Friday, May 20, 2011

Can the TCU Horned Frogs Throw Up Yet Another Dominant Defensive Unit?

Over the past two seasons, the TCU defensive unit has been known for shutting down opponents. But can they have the same kind of success in 2011 even after losing five starters from their defensive unit from last season?

The Horned Frogs will lose five starters from their defensive unit from last season and some might wonder if they have the players to replace who is on their way out.

Stansly Maponga Braylon Broughton #99, Stansly Maponga #90 (C) and Jurell Thompson #16 of the TCU Horned Frogs celebrate after a touchdown against the University of New Mexico Lobos on November 27, 2010 at University Stadium in Albuquerque, New Mexico. TCU won 66-17.
Eric Draper/Getty Images

TCU will return six of their 11 starters from last season, linebackers Tanner Brock and Tank Carder, safety Tekerrein Cuba, cornerback Greg McCoy, defensive end Stansly Maponga and defensive tackle D.J. Yendrey.

"Carder had his coming out party at the Rose Bowl last year and many are expecting him to pick up where he left off," CBS Sports' Bryan Fischer told me. "He didn't go through spring practice yet again but that hasn't stopped him from having a good year in the past. With [cornerback] Tejay Johnson gone, Carder is the leader of the defense and as he goes, so does the defense.

Johnson, one of TCU's starting safties last season, had three interceptions which was a quarter of the team's interception total (12) from 2010. Fischer says he might be one player TCU will have a hard time replacing.

"I think [Tejay] Johnson will be the Horned Frogs biggest loss," Fischer said. "He was their leader and one of the smartest players on the team, directing guys to where they needed to be. It's always tough to replace a guy in the secondary and TCU, because of the way they play their safeties, will struggle to fill the hole left by Johnson's departure."

Without him, as well as another starting safety, Colin Jones, who registered 80 total tackles last season including 11 and a half for a loss, it definitely leaves two gaping holes in the secondary.

There are also two other large holes in the TCU defense from 2010, both coming up front. Defensive end Wayne Daniels and defensive tackle Cory Grant, combining for 10 sacks and 19 tackles for a loss last season, will depart leaving Maponga and Yendrey to try and step into very large shoes.

If it seems to you that the Horned Frogs have a lot of ground to make up a lot of holes to fill, Fischer says don't count out head coach Gary Patterson finding the right mix of guys to make their defense just as good as last season.

"We always say it will be tough for TCU to continue to have the defensive success they had the year before," he said. But year after year Patterson manages to have his team at the top of just about every defensive category. Not sure they can have the numbers they did last year but they certainly can still be one of the best defenses in the country."

In the final year in the Mountain West Conference, Patterson and his coaching staff have all the motivation they need to get their players ready for the upcoming season. They are going to work their players hard and fill the holes they have with exactly the right players.

It is the same thing TCU's head coach has been doing here throughout his entire tenure. He has his team at the top of the mountain and, with a tough conference showdown against Boise State looming large, it will show just how good this team as it heads to the BCS confines of the Big East Conference.

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