Can a slimmed-down L.J. Collier be TCU’s Mat Boesen replacement? ‘He’s got a chance’

What makes TCU’s defense so good according to their opponents?

Hear what coaches and athletes throughout the Big 12 conference have to say about TCU defense.
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Hear what coaches and athletes throughout the Big 12 conference have to say about TCU defense.

Ben Banogu is getting all the preseason hype for TCU’s defense. He opted to return to school instead of head to the NFL, and is projected to be the Big 12’s defensive player of the year.

That’s deserved recognition for Banogu, who is coming off a season in which he had 8.5 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss. But TCU is still going into 2018 without its leading sacks leader from last season.

How are the Frogs going to survive without Mat Boesen and his 11.5 sacks? Well, the hope is senior L.J. Collier is ready to take the next step and assume a starting role for Boesen, who is now with the Buffalo Bills.

TCU defensive end Ben Banogu has high expectations for the Horned Frogs' defense.

“He’s got a chance,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said of Collier.

Collier, described as a “power rusher” by Patterson, has been used in a more complementary role the past two seasons for the Frogs. He’s played about 20 snaps a game, Patterson said, being an option mostly in third-down situations.

And he’s had success. Collier had four sacks, 4.5 tackles for loss, an interception and two quarterback hurries last season. In 2016, he had 4.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss.

But Collier is preparing himself for an expanded role this season. Collier has lost 12 pounds since the spring, according to Patterson, in an effort to be able to handle closer to 40 plays a game instead of 20.

“It’s about how can you play 40 plays a game and play at the speed we want to play and play more than three plays at a time and rotate,” Patterson said. “If he wants to play six plays, the whole thing has been about getting him where he can play. If you’re tired by the time you get to third down, then you can’t.

“He’s been used to coming in on third down. Now it’s about you can still play on third down just like you played without coming from the sidelines.”

For Patterson, the goal is for starters along the D-line is to average about 40 plays a game. If the defense has 60 plays in a game, the ideal breakdown would be 40 for starters and 20 for backups.

That breakdown is particularly true in a conference such as the Big 12 where no-huddle offenses are commonplace.

“If you don’t rotate, guys wear out by the end of the season,” Patterson said. “When I was at New Mexico [in 1996-97], we had 11 defensive linemen and three of them went down to scout team. [The three on scout team] still played about 10, 11 plays a game. Over a season, that’s 130, 140 plays. That’s a big amount.

“All the banging, especially up front, it’s really important that your two’s can play like your one’s if you want to be successful.”

Collier has fit the bill the past two seasons – being a second-teamer who plays like a first-teamer. There hasn’t been a noticeable drop off.

Now it’s time to move into a starting role.

TCU defensive end Ben Banogu spoke with members of the media during Big 12 Media Days at The Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas, on July 16, 2018.

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