By August, in time for the first practice of fall camp, TCU coach Gary Patterson will have a good idea about who lines up where in the defense.
Until then, he has time to try things.
Already, he said he’s moved cornerback Vernon Scott to weak safety and given defensive tackle L.J. Collier snaps at end. The roster reflects two other changes — safety Arico Evans is listed at linebacker, and linebacker Semaj Thomas is listed at defensive tackle.
Spring practice began last week without ends Brandon Bowen and linebackers Travin Howard, Montrel Wilson and Sammy Douglas, all recovering from off-season surgeries or still rehabbing injuries from last season. Another end, Tipa Galeai, was dismissed after an assault charge. Backup linebacker Paul Whitmill left the team, hoping to transfer.
TCU returns seven starters from a defense that ranked second in the Big 12, allowing 424.8 yards per game. In points allowed, the Frogs ranked fourth in the Big 12 at 28.0 per game.
In their place are multiple candidates. Patterson said he is “really excited” about ends Ben Banogu, Mat Boesen, Isaiah Chambers and redshirt Gary Overshown. He has also noted the versatility of Collier, a junior who had 4.5 sacks last season despite not starting and blocked a field goal in the Liberty Bowl.
“We’ve got guys who give us a chance to be better next year, if we can find a couple guys at the safety position,” Patterson said last week on the first day of practice. “We’ve got to tackle better in space, not necessarily at the line of scrimmage. And we’ve got to play better in the red zone.”
The Frogs must also replace their sack leaders from the past three seasons, defensive ends Josh Carraway and James McFarland.
Starting defensive tackle Aaron Curry also is gone, along with his 5.5 sacks. But starting defensive tackle Chris Bradley returns after a 7.0-sack season. TCU led the Big 12 with 43 sacks.
Our football team, especially on defense, is going to change a little bit depth-wise from what we have right now.
TCU coach Gary Patterson
In February, the Frogs signed junior college defensive tackle Ezra Tu’ua, one of their top targets.
“You got four D-tackles coming in the fall, a defensive end, you got two or three safeties, a couple corners,” Patterson said. “Our football team, especially on defense, is going to change a little bit depth-wise from what we have right now.”
Patterson praised the work of returning starting safety Niko Small, who had a team-high 12 tackles in the Liberty Bowl, and sounded optimistic about Ross Blacklock, a defensive tackle who redshirted last season as a freshman.
“Right now, we’re a MASH unit a little bit,” Patterson said. “But it’s OK, to be honest with you. We’ve always said it’s an opportunity. Somebody out of this group will actually step up and become somebody.”
Spring game, April 8