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Get To Know The Conference - TCU

Cowboys Ride For Free is starting something new by speaking to the other Big 12 SB Nation sites to find out how the football teams are doing and what each would look like if the season were to start tomorrow.

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TCU surprised a lot of people in the college football world last year, losing only one game and sharing the Big 12 championship with the team it lost to, Baylor. Quarterback Trevone Boykin surprised, throwing for more than 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns and is quite possibly one of the biggest reasons, if not the biggest, why TCU is regarded as the top team in the conference right now.

TCU won't head to Stillwater until November 7, but I sat down with Frogs O' War managing editor Jamie Plunkett to talk about the Horned Frogs and catch up on what could possibly be the hottest team in the Big 12 during the 2015 season.

Returning Players

1. Trevone Boykin, QB - Obviously. The kid recorded just over 4,600 total yards last season and 41 touchdowns, and his dual-threat ability gave opposing defenses nightmares. As long as he stays healthy, expect more of the same in 2015.
2. Aaron Green, RB - The senior RB stepped into the starting role in the back half of 2014 after B.J. Catalon went down with a concussion, and "just" ran for 544 yards and six touchdowns in those five starts (including the Peach Bowl). He wound up just shy of 1,000 yards rushing and nine touchdowns for the season and should improve on those numbers in 2015.
3. Ranthony Texada, CB - Texada is one of two returning starters from the 2014 secondary, and as a sophomore has more experience at cornerback than any other player on the team. It's critical that he gets going early and often if TCU's defense wants to carry a high level of play into the 2015 season.
4. Josh Doctson, WR - Doctson set TCU receiving records in 2014 with 1,018 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns, and he'll be expected to lead the way again in 2015.
5. Davion Pierson, DT - The DT feasted playing next to Chucky Hunter the past few seasons, and now he'll be 'the guy' in the middle expected to plug up holes and collapse the pocket.

Leaving players

1. Sam Carter, S - Carter was the emotional leader of TCU's defense, and his intricate understanding of what Gary Patterson likes to do with his secondary was critical to TCU's success in 2014.
2. Paul Dawson, LB - Dawson, along with TCU's two other top linebackers (Marcus Mallet and Jonathan Anderson), were the heart of the defense in 2014, running around and making life difficult for opposing offenses. The third-round pick to Cincinnati will absolutely be missed.
3. Kevin White, CB - White played opposite Texada at corner in 2014 and was incredibly consistent for most of the year.
4. Chris Hackett, S - Hackett leaving a year early for the NFL made sense, because he had a stellar year, but he leaves a huge hole in TCU's secondary.

Incoming players

1. Mike Freeze, LB - the true freshman is listed as a 1st-string linebacker coming out of spring ball. The question is, is this because of how good he is, or because of the lack of depth at linbacker?
2. Alec Dunham, LB - Another true freshman linebacker, listed as a 2nd-string LB coming out of spring ball. Same question that applied to Freeze applies to him.
3. Aaron Curry, DT - Curry, a Nebraska transfer, may not start right away, or ever, but he'll be a critical piece in replacing Chucky Hunter.
4. Joseph Noteboom, RT - Noteboom is the lone new face on an offensive line with four seniors.

1) What new player do you think will step in and surprise next year?

With all the hype around the offense this year, I have to go with a guy on defense. True freshman Mike Freeze was listed as a 1st-string linebacker coming out of spring practice, and I think it has more to do with his talent than a lack of depth at LB (although the LB unit is very, very young). I think he's a perfect fit for the 4-2-5 defense with his size (6-foot-3, 220 pounds) and speed (4.5 40) and if he can pick things up quickly, he'll make an impact early and often.

2) I have TCU winning the Big 12, who do you have? What will be the biggest obstacle for TCU?

I also have TCU, because what kind of Managing Editor would I be if I didn't!? I think the two biggest obstacles for TCU in 2015 will be Baylor and West Virginia. Baylor for obvious reasons, they're the other "best" team in the conference, and they'll want to prove that the big comeback in 2014 was more than just 8 minutes of really good football. I also tabbed West Virginia for not so obvious reasons. First, since entering the Big 12 the three games between TCU and WVU have been decided by a total of five points, with two of those games going to overtime. On top of that, the home team has yet to win a game, and the Frogs play host to the Mountaineers in 2015.

Of course, as everyone knows by now, any game can be a trip up game, so the Frogs need to come prepped and ready to play every week or they'll find themselves on the wrong end of an upset.

3) Can you tell the Cowboy fans what the change to the Big 12 has been like and what you think it has done for the program?

It's been nothing but positive for the program. More national recognition, recruiting had improved, and the team has been able to compete relatively well. That doesn't only go for football, but also for baseball, which has a Big 12 regular season and tournament championship, plus two CWS appearances on the shelf, too.

It's everything TCU fans could have hoped for.

4) What will be the biggest weakness TCU has this season? What about the strength?

The youth on defense, led by the linebacker unit, is definitely the biggest question mark for this team, followed by the youth in the secondary. If those units can get up to speed quickly, things will go well for the Frogs. If not, the season could be a bust before it really gets off the ground. Fortunately, TCU's season starts relatively easily, with games against Minnesota, SFA, SMU, and Texas Tech.

As for a strength, anywhere you look on offense you'll find tons of depth and experience. You'll also find that along the defensive line, which will need to carry the banner defensively until the other units get up to speed.

5) Last year was embarrassing for OSU in Ft. Worth, do you see this year panning out any differently?

Well, in TCU's first two games against OSU as conference rivals, the Frogs seemed to hit a wall when they went to Stillwater. They lost both of those games by multiple touchdowns, and while I think this 2015 team is way better, all bets are off when you're on the road in the Big 12. It's definitely a plus for TCU that this matchup doesn't come until the first week in November, because the defense should be up to speed by then. I think TCU wins, but I'd be surprised if it was as big a manhandling as it was in 2014.