EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the 17th in a series of previews on West Virginia and Marshall football opponents.
Checking them out
It's easy to forget that West Virginia wasn't the only team feeling its way through the Big 12 for the first time last season. TCU was in the same position and wound up being hamstrung by all sorts of injuries and off-field issues. Yet the Horned Frogs survived those probably better than anyone had a right to expect and wound up really with a better first year than WVU given the circumstances (same record, but closer losses and a head-to-head win).
That has put TCU in position for an even better second year. Yes, the Horned Frogs could get off to a rough start playing LSU right off the bat, but the Big 12 media thought enough of them to pick them third in the preseason poll. And why not?
In a league suddenly without much quarterback experience, TCU has two starters returning. Trevone Boykin stepped in when Casey Pachall was arrested and went into rehab. Both are back, and if Pachall stays on the straight and narrow this will be a team with star power at the position. With four starters back on the line and enough skill to fill in around the quarterbacks, TCU should be at least as good as last year's so-so offense.
On defense is where the Horned Frogs excel, however. Last year's group was young and talented and took a while to come together, but did so spectacularly at the end of the season. And now they're almost all back.
End Devonte Fields gets all the notice, and rightfully so after a marvelous true freshman season in which he was the league's defensive player of the year. But cornerback Jason Verrett is among the best in the country and all five starters return on the back end of the 4-2-5 set. And offenses can't concentrate too hard on watching out for Fields because 6-foot-1, 305-pound tackle Chucky Hunter can't be ignored.
TCU played four Big 12 home games last season and went 0-4, losing to Iowa State, Texas Tech, Kansas State and Oklahoma. The Horned Frogs did beat Grambling and Virginia at home, but wound up 2-5 at home and on neutral fields and 5-1 in other teams' stadiums. That makes a road schedule this year that includes Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Kansas State seem a little less daunting. . . . Patterson insists that employing a two-quarterback system this season is a possibility, although it is not likely to be a 50-50 split.