When my wife drags me to our local Hobby Lobby, I experience an avalanche of emotions. Many are too complex to properly communicate during our weekly catch-ups on Buck U, although I’ll touch on one today: joy. Joy floods my soul when I see puny pumpkin signs and Thanksgiving-themed place settings. Joy when the sickly sweet pumpkin spice aromas from an overwhelming selection of wax-filled mason jars engulf my nostrils. Joy because it might seem by the temperature that fall couldn’t be further away, when, in fact, football is looming.
Coach Gary Patterson remains tightlipped regarding his choice for starting signal caller. (It’s Alex Delton. Count on it.) Freshman Max Duggan impressed during camp and could be the future of the offense as quickly as next season. Delton will parlay his experience with Kansas State and natural leadership to become the big man in the no-huddle attack regardless of how little time he has spent in a TCU film room. Sonny Cumbie’s offensive system can be tailored to the QB. I’m confident that if former players Shawn Robinson and Kenny Hill were able to grasp it relatively quickly, then Delton won’t have an issue. Duggan will play, but it’s pragmatic to save him until more important games. NCAA rules allow a player to compete in four games without sacrificing his redshirt, so expect Cumbie and Patterson to keep him reserved until necessary or work him in when it’s clear he won’t be required to actually fill the starting role because Delton remains healthy all season. We’re a mere 10 days from kickoff, so let’s finish meeting our starters by peeking at the linebackers and specialists.
Patterson’s 4-2-5 defensive alignment requires special players to patrol the middle. His linebackers must be hardnosed enough to stuff runs at the line, skilled enough to shed blocks from much larger guards trying to climb to the second level, and fast enough to chase down plays in the flats or drop into pass coverage. That’s why most TCU backers look like safeties who swig extra Muscle Milk after practice. The only familiar face at the position is Garrett Wallow (No. 30), a junior who has played in every game in some capacity since joining the team. Wallow started seven contests at backer last season and recorded 72 tackles, good enough for third among the entire defense. His counterpart, Ben Wilson (No. 18), is transitioning from a primarily special teams roll. Wilson played in almost every game last season, and his extra mass compared to Wallow will likely place him as the strong-side linebacker meant to stuff lead-blocker runs. Wallow will be asked to cover larger portions of the field and showcase his range and speed. Patterson starts only two backers, which is fortunate because they’re short on depth and experience at the position. Mostly unknown freshmen litter the chart behind these two.
A lifetime ago, I was a high school football coach. My favorite reminder to my special teams squad was that no one loves a kicker. We rarely remember their successes, while their failures are branded deep in our psyches. Senior placekicker Jonathan Song (No. 46) is a bit different. The Fort Worthian and All Saints alumnus punched game-winning kicks against Iowa State and Cal last season. Song doesn’t have the strongest or most consistent leg but seems to possess a timeless and irreplaceable clutch factor. Don’t expect any last-minute kicker exchanges this season like we saw during the Cheez-It Bowl. Song is the first choice to handle extra points and field goals, especially with Cole Bunce injured. Field position is important to everyone but even more essential to teams with offensive question marks. Enter: Australian punter Jordy Sandy (No. 31). Patterson praised the freshman through camp for his consistent leg. Sandy was the fifth-ranked punter in this year’s class and attended an academy for the trade Down Under. A big leg combined with TCU’s propensity for recruiting fast athletes regardless of position should make for an exciting punting unit primed to flip the field in the Frogs’ favor.
Next week we can finally start breaking down the Frog’s first opponent. You have less than two weeks to square away those home decor and improvement projects before your weekends become football-centric.