TCU CB Jeff Gladney on why Frogs are Big 12’s top pass defense
Wide receiver Jalen Reagor, offensive tackle Lucas Niang, defensive tackle Corey Bethley and cornerback Jeff Gladney earned the honors.
Reagor, projected as a first-round pick for next year’s NFL Draft, is coming off a sensational sophomore season. He finished with a team-leading 1,061 yards receiving on 72 catches with nine touchdowns. Forty-four of Reagor’s catches went for a first down or TD. He also had 170 yards rushing and two TDs.
Reagor saw time as TCU’s return man late in the season, averaging 12.13 yards on nine punt returns and 30.25 yards on four kickoff returns. He was voted as the team’s MVP.
Reagor is projected to be the most explosive playmaker in the conference, and has stated his goal for 2019 is to win the Fred Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top receiver.
Niang, meanwhile, served as a staple on an ever-changing offensive line last season. He was the only offensive lineman to start every game, and didn’t allow a sack over his 13 starts.
Niang had an 86.3 percent grade by Pro Football Focus, making him the highest-graded pass blocker among Big 12 offensive tackles who played played a minimum of 300 snaps in 2018.
Niang flirted with the idea of entering the NFL Draft last offseason, but opted to return for his senior season.
Defensively, Bethley emerged as an interior force for the Frogs, especially when Ross Blacklock was lost for the season with an injury. Bethley became a disruptive force inside for the Frogs, finishing with 9.5 tackles for loss and five sacks.
Bethley also had 29 tackles on the season with one pass breakup and one fumble recovery.
Gladney is coming off a standout junior season. He led the Frogs with 13 pass breakups and tied for the team lead with two interceptions. Pro Football Focus rated him the No. 1 defensive back in the Big 12 in lowest passer rating allowed (46.9) with a minimum of 200 coverage snaps.
Gladney registered 41 tackles on the season, including four for loss and one sack.
Gladney developed into one of the team leaders, too, memorably playing through pain during the Kansas game and has the longest active streak for consecutive starts (22). He is expected to take on more of a leadership role as a senior, particularly on a team that ranked first in pass defense last season.
TCU is the only Big 12 program to hold opponents to fewer than 200 yards passing per game (199.6).
As far as snubs, Blacklock seems to have been a forgotten man by most voters. He is an NFL talent that is expected to have an impact season despite missing 2018 with an Achilles injury.
Another defensive player worthy of consideration is linebacker Garret Wallow, who had more tackles (72) than anyone else returning to this year’s team.
Offensively, running back Sewo Olonilua flashed his potential in the Cheez-It Bowl but his status is unknown following his arrest earlier this offseason. Fellow running back Darius Anderson is another candidate for league honors, as he’s a home-run threat every time he touches the ball.
TCU opens preseason camp on Aug. 1, and will play its first game against Arkansas- Pine Bluff on Aug. 31.