TCU

5 burning questions for TCU’s football team going into 2018

Gary Patterson is entering his 18th season as TCU’s head coach in 2018.
Gary Patterson is entering his 18th season as TCU’s head coach in 2018. rmallison@star-telegram.com

College football season is here. Finally.

TCU opens its season against Southern on Saturday. It isn’t expected to be much of a game even if the Frogs insist they aren’t overlooking the SWAC school.

With that being said, here are five burning questions going into it:

1. Is Shawn Robinson the real deal? Only positive things have been said about sophomore quarterback Shawn Robinson throughout the offseason.

Former quarterback Kenny Hill called him “unbelievable.” Coach Gary Patterson likes how Robinson is starting to “own” the offense and step up.

But, as Patterson likes to say, quarterbacks are judged on Saturdays. All eyes will be on Robinson when TCU opens the season against Southern on Saturday.

2. How will the O-line fare? Patterson has praised the progress of the offensive line throughout fall camp. But this is a unit that is trying to replace four contributors from last season who are now in NFL camps.

The good news is they have a returning starter in left guard Cordel Iwuagwu and right tackle Lucas Niang started the final eight games last season.

The biggest question mark may be left tackle. Austin Myers has won the job this fall, beating out JUCO transfer Anthony McKinney.

Both Myers and McKinney will play in the season opener, though, and Patterson has said good thing about each. This is a position to keep an eye on as the season progresses.

But it’s safe to say the Frogs feel good about the O-line going into the season.

“Everyone is versatile,” right guard Trey Elliott said. “We have more leadership and higher energy. Our chemistry is on fire. It’s a good start to my senior year.”

3. How’s the D-line look without Ross Blacklock? The biggest loss for the Frogs to date is defensive tackle Ross Blacklock, who is out for the season with an Achilles injury.

Blacklock bettered everyone by creating interior pressure. Now it’s on a rotation to fill the void. The Frogs have adjusted by moving Ty Summers from linebacker to end and pushing Michael Epley inside.

Summers is a speed rusher off the edge, and should complement Ben Banogu well.

“He’s a versatile guy; he can do a lot of things,” Banogu said of Summers. “Whenever coach calls on him to play defensive end there’s a reason. Whatever coach tells him to do and the rest of us, it’s for a good reason. I think if you have a guy you can play off, no matter if it’s speed or power, if you have good chemistry on the D-line you can find yourself making plays. It’s all about playing off of each other.”

4. Is Garret Wallow the next Jason Phillips? Patterson delivered high praise during his weekly news conference, mentioning linebacker Garret Wallow’s intensity to that of former Frog great Jason Phillips.

“You’ve got to turn it down about four notches,” Patterson said, smiling. “Don’t call anything crazy the first few snaps because he probably wouldn’t know you called a different defense; you’ve got to slow down.”

Wallow is an intriguing player as he transitions from safety as a freshman last season to linebacker this season. It’s the same transition that Travin Howard, who graduated as the leading tackler in the Patterson era last season, made early in his career.

Wallow made his mark on special teams last season, leading the team with seven tackles, and is looking to make a name for himself as a linebacker this season.

5. Who are the leaders? As stated, the Frogs enter 2018 after losing valuable veteran leadership along the offensive line, the quarterback position and on every level of the defense.

But Patterson rattled off a handful of players who are stepping up, ranging from Robinson to Summers to center Kellton Hollins to DBs such as Niko Small, Jeff Gladney and Julius Lewis.

He also said standout senior returner KaVontae Turpin becoming eligible academically “was a big deal for us.”

At the end of the day, Patterson is excited about getting his 18th season as head coach underway.

“Oh, yeah. When you quit getting excited for any games, you need to quit,” Patterson said. “When it’s not any fun anymore, no matter what you do, you probably should not do it anymore cause you’re not going to have an edge to you.”

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