*Returning starters in bold
LE- Wayne Daniels (6-2, 250 Sr)
DT- Cory Grant (6-2, 305 Sr)
NT- Kelly Griffin (6-1, 310 Sr)
RE- Ross Forrest (6-4, 246 So)
MLB- Tank Carder (6-3, 232 Jr)
SLB- Tanner Brock (6-3, 233 So)
CB- Jason Teague (6-2, 197 Sr)
CB- Greg McCoy (5-10, 181 Jr)
FS- Tejay Johnson (6-1, 212 Sr)
SS- Jurell Thompson (5-11, 200 So) OR Tyler Luttrell (6-1, 210 Jr)
WS- Alex Ibolye (6-0, 189 Sr)
The Skinny: As per usual under the Gary Patterson regime the TCU defense was impressive in 2009, ranking #1 nationally in total defense with only 239.69 yards allowed per game. Gone are defensive standouts defensive end Jerry Hughes, linebacker Daryl Washington, and cornerbacks Rafael Priest, and Nick Sanders. The losses of Priest and Sanders could turn out to be "addition by subtraction," as their replacements Greg McCoy and Jason Teague are thought to be more athletically gifted than their predecessors, however you cannot replicate the experience Priest and Sanders possessed as 4-year starters. The players that will be the most difficult to replace are going to be Daryl Washington and Jerry Hughes due to the incredible speed that they each possessed. Furthermore Jerry Hughes accounted for one-third (11.5) of the teams sack totals (32) in 2009, so if someone doesn't drastically step-up at the defensive end position by bringing a consistent pass rush the defense will take a step back in 2010. The losses of Hughes and Washington not-withstanding this defense looks to be impressive in 2010, maybe not #1 in the nation impressive, but with 7 returning starters anything less than a top 20 defense will be considered a disaster in Fort Worth.
(Read more about the TCU defense after the jump)
Bottom Line: The defense isn't going to be quite as fast as in 2009, but it will definetly be bigger and stronger.
Biggest Question Mark: Who replaces Jerry Hughes? Ross Forrest, Braylon Broughton, and Stansly Maponga will all be rotating until someone takes the next step. My money is on Braylon Broughton who at 6'6" 272 he simply has more to offer from a physical standpoint than the others.
Breakout Candidate: Lost in all of the "Who replaces Jerry Hughes?" hysteria is that defensive end Wayne Daniels is returning and looks prepared for a statement-making campaign now that he is out from under Hughes' shadow.
Strength of the Defense: With all of the returning starters at defensive tackle and safety run defense will be the unquestioned strength of this unit in 2010.
Weakness of the Defense: I know I am beginning to sound like a broken record but you just can't emulate the speed that Jerry Hughes brought off of the edge, so a steady pass rush is going to be a big weakness and as a result look for Defensive Coordinator Dick Bumpas to dial up more safety blitzes in 2010.
First to be Drafted: Cornerback Jason Teague. At 6'2'' 197 Teague already has an NFL-ready body. Now all the former LSU commit has to do is prove he's got the skills, which he does.
Biggest Playmaker: Cornerback Greg McCoy has next-level speed and a ball-hawkers mentality, look for McCoy to be the interception presence that TCU lacked in 2009 and with his blazing speed he should be able to take a few to the house as well.