First things first, Andy Dalton is gone and he's never coming back. He is taking his multitude of passing records, wins, awards, trophies, leadership and iconic red hair with him up to Cincinnati as he embarks on his NFL career. It is time for the Frog fans to begin to prepare for life after Dalton, or "AD" if you will. That is the last time he will be mentioned in this article as this article is about the future, not the past.
The spotlight now turns to the redshirt sophomore QB Casey Pachall (PAW-hall) as the keys to the kingdom have been handed over to his very capable, though currently unproven hands. The tattooed Pachall has the all tangibles that you want in a QB; size, speed, athleticism, and a big arm. It remains to be seen if the 6'5" 216 lb signal caller possesses the leadership and decision-making needed out of that position but we will all find out come September 2nd under the lights in Waco, TX.
Coming out of high school in 2009 Pachall was rated as a four-star recruit by Rivals and was named to their Rivals250. More impressive than what some wannabe college scouts said about Pachall was that Urban Meyer and Charlie Weis, a couple guys that know a thing or two about quarterbacks, each thought enough of Pachall to offer him scholarships to Gainesville and South Bend respectively.
As a redshirt sophomore who enrolled early in 2009 there has been plenty of time to groom Pachall for this moment and it would be foolish to think that the TCU coaching staff wasted any of it. Look for Pachall's grasp of the playbook and the intricacies of the Horned Frog offensive system to be far above that of your typical sophomore quarterback making his first collegiate start.
My biggest concern with Pachall is not the typical media pyscho-babble of "Does he possess the same leadership and decision-making skills on and off the field as his predecessor?" but instead I am wondering if he will be durable enough to make it through a full season healthy and in one piece. This summer some mildly controversial photos of Pachall on a camping trip were leaked and while most took the pictures as a reason to raise questions about his character I found myself looking at his skinnier than I expected upper body and began to raise questions about what would happen when a 300 lb defensive lineman fell on him the wrong way and his shoulder went the way of a bowl of Rice Krispies.
Backing up Pachall on the depth chart are redshirt freshman Matt Brown and true frosh Trevone Boykin. Both are talented athletes but with their limited experience if either one of them has to take a meaningful snap the Frogs could be in big trouble.
As Sandy Bullock taught us in "The Blind Side" the job of protecting Pachall and his throwing shoulder is that of the left tackle, and as luck would have it that is the position that is the biggest question-mark on this squad. James Dunbar (RS So) was supposed to be the future at left tackle as he appeared to be being groomed for the position last season but apparently Dunbar hasn't progressed quite as the staff had hoped. It has gotten so bad that Robert Deck, a senior walk-on tight end, was most recently practicing with the one's at left tackle. Long story short the position is wide open and the list of potential candidates for the position is a long one and we'll just have to wait and see if someone emerges out of the August heat and claims the spot.
The rest of the offensive line is less of a worry even though LG Kyle Dooley (Sr) is the only returning starter in the bunch. Rounding out the starting front five are center James Fry (Jr), RG Blaize Foltz (Jr), and RT Jeff Olson (Sr) ina group that should be solid if not spectacular. With a new QB at the helm the ability for the offensive line to take some pressure off of Pachall with a solid running game and keep his back clean in pass protection is paramount and will be the lynch-pin of this offense.
The strength of this offensive unit will be the running backs as this group is once again locked and loaded with talent. Ed Wesley (Jr) is the headliner of the unit, his 1,078 rushing yards in 2010 made him the first Horned Frog to rush for 1,000 since Robert Merrill did it in 2003. Wesley is not the biggest (5'9" 200 lbs), strongest, fastest, quickest, or most athletic runner on the roster but what he lacks in physical ability he makes up for with great field-awareness, vision, and patience. Wesley was a two-star recruit out of high school whose only other offers came from UTEP and La Tech adding him to a long list of two-star recruits that Gary Patterson and his staff have turned into all-stars. Wesley is a glider and if an opposing defense leaves him a seam he will find it and gash them for a big gain.
Wesley's partner in crime throughout his career has been the bruising Matthew Tucker (Jr) who is the "smash" to Wesley's "dash." Waymon James(RS So), who you might remember as the player who ran for the first down that iced the Rose Bowl will definitely factor into the rotation in a big way. James, whose running style is often compared to that of a greased bowling ball, chose TCU over offers from Oklahoma and Nebraska and was ranked as the 103rd best prospect in the nation by Rivals.com in 2009.
Rounding out the #4 spot and chomping at the bit for carries is former UCLA transfer Aundre Dean(Jr). Coming out of high school Dean had offers from the bluest of the blue bloods including but not limited to Texas, Alabama, & Ohio State. Dean is undoubtedly the most talented 4th string RB in the country and has apparently been receiving some tutelage from none other than Eddie George in the offseason so look for big things out of Dean if he gets his opportunity. Speedster Ethan Grant (RS Fr) has been moved from wideout to running back to presumably fill the void left by Dwight "The Myth" Smith's departure to the JUCO ranks. Grant was another 4-star out of highshool and it will be interesting to see how he and his unique skillset gets implemented into the offense this year if at all.
The receiver position is headlined by phenom Josh Boyce (RS So) who had a breakout season last year and led the teamwith 646 yards receiving on 34 catches. Pachall and Boyce both came into the program together and are close friends so look for Pachall to lean on Boyce early and often much like "you know who" leaned on Jimmy Young early in his career.
In addition to Boyce, Pachall has some other proven receivers to look for in Antoine "Six" Hicks (Sr) and Skye Dawson (Jr). Hicks had a big year in 2009 scoring 10 TD's off of 32 touches which earned him the nickname of Antoine "Six." Hicks' numbers fell off quite a bit in 2010, but hopefully that can be attributed to some nagging injuries that are now just a distant memory and he will return to his 2009 form. Dawson is a track-star and claims the title of the "fastest frog." His legs and Pachall's arm should be a match made in "hail mary" heaven.
The other notables to round out the receiving core are going to come from the group of 5 talented true freshman who have been making big noise in camp so far. LaDarius Brown, Cameron White, David Porter III, Brandon Carter, andDavid Bush are all capable but there are only so many spots to go around so who gets redshirted and who cracks the rotation will depend on who shows out through August. It's anybodies guess at this point.