String of personnel losses tests TCU's reserves

Posted Saturday, Sep. 22, 2012  comments  Print Reprints
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Five storylines to follow in today's game

1 Tucker's time: With Waymon James out, senior Matthew Tucker will have to step up and carry more of the backfield load. Tucker has a team-high 27 touchdowns in his previous three seasons.

2 QB comparison: TCU's Casey Pachall leads the nation in efficiency and has thrown for 536 yards and five touchdowns. Virginia's Michael Rocco has 712 yards and four scores with three interceptions. TCU wants Pachall to do a better job of looking defenders

off on screen passes.

3 Homecooking: TCU has won 27 of its past 28 home games, but today's 11 a.m. start is the earliest since 2000. TCU coach Gary Patterson is even offering free breakfast for students who arrive early for the team's 8:30 a.m. Frog Walk.

4 Spreading it around: Freshman receiver LaDarius Brown caught five passes for 70 yards at Kansas, after no attempts his direction in the opener. TCU would like to get Skye Dawson, Cam White and other receivers more chances to make plays. Josh Boyce, Brandon Carter and Brown have 23 of the Frogs' 41 receptions.

5 Ballhandling: TCU's five lost fumbles in two games hasn't concerned Gary Patterson because the offending players have little history of turnovers. Still, if the Frogs cough it up multiple times today expect it to become a point of contention, if not concern, for Patterson.

The hits keep coming

Since late last season, TCU has lost 19 players because of injury, academics or for other reasons. Here's a look at the players lost:

S James Bailey

Reserve

Left team for undisclosed reasons

CB Travaras Battle

Reserve

Left team for undisclosed reasons

LB Tanner Brock

Starter

Dismissed from team

TE Stephen Bryant

Reserve

Injured, out for year

LB Greg Burks

Reserve

Career-ending injury

OL James Dunbar

Starter

Academic issues

DE Ross Forrest

Starter

Career-ending injury

LB Deryck Gildon

Starter

Academic issues

LB Danny Heiss

Reserve

Career-ending injury

OL Ty Horn

Reserve

Dismissed from team

RB Waymon James

Starter

Injured, out for the year

S Devin Johnson

Starter

Dismissed from team

CB Travoskey Garrett

Reserve

Injury, out for year

RB Ethan Grant

Reserve

Left team for undisclosed reasons.

DE Blake Roberts

Reserve

Career-ending injury

OL Carter Wall

Reserve

Academic issues

OL Nykiren Wellington

Reserve

Transferred to Trinity Valley CC

RB Ed Wesley

Starter

Academic issues

DT D.J. Yendrey

Starter

Dismissed from team

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Coaches often say their teams are only as good as their reserves.

TCU's Gary Patterson says it before each season, and he especially made the case over the summer before the Horned Frogs embarked on their first year in the Big 12 Conference.

"You win championships with your 2s and 3s," he said on the first day of August camp.

That may be true, but a team's frontline starters are usually the ones putting the team in a position to win games.

TCU will be without one of its most consistent offensive players over the past 26 games when the 17th-ranked Frogs (2-0) host Virginia (2-1) at 11 a.m. today at Amon G. Carter Stadium.

The loss of leading rusher Waymon James to a season-ending knee injury is another blow to the Frogs, who had an off-season full of personnel losses. That coaches' credo will be put to the test more than ever for Patterson and TCU.

Since late last year, TCU has lost 19 players for various reasons. More than half were legitimate starters or essential reserves off the bench.

After Patterson opened camp addressing the importance of depth, the Frogs have lost six players, including starters Ross Forrest, James Dunbar and James. Forrest's career was cut short because of injury. Dunbar left the program because of academic issues. Linebacker Danny Heiss, who was projected last spring to help fill out an already depleted linebacker corps, had to call it quits because of an injury. Cornerback Travoskey Garrett, a redshirt freshman with high expectations, is out for the year with an injury. Tight end Stephen Bryant was injured early in August and is out for the year.

TCU's frontline talent rivals most teams in the Big 12, but in this first year in the league, Patterson's concern was how well the No. 2 or 3 guy off the bench would handle his role.

Fortunately for the Frogs, running back Matthew Tucker is hardly an inexperienced backup. The senior has shared the carries since he was a freshman and has proven to be a reliable and explosive runner.

Tucker led the Frogs with 12 touchdowns last season and has gained 2,187 yards at 5.6 yards per carry in his career.

But he did that with a complement of fellow proven backs such as James and Ed Wesley, who left the program in the spring. True freshman B.J. Catalon and seldom-used senior Aundre Dean will have to step up into more prominent roles if TCU is to continue its ideal three-man rotation the remainder of the season.

"We're down to one guy who has really played, so I'm not sure I can say I have confidence in that," Patterson said.

No other position has been more decimated by the flurry of losses than linebacker.

First, Greg Burks was medically disqualified during last fall. In February, Tanner Brock, the team's leading tackler in 2010, was dismissed along with three others after they were arrested in a drug bust. A few months later Brock's replacement, Arlington Martin's Deryck Gildon, left for academic reasons.

Of the 20 recruits from TCU's heralded 2009 signing class, which included Casey Pachall, Josh Boyce, Stansly Maponga and Kenny Cain, nearly half are no longer in the program.

That class should have filled this year's roster with juniors and seniors starting or playing key roles.

Instead, TCU is forced to use multiple freshmen and sophomores in integral roles.

James, Brock, offensive lineman Dunbar, running back Dwight Smith and defensive tackle D.J. Yendrey -- all from the '09 class -- were projected to be playing leading roles for the 2012 season.

Now, two games into the heralded Big 12 inaugural season, the Frogs have played a Patterson-record 15 true freshmen, tied with LSU for the most in the country.

"If you don't grow some guys up then you don't have enough depth and you don't win as many games as we're used to here," Patterson said in August. "You win championships with 2s and 3s."

Stefan Stevenson

817-390-7760

Twitter: @FollowtheFrogs

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