Freshman impact? Breakout candidates? TCU fans, don’t sleep on these guys

TCU football’s top 5 players in 2019

Here are TCU football's top five players in 2019.
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Here are TCU football's top five players in 2019.

TCU football season is almost here.

The Frogs open the season against Arkansas- Pine Bluff on Aug. 31, and there’s budding excitement in Fort Worth. If the Frogs can find a capable quarterback, they have the talent to contend for a spot in the Big 12 championship game.

Most fans know about the NFL talents. The offense boasts two offensive tackles (Lucas Niang and Anthony McKinney), two running backs (Sewo Olonilua and Darius Anderson) and a wide receiver (Jalen Reagor) who could be 2020 NFL Draft selections. The same can be said on the defensive side for Ross Blacklock, Jeff Gladney and Innis Gaines.

But here’s a few of the more unknown players who could make a significant impact on this team. Three true freshman to watch, and three breakout candidates --

Freshman watch

Max Duggan, QB: Yes, he’s not “unknown.” There’s been plenty of talk about Duggan, and rightfully so. Duggan has impressed since getting on campus in January, and is battling it out with Alex Delton to become the opening-day starter.

Even if Duggan doesn’t start opening day, don’t rule him out from getting the nod at some point down the line. As Gary Patterson says, quarterbacks are judged on Saturdays. If Delton struggles, the Frogs won’t hesitate to put Duggan in.

Dee Winters, Wyatt Harris, LBs: With Montrel Wilson calling it quits, Winters may be thrust into the starting rotation as a true freshman. The early indication from Patterson is that Winters is ready to handle that responsibility.

Winters is from Burton, Texas, and TCU has had success with the small-town kids. Heck, L.J. Collier went from tiny Munday, Texas to becoming a first-round NFL pick during his college career.

And Patterson had good things to say about Aledo product Wyatt Harris last weekend. Harris has moved back to linebacker, and made an impact during the last scrimmage of fall camp on Saturday.

Kee’Yon Stewart, Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, DBs: With projected third cornerback Noah Daniels sustaining a season-ending injury during fall camp, Patterson has mentioned Stewart and Tomlinson as the primary backups behind starters Jeff Gladney and Julius Lewis.

Stewart and Tomlinson were each three-star recruits coming out of high school.

Breakout candidates

Shameik Blackshear, DE: He had only one sack in his career at South Carolina. But joining TCU’s rush-heavy defense should bode well for Blackshear.

Those who have seen him practice feel he’ll fill the void left by Collier nicely. Blackshear is a player not many people have heard of at this point, but that should change throughout the season.

Ochaun Mathis, DE: Similar to Blackshear, Mathis is poised for a breakout season. Replacing All-Big 12 defensive ends is never easy, but TCU has shown a knack for doing just that under Patterson.

Mathis is a high-ceiling player who gained valuable game experience last season. He, along with Blackshear, should have nice rushing lanes with a strong interior push by tackles Ross Blacklock and Corey Bethley.

Taye Barber, Mikel Barkley, WRs: Barber and Barkley are two speedy receivers who complement Reagor well. Barber had a reception in every game as a true freshman, and is poised to build off that his sophomore season.

Barkley was a highly-touted JUCO prospect with plenty of speed. He ran a 10.4-second 100-meter dash in high school.

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