That song Texas Christian University football coach Gary Patterson released this month? It was a country song, but considering the way the 2019 season ended for his Horned Frogs, it could have been the blues.
Patterson and the Frogs entered their regular-season finale needing a home win over West Virginia University to earn a bowl-eligibility-clinching sixth win. Yet TCU could not hold off the Mountaineers who scored a come-from behind 20-17 win that snapped the Frogs’ bowl streak at five. To start a new streak, TCU will have to replace a lot of talent.
The Horned Frogs are fine at quarterback. Max Duggan emerged as a starter as a true freshman, throwing for 2,007 yards and 15 touchdowns. He also rushed for 555 yards and six touchdowns. Yet he also threw 10 interceptions and the team went 2-4 down the stretch with him under center.
TCU is in search of a supporting cast for Duggan. Four of the Frogs’ five starting offensive linemen are gone — only center Coy McMillon returns — and Duggan actually is the team’s leading returning rusher. Darius Anderson (823 rushing yards, six touchdowns) has departed and the top rusher coming back beneath Duggan is presumed starter Darwin Barlow, who gained just 99 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries.
The run game was TCU’s strongest suit in 2019, ranking third in the Big 12 at 204 yards per game, but all of those offensive personnel losses will leave the Horned Frogs struggling to retain that power. The Frogs also lose their top receiver from last season, Jalen Reagor, who left TCU early for the NFL draft and was rewarded by the Philadelphia Eagles taking him with the 21st overall pick.
Taye Barber will be Duggan’s new top target. He already moved toward that title last year after leading the Frogs in receiving in the final seven games. TCU also hopes to get some early production out of incoming freshman Quinton Johnston, a four-star receiver prospect who flipped his commitment from Texas to TCU and was the No. 70 overall recruit nationally on 247Sports composite rankings.
Defense was TCU’s calling card last season, leading the Big 12 in total yards allowed (336.9 per game) and passing yards allowed (199.7 yards per game) and second in rushing yards allowed (137.3 yards per game). The leader of that unit, linebacker Garret Wallow, returns. He led the Big 12 with 125 tackles and led TCU with 18 tackles for loss and was a first-team All-Big 12 pick who received consideration as the conference’s defensive player of the year.
Behind him, though, there aren’t many returning starters, just three more to be exact. There is experience at every level of the defense. The line is fortified by returning starters Ochaun Mathis at end and Corey Bethley at tackle. That should help make up for the loss of Ross Blacklock, who was a second-round pick of the Houston Texans after earning All-Big 12 first-team honors last season.
The Frogs should also get a boost up front from incoming freshman Patrick Jenkins. Jenkins is a four-star prospect ranked among the top 25 defensive tackle recruits nationally who picked TCU over defending national champion LSU.
Safety Trevon Moehrig comes back to lead the secondary. Moehrig was another All-Big 12 first-teamer, finishing with four interceptions and 11 pass breakups. He’ll get some help from fellow safety Ar’Darius Washington, and La’Kendrick Van Zandt moves from linebacker in 2019 to safety in 2020 to offer some added oomph.
TCU must replace some talent on special teams as well. Kicker Jonathan Song was an All-Big 12 first-team pick who also was a Groza Award semifinalist who make 23 of 24 field goals last season. Griffin Kell will get the first shot at that job. And as important as Reagor was as a receiver, he was named to three All-America teams as a returner. Speedster Derius Davis will try to step in for Reagor there.