Riff, Ram, Bah, Zoo, it’s opening week for TCU, and Buck U is your weekly game report and watching guide for all things Horned Frog football.
The Frogs play the Jaguars from Southern University. There is no preseason in college football, just weeks when big teams write a check to smaller teams so they’ll travel to get hammered. The Jaguars are a respectable patsy for TCU’s home opener and posted a 7-5 record in the Southwest Athletic Conference last season. This game isn’t about who wins or loses. It’s about how the Frogs play the game. If they pull a Baylor v. Liberty, this column will devolve into some dark places over the coming weeks. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. Here’s what to look for as you unpack your favorite purple apparel.
Shawn Robinson is the new face of TCU football. The former Desoto High School product saw limited action in three games last season and sustained some minor injuries, as he impressed onlookers with his athleticism. He has a monster arm and even scarier speed and elusiveness. He will be a human highlight reel. The savvy Frog follower doesn’t want highlights in this game, though. We want our dynamic quarterback to throw the ball from the pocket and show command of the intermediate passing and screen game. If Robinson scrambles more than six times, expletives should be strewn. Save the dangerous running for more imposing opponents. Big Shawn should have a clean jersey at the end of this game.
These hogmallies on the offensive line are not new to campus, but the unit overall is light on game experience. If gamebreaker running back Darius Anderson and human sledgehammer Sewo Olonilua are able to run between the tackles, then that is an excellent first performance for this group of new bulldozers. Expect offensive coordinator Sonny Combie to incorporate the sophomore duo of Waxahachie-wildmen Kennedy Snell and outside receiver Jalen Reagor in jet sweeps and quick screens to take the pressure away from the backs and linemen. Snell is listed as the third running back on the depth chart. Count on seeing him lined up as a slot-receiver more often. TCU’s receiving core has several new faces at the second and third positions on the depth chart. Combie will want to debut these young receivers and throw the ball often in this game to save the backs for conference matchups. Let’s hope Anderson doesn’t carry the ball more than 10 times against Southern.
The calling card of Gary Patterson is always defense. Left defensive end Ben Banogu is the star, and we should see him pressuring many quarterbacks this season. Southern has a new starter in sophomore quarterback John Lampley, and the Jaguars will rely on run/pass options as well as the triple option as they pound the ball against our relatively small and young defensive tackles. Banogu will be doing his job by controlling the tackle on his side and turning Jaguar rushers inside, toward senior linebacker Arico Evans. Watch the Frogs defensive tackles closely: If they are able to hold their ground or get penetration, that’s a big win for the defensive line. Niko Small is the old man among the three safeties and will act as the field general for the secondary. Cornerbacks Julius Lewis and Noah Daniels are locked in a position battle. Patterson usually leaves his cornerbacks on islands to cover outside receivers alone. Southern’s offensive choices might not teach us very much about how our defense will look against spread-based Big 12 offenses this season.
Talking about kickers is the eat-your-vegetables conversation of the football world. TCU has two, Cole Bunce and Jonathan Song, and we don’t really know which one is better yet. It would be informative to see each one of them attempt a 30-plus-yard field goal in this contest. Frog punter Adam Nunez is a proven and talented commodity that hopefully will remain well-rested on Saturday. Wide receiver KaVontae Turpin remains the most exciting person with legs on any college football field. Turpin needs to exercise his arm over his head in this game and protect his small frame from unnecessary contact until the time is right, which isn’t this game.