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Ross Blacklock is back from injury and ready to stuff the run this season. Courtesy of TCU

We’re T-minus 25 days until college football kicks off and weekends regain their meaning. It’s easy to be trapped by only talking about the Horned Frog offense, and it’s valid considering how shoddily they performed last season. A five-man quarterback battle continues raging in camp. Ohio State transfer Matthew Baldwin’s immediate eligibility was denied, but it’s unlikely we will discover the winner until the first possession of the season. Defense doesn’t receive as much attention for two reasons: It isn’t as sexy, and TCU’s stopping unit always seems to be excellent. Collegiate fans far and wide recognize Coach Gary Patterson as the defense whisperer, a reputation cemented during his time contributing to the coach’s room during ESPN telecasts of the national championship game. Patterson defenses might fluctuate in their success, but they are somewhere between solid and stifling. Purple coaches lament that youth will be a factor this season as only five starters return. Let’s analyze the old and the new so you sound as savvy as Coach P when you’re boozing it up at the bar or tailgate.

Defensive Ends

Unless you’re Clemson or Alabama, there is bound to be drop-off when both defensive ends are drafted. LJ Collier and Ben Banogu traded their purple unis for NFL contracts via the first and second rounds of the draft. Replacing them isn’t easy, and Patterson utilized the transfer portal for assistance. Senior Shameik Blackshear (No. 91) went from one unique mascot – the Gamecock – to another. The former five-star recruit is game ready at 270 pounds and an every-down type who will need to produce because there aren’t many options otherwise. Blackshear’s counterpart could be a rotational pass rush featuring freshman Ochaun Mathis (No. 32) and junior-juco transfer Parker Workman (No. 40). Mathis appeared in four contests last season while maintaining his redshirt and is long and lean at 6 feet-5 inches and 235 pounds. Workman embodies his surname in his play-style, and his name shouldn’t be forgotten –– if only because it’s tattooed in a large sans-serif font on his forearm. The junior looks like the lovechild of comedian Carrot Top and Captain Dan in the movie Forrest Gump. D-end seems to be the greatest weakness. They aren’t deep, and the faces are fresh. Workman, a linebacker up to this point, is likely to rotate with Matthis as neither carries the body weight to challenge 300-pound tackles at the point of attack down after down. Don’t be shocked if second-string d-tackles rotate when Patterson senses run or in short-yardage situations.

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Defensive Tackles

TCU struggled inside last season, but the pass rush compensated. The script has flipped thanks to junior d-tackles Ross Blacklock (No. 90) and Corey Bethley (No. 94), who are both preseason All Big 12 selections. Blacklock sat out last season entirely after suffering an injury during camp but was an every-game starter his freshman season. The 6-foot-4-inch stalwart run-stuffer tips the scales at more than 300 pounds and is assuredly ready to build his draft stock after being forced to watch last season. Bethley received the most fanfare of any purple-clad lineman during preseason and deserves the attention. The junior is a stout 290 pounds and has played in every game since arriving on campus as a freshman. He was third on the team in tackles and sacks behind Collier and Banogu last season, and it is his turn to shine. Offenses will be forced to choose one of the monsters in the middle to double team or even use a running back for extra protection. Frog fanatics should hope the attention paid between the guards opens opportunities for ends that may not be as dominant as we’ve become accustomed. Three serviceable sophomores –– George Ellis (No. 93), Terrell Cooper (No. 95), and Soni Misi (No. 99) –– are waiting to rotate and should provide adequate relief on long drives.

We’ll spend some time analyzing the scheme and depth chart of TCU’s linebackers, three-headed safety attack, and cornerbacks in next week’s Buck U. 

Beer!

In good news/bad news news: TCU approved beer sales for all legal-age attendees inside Amon G. Carter Stadium, which had previously been a privilege for occupants of the suites and clubs. Miller Coors-brand beers, including hard seltzer, will be available in concession stands starting at $7. The bad news is the traditional halftime sprint to the parking lot is a relic of the past. In-and-out movement is now revoked. Re-entering the stadium will require a new ticket. Fans can shell out for these expensive brews two hours before game time, and last call is before the fourth quarter. It’s safe to say this change is aimed at the thirty- and fortysomethings who are bringing their young’uns. Undergrads will be undergrads, meaning they’ll start early in the morning and invest in body flasks. 

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