The TCU Horned Frogs are getting up early for a football game Saturday — against themselves. The spring game is set for 11 a.m. at Amon G. Carter Stadium.
A month-plus of work culminates in the scrimmage, where top recruit Shawn Robinson could make his first throws in a TCU uniform. Fan activities are scheduled throughout the day.
TCU went into the off-season off a rare losing season. Coach Gary Patterson and staff went in looking to build a new offensive line, develop a backup quarterback, find some safeties and corners and create depth at all positions.
By Saturday afternoon, the coaches will be closer to answering a few questions. Here is a rundown of what we’ll be watching when the action starts:
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1. The quality of throws. Not just from Kenny Hill, who has invested in improving the consistency of his throws for 2017. Ideally, it will lead to greater accuracy for the senior, who led the Big 12 in interceptions a year ago. But also important will be the performance of the backup quarterback, whoever that is. The Frogs have an opening with the transfer of Foster Sawyer. Shawn Robinson made strides in spring camp. Grayson Muehlstein is a veteran who could get a long look. How much stronger is Brennen Wooten after a redshirt year? Could walk-on Jordan Kitna make an impression? Watch the quality of throws.
2. Hands, hands, hands. TCU had a problem with dropped passes a year ago. No one is running from that. Patterson said things looked better in that area in spring practice. It’s been more than a year since the hands of Josh Doctson graced the field at Amon G. Carter Stadium. There may not be another player gifted with his physical ability for a while at TCU, but if two or three players can pull in the ball as consistently as he did, it will go a long way to helping the offense in the fall.
3. Pressure on the passer. The Frogs lost their top two pass rushers of the past three years, James McFarland and Josh Carraway, and a projected contributor for next year, Tipa Galeai, was dismissed. So the team is going young in some cases and experimental in others. Ben Banogu (a transfer), Brandon Bowen and Isaiah Chambers are three of the prized acquisitions from last year. Gary Overshown will get a chance after a redshirt year. Patterson said linebackers Ty Summers and Sammy Douglas show intriguing speed off the end. Mat Boesen demonstrated a knack for getting to the quarterback and stripping the ball last season. The Frogs just want to find him a partner or two. Or three.
4. Running back use. Patterson dropped a broad hint about how TCU might use its backs this season when he said they’re all capable of catching the ball. Kyle Hicks led the team in receptions last year. Shaun Nixon has a year’s worth of wide receiver experience. Can Darius Anderson catch the ball out of the backfield? Is it possible to use 225-pound Sewo Olonilua and 226-pound Trevorris Johnson in the passing game? The coaches won’t show much in the spring. But if the backs get balls thrown their way, watch for who makes catching it look natural.
5. The kicking game, of course. If there is much kicking, that is. It’s likely there will be no kickoffs. But there should be punts (sans returns) and field goals. It could be the first action for place-kicker Jonathan Song since he missed last season with a quadriceps injury. There is no shortage of kickers with Brandon Hatfield, Ryan Graf and Andrew David also available. But the special teams unit is breaking in a new long snapper.
TCU spring game
11 a.m. Saturday, Amon G. Carter Stadium