Questions and uncertainty hang over the TCU football program as spring practice begins this morning.
That’s often the case as teams look for young players to fill the voids left by veterans.
But for the Horned Frogs in 2014, seldom has there been such upheaval — both on the field and the sideline — as they head into the first of 15 spring practices at 11 a.m. today.
New co-offensive coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie have replaced Jarrett Anderson and Rusty Burns and will employ an up-tempo offense, but without a definite No. 1 quarterback.
Will it be Trevone Boykin again? Or will Tyler Matthews, the former four-star recruit from McPherson, Kan., finally get a chance to fill the role? Or will they all get lost in the shadow of incoming freshmen Foster Sawyer and Grayson Muehlstein, who arrive on campus in June?
Quarterback isn’t the only position up for grabs for the offense. In fact, except for running back, just about every starting and backup offensive position is open.
The receiving unit is coming off its poorest season in years. Burns will return to coach outside receivers after coaching quarterbacks the last two seasons. Meacham will coach inside receivers. Curtis Luper, who coached receivers last season, will return to running backs, where he coached for four seasons at Auburn.
Anderson takes over the offensive line from Eddie Williamson, who was moved to the newly appointed position of director of player personnel for offense. Former tight ends and special teams coach Dan Sharp is now director of player personnel for special teams.
Coach Gary Patterson hasn’t named a replacement for cornerbacks coach Clay Jennings, who recently left for a job at Arkansas. One possibility could be Kenny Perry, the team’s director of high school relations and recruiting.
So, much of the staff as well as the players will have plenty of kinks to work out before April 5, the last scheduled spring practice. The team will practice four times before taking off March 10-14 for spring break.
The defense is a much more stable situation with only a few big questions looming. One of those, perhaps, isn’t much of a question at all. Defensive end Devonte Fields returns to the field after missing much of 2013 with a foot injury. The Frogs hope he returns to his 2012 form when he was the Associated Press Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year after leading the team with 18 1/2 tackles for loss and 10 sacks.
Two redshirt freshmen, Ranthony Texada and Cyd Calvin, are tasked with filling the void left by All-American cornerback Jason Verrett. The defense isn’t necessarily deep at every position, but most of the frontline players have a wealth of experience.
For the offense and some of the coaching staff, though, it’s a new spring.
THREE STORYLINES TO WATCH
If Gary Patterson remains committed to giving incoming freshmen Foster Sawyer and Grayson Muehlstein a shot at earning the starting job, then this story won’t really get interesting until both report to campus in June. For the spring, however, Tyler Matthews should get plenty of chances to shine and give coaches a reason to use Trevone Boykin elsewhere.
His early season suspension for violating team rules and then injury in the third game made 2013 a miserable time for the former Arlington Martin star and Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year. If Fields is healthy and engaged, there’s no reason he can’t recapture some of the magic he showed in 2012.
TCU receivers underperformed for much of 2013 and in some cases, had bad seasons. Brandon Carter, for example, was supposed to be the team’s leading receiver but struggled with family issues and never got on track. LaDarius Brown’s recent departure should also make the spring wide open for others such as Ja’Juan Story, Cam Luper and Josh Doctson to step up.