us about two programs, if not two classes in the world of Division I college football.
Check back tomorrow to see who is #23 in CFI’s Top 25 Countdown