The TCU defense has some big shoes to fill. For the past 3 seasons Gary Patterson's patented 4-2-5 defense has finished ranked #1 in the nation in total defense. Can Patterson and the Frogs do it again in 2011? With only 5 returning starters the odds are certainly stacked against them, but that is nothing new to Patterson. In 2010 they said it would be impossible to replace defensive standouts DE Jerry Hughes and LB Daryl Washington who had both departed for the NFL being drafted in the 1st and 2nd rounds respectively. Enter Stansly Maponga and Tanner Brock. Patterson and the Horned Frogs no longer rebuild on defense, they reload.
The strengthof the 2011 squad looks to be at linebacker where the Frogs return both starters Tank Carder (Sr) & Tanner Brock (Jr). After an outstanding Rose Bowl performance Tank Carder is now a household name found on virtually every preseason All-America list from Playboy to ESPN. If Tank is the playmaker then Tanner is the tackle machine. Tanner led the Horned Frogs in tackles in 2010 with 106, which was 26 more than anyone else on the team. Also working into the rotation will be Kenny Cain, a talented junior from Louisiana. Look for Cain to work into the rotation in a similar manner that Daryl Washington did in his junior season in which he garnered MWC honors as a backup.
On the defensive line the Frogs are replacing 2-3 starters depending on how you cut it but Gary Patterson thinks this unit could be even better than in 2010. Stansly Maponga (RS So) returns after a freshman all-america season at defensive end and he looks to be primed to step into the role as the next star DE at TCU. On the other end is man-child Braylon Broughton (Sr), who at 6'6" 272 lbs has all the physical tools but has yet to put it all together on the field. Inside returns DJ Yendrey who started the last half of the season for TCU after Kelly Griffin was lost for the season in the Air Force Game. Yendrey began as a defensive end and is a bit undersized but played well at DT and especially shined in pass rush. Next to him was expected to be junior Jeremy coleman but he has fallen to 3rd sting in August and Ray Burns (RS So) has come out of nowhere to claim the starting nose tackle spot. The Frogs should be able to rotate 6 in the interior with true freshman Chuck Hunter & Jon Lewis who have both shown enough to be listed on the 2nd team as well as the aforementioned Jeremy Coleman and redshirt freshman David Johnson. Overall I look for this unit to be more athletic than in 2010 although not quite as stout against the run on the interior.
The defensive backfield is the position group with the most question marks in 2011. Speedster Greg McCoy (Sr) is a returning starter at cornerback who after struggling early in 2010 really came on late and should be the lock down guy for this team in 2011. Opposite McCoy will be Juco transfer Jason Verrett and sophomore Travaras Battle who are both considered #1's and are scheduled to rotate every 3 plays. Verrettis an explosive athlete with off the charts agility but has only been in the program since the spring. Luckily in the 4-2-5 the cornerback position is less about the mental aspect and more about the physical aspects of running and covering. Battle is more physical than Verrett and saw action as a true freshman last season as a standout on special teams.
Stepping in at FS as the defacto "QB of the defense" is 5th year senior Johnny Fobbs who is taking over for the graduated Tejay Johnson. Fobbs has big shoes to fill but his time in the program should serve him well. Backing up Fobbs is the sophomore Elisha Olabode who was moved from corner in the spring and is slightly undersized and definitely behind in his mental grasp of the defense. Meaning if Fobbs goes down you could see some breakdowns in the defense. At weak safety the 6'4" 210 lb Tekerrein Cuba steps in. Cuba appeared in all 13 games last season and started in 6. He has all the physical tools and with his experience I expect Cuba to have a breakout season. Backing up Cuba is the 6'3 208 lb redshirt frosh Jonathan Anderson from Corpus Christi, TX. Look for Anderson to get a lot of playing time in 2011 as he is being groomed to be the starter in 2012 and beyond. At Strong safety the Sam Carter, a redshirt freshman who came to TCU as a QB has recently solidified the starting spot over redshirt sophomore Trenton Thomas. Carter is potentially one of the most impressive athletes to play the strong safety position at TCU in recent years but his inexperience could be an achilles heel for this defense, especially in the first two games playing Baylor and Air Force on the road. Overall look for the defensive backfield unit to be one of the more physically impressive units but there will be some growing pains and if they don't get a consistent pass rush from the front 4 they could get exposed.
The 2011 TCU Horned Frog defense should once again be the calling card for this team. Will they continue the streak of #1 defenses at TCU? I doubt it, but I would never bet against Gary Patterson.