Football Recruiting

Recruiting: Around the Big 12 – TCU

TCU, they’ve struggled in the national perspective since its glorious height as a program in the 2010 season and 2011 Rose Bowl, which they won over the #4 ranked, Big 10 champion Wisconsin Badgers.
The following year they replaced a considerable chunk of their defense and were one of the first teams to be victimized by RG3’s Heisman campaign. They lost again to SMU before righting the ship by winning the MWC again, ruining Boise State’s perfect season, and beating La Tech in the Poinsetta bowl.In those two season, their offense was ranked 13th in offensive S&P (adjusted for opponents) in 2010 and 13th again in 2011 despite losing Andy Dalton and left tackle Marcus Cannon to the NFl along with two other offensive linemen.Defensively, they ranked 4th in 2010 and then slipped to 38th in 2011.Since then, they’ve joined the Big 12 conference and finished 64th in offense and 18th in defense in 2012. Then 93rd in offense and 13th in defense in 2013.They’ve put very good, well above average defenses on the field in Big 12 play but have not matched their offensive output from their heights in the MWC. So what gives? Big 12 defenses too difficult for them to solve? (LOL)Was their roster exposed? (Had a lot of NFL players…)Not at all: they lost Justin Fuente to the Memphis HC vacancy. Since he left, the Frog offense has cratered and failed to feature good, much less NFL, offensive line play. You can talk about Pachall’s and other players’ drug problems contributing as well but the TCU OL was dreadful in 2013 and that it impossible for them to get anything going.So Patterson got rid of the the previous Co-oc’s and brought in Air Raiders Doug Meacham (of Houston) and Sonny Cumbie (the only Tech staff Kingsbury had retained). Meacham is a former OSU assistant who adds potential value in recruiting by possibly bringing stronger connections to help the Frogs unearth Houston area talent in addition to the DFW kids they scout as well as any team in the country.They are already rolling in 2015 recruiting, though not with Houston kids.If you don’t think the 2010 TCU Rose Bowl team would have won the 2013 Big 12 title, then you may be in for a shock for what the Frogs might accomplish if Meacham and Cumbie get the ball rolling again on offense.In Patterson’s words, to be at the level of that Rose Bowl team they need to bat around 75% in recruiting. Let’s see if they’ve set themselves up to return to that level:QB:Needs of the TCU system: Both Cumbie and Meacham relied some on the QB run game at their previous stops and TCU was one of the first schools to involve Power-Read as a staple in their offense. It’s a safe bet that TCU will be looking to run a mostly Air Raid-influenced spread with the QB run game as a component.Takes:Grayson Muehlstein: 6-3, 199. Decatur, TX (Decatur)Foster Sawyer: 6-5, 210. Fort Worth, TX (All Saints Episcopal)As a product of the Fort, Sawyer was long expected to be the Frogs main target. He’s pretty advanced as a passer and has potential to be a great pocket QB if adequately protected and set up with an effective screen and run game. He has a good arm and good feel for the pocket.Muehlstein was a more surprising take who has more familiarity with the QB run game and making plays with his arm while moving outside of the pocket. For a spread system at a smaller school you generally bet on the Muehlsteins’ over the Sawyers for their ability to contribute to the run game and make things happen without top-shelf OL prospects around them.Both are very strong takes.Grade: B+RB:Needs of the TCU system: You can expect TCU to mostly focus on Inside Zone and Power in their new system, which calls for a back who can thrive between the tackles. Of course, the Air Raid influences tell us that an all-purpose back could be put to great use in the passing game as well but they need a feature back.Takes:Varshaun Nixon: 5-10, 195. Austin, TX (Lake Travis)Desmon White: 5-8, 160. DeSoto, TX (DeSoto)I’m projecting White as an all-purpose back for them. His acceleration and change of direction is of the elite caliber you hope for when taking a sub 5-10 athlete. He played QB at DeSoto so we’ll see whether his skillset includes running routes and catching the ball.For my money, Varshaun Nixon is the best running back in Big 12’s 2014 recruiting classes, or at least the best one produced by the state of Texas. His ability to hit cutbacks and create running lanes on inside runs is elite and his acceleration and power when he hits those lanes is phenomenal. In the open field he has a brutal stiff arm and fantastic balance.I’m not sure Lake Travis has had a better offensive player in their run of dominance. He reminds me of Kendall Hunter, glad the Aggies didn’t get him.Grade: AWR:Needs of the TCU system: In the past, the Frogs thrived with some big play-action weapons to go along with possession receivers in the Fuente spread. Given Patterson’s hard-nosed approach and likely predilection towards having a run game, I expect that will remain a constant.Takes:Emmanuel Porter: 6-3, 189. Dallas, TX (Lincoln)Ryan Parker: 6-1, 195. Keller, TX (Fossil Ridge)Corey McBride: 6-2, 180. Geismar, LA (Dutchtown)We all know the score with Porter. He’s a large and sensational athlete who will totally dominate most every cornerback he ever faces should his fluidity and power be combined with route running and ball skills. Meacham’s receiver coaching skills (coached Pettigrew and Stewart at OSU) will be handy here.Parker combines many of the better traits of the bigger receiver and the shorter slot player. He plays big, gets in and out of breaks easily and with acceleration but isn’t afraid to go over the middle and can high point the ball in the air. He should be an effective possession receiver at the least.McBride didn’t have very impressive tape but he does have a listed 40 time of 4.3 seconds. He’s probably a track star playing football and it’s hard to know how that will turn out.Grade: B-TE/FB:Needs of the TCU system: The Frogs have used some H-backs and 2/3 back sets of late, particularly when trying to find anything to make their 2013 run game work. Probably they won’t utilize these positions very much in the future.Takes:Zero.Grade: FOL:Needs of the TCU system: The Frogs are going to need to return to the days when they had players like Marcus Cannon on the roster. Their model should be Baylor, to have massive and powerful players who can lean on a reduced box with Inside Zone and Power and use screens and play-action to generate time for their passing game. In lieu of that, they’d better have some athletic guys if they want to rely on the passing game.Takes:Ryan Griswold: 6-5, 255. Pearland, TX (Pearland)Ty Barrett: 6-4, 309. Dallas, TX (Skyline)Austin Schlottman: 6-5, 285. Brenham, TX (Brenham)Frank Kee (JUCO): 6-4, 345. Tyler, TX (Tyler J.C.)Trey Elliot: 6-5, 260. Dallas, TX (Jesuit)Overall, TCU took good numbers and generally aimed for players with athletic upside.Griswold is my favorite prospect of the group. His feet are lightning quick and I think his frame will allow him to grow into an appropriate size to be a tackle for them.Barrett is a physical mauler with quickness that’s probably best suited as a run-blocking weapon. Either a pulling guard for Power or possibly a right tackle who can control the edge.Schlottman was the state’s #42 ranked power forward and played a lot of right tackle in high school in a scheme that loved to pull that position into the hole. He’ll need to grow before he can help them out but he might be either a tackle or a great pulling guard to help them run some Power.Kee is an attempt to upgrade their physicality inside from “Weiss turd” to “capable of getting movement against a dime defense.” I’m not sure if he’s particularly flexible or quick but he can get moving downhill on Inside Zone and that’s an upgrade.Elliot is a long ways away from contributing and has poor footwork but his 28″ vertical and length make him a nice gamble for a program like TCU.Grade: B-DL:Needs of the TCU system: At defensive tackle, the Frogs love guys with lateral quickness who can grapple with linemen while working their way into playside gaps. They look for similar lateral speed at DE and employ a good number of stunts and slants into their system to create problems for an offense.Takes:Chris Bradley: 6-2, 250. Shreveport, LA (Evangel Christian)Casey McDermott Vai: 6-4, 236. Raytown, MO (Raytown South)L.J. Collier: 6-4, 245. Munday, TX (Munday)The Frogs searched far and wide to find these guys and the only flaw is a lack of numbers and the fact that two of them are not yet the size they’ll need to be before they contribute.Bradley is an explosive player who can create an interior pass rush and turn his hips on blockers. He had 15 sacks as a senior playing DE. The only explanation for his low rating is total lack of awareness from services on what makes for a great DT, or a lack of awareness that DT is where this kid ends up. When he’s 280 pounds he’s going to be terrible to deal with.Evidently the Frogs expect Collier to end up at tackle as well. He’s very quick off the ball but will need some time to fill out.McDermott Vai has a nice inside move that will translate well in the TCU blitz and stunt schemes and can turn and close around the corner as well. He’s probably a strongside end who can offer a good rush rather than a featured weakside pass-rusher.Grade: B-LB:Needs of the TCU system: The Frogs play their front six totally separate from the five-man secondary. They get totally different calls and operate independently, seeking to quickly fill up the inside vs the run and spill plays out to the speedy DB’s. It’s a beautiful system. Perhaps the most amazing element is how Patterson transforms athletes into linebackers. They aim for length and speed and then turn raw players into linebackers that pattern-match as well as any in the country and also fill hard and fast against the run.Takes:Ty Summers: 6-2, 205. San Antonio, TX (Ronald Reagan)Vinny Ascolese (JUCO-ish): 6-2, 235. Visalia, CA (College of the Sequoias)Summers played QB in HS and is a real steal for them at linebacker. I watched his tape for quite a while, noticing first his lack of real QB skills or top-end acceleration to move to safety but was struck by his outstanding vision of the field and ability to change directions and run with power while scrambling. Then I thought, “I bet they turn this kid into another stud, pattern-matching linebacker.” Patterson’s signing day press conference confirmed that plan. He’ll be great playing in the box.Ascolese is a New Jersey kid and the son of a big time coach. He was set to go to Arkansas and was screwed over by NCAA rules on coursework and declared ineligible despite a great GPA and 1400 on his SAT.He’s not bad on the run and is an exceptional blitzer. It’s possible he ends up as a weakside end.Grade: B-S/N:Needs of the TCU system: Patterson has shifted the TCU approach somewhat. They’ve always been about speed as a team but thanks to vertically-inclined offenses like Baylor they’ve found that they have to get even faster to maintain quickness as a team advantage. The Strong Safety position requires a very versatile athlete, ideally a 6-2, 210 pound safety/linebacker hybrid who can blitz the edge, take on a lead block, and cover ground in the flat.At safety they are still prizing physical players who can tackle but now need some guys who can man up a vertical route from a dangerous slot.Takes:Travin Howard: 6-1, 180. Longview, TX (Longview)Kenny Iloka (JUCO): 6-2, 209. Tyler, TX (Tyler J.C.)Nick Orr: 5-10, 170. DeSoto, TX (DeSoto)Howard played nickelback on his HS team but his ability to turn and run with receivers suggests to me that he’ll play back at weak safety or free safety in the TCU system where his speed will be invaluable.I prized Iloka for the Longhorns as a potential sieve for our poor tackling on the back end. He played in a similar scheme to TCU’s at weak safety in junior college but might be a strong safety for TCU. He’s at his best running laterally and making tackles.Orr is a future FS thanks to his ability to cover a lot of grass on the back end and keep up with wide receivers when isolated.Grade: BCB:Needs of the TCU system: The Frogs get a lot done simply by having great overall team speed, simple yet adaptable schemes, and great coaching but they really need studs at cornerback for it all to come together. In their Robber coverages in particular they need corners who can play on an island against the best receivers from OU or Baylor. They had that with Jason Verrett but now he moves on to a more lucrative place.Takes:Corry O’Meally (JUCO): 6-0, 170. Iowa Falls, IA (Ellsworth C.C.)Ridwan Issahaku: 6-0, 180. Gwinnet, GA (North Gwinnet)Nick Foster: 5-11, 180. Keller, TX (Fossil Ridge)Torrance Mosley: 5-10, 160. Geismar, LA (Dutchtown)These takes are examples A, B, C, and D that services often don’t do a good job evaluating cornerbacks. Two 2-stars and two 3-stars. Ignore that rubbish.O’Meally gives them a chance to immediately replace Verrett. He can turn and run with receivers in bump and run coverage, hang tight with breaks playing man-under, and turn and play the edge against the run. He also has great length for the position. He’ll likely end up on the boundary.Issahaku is the boundary corner of the future. He’s physical, can play press coverage and run with receivers, and also has good length. He has instances on tape of playing with a cushion, driving on routes and arriving in time to make plays on the ball. Everyone in the league is looking for players who can do that.Foster already has a good backpedal and can turn and change directions out of the backpedal. His recovery speed is top-shelf and he’s not afraid to hit a guy on the edge vs the run.Mosley is a burner, probably a legit 4.4 guy, with long arms. He’ll need some time at the position but he has the athleticism to play corner on an island someday as well.Grade: A+Kicker:Needs of the TCU system: As a defensive guy, Patterson is often willing to kick the ball rather than take a lot of chances. Always useful to have a dominant punter or FG kicker for a defensive team.Takes:ZeroGrade: FTCU offered and won over kids that will ensure that they have one of the fastest and dynamic defenses for years to come. I’m betting they are one of the teams that adapt the most easily to Baylor’s conversion from fielding track stars with limited route-running skills at WR to fielding the best receivers in the state.They also took two good prospects at QB, potential game changers at the skill positions, and the kind of OL that might pan out as NFL prospects down the line rather than as fodder for Oklahoma defenses.Of the programs hanging out in Tier 3 below OU, OSU, Texas, KSU, and Baylor, I consider TCU the most likely to make the leap into becoming a legitimate conference contender.Breakdown:Total committs: 24JUCO: 4HS: 20Patterson looked to fill a couple of holes with immediate help at OG, CB, and S but most of these guys are going to benefit from multiple seasons in the TCU program.By state:TX: 17LA: 3MO: 1IA: 1CA: 1GA: 1TCU’s recruiting strategy reveals two useful tips for the Strong regime. The first is that it’s possible to rely heavily on Texas and relationships to Texas HS coaches and still go out of state selectively to fill needs.The second is that careful evaluation of Texas can land you some exceptional prospects that are initially overlooked by other programs.The Frogs took one 4-star player, 12 3-stars, and 11 2-stars but imo they filled out their roster as well as almost any other school in the conference.Depending on when they find their next QB and get their OL playing at a respectable level, watch for the Frogs to unleash Porter and Nixon and field a Big 12 title contender at some point in the next few years.

History major, football theorist.