The TCU Horned Frogs come into Stillwater this Saturday boasting a 3–0 record. Their undefeated slate consists of wins over Jackson State, Arkansas and, most recently, SMU in the battle for the Iron Skillet. The Frogs have put up an outstanding 147 points in their three early season contests and will need to follow this trend if they want to compete with the high-powered Oklahoma State offense in BPS this weekend.
So, just how has TCU been able to average the 7th most points per game in the nation this season?
The Frogs have a 4-headed monster in the backfield consisting of Darius Anderson, Kyle Hicks, Sewo Olonilua and true freshman speedster Kennedy Snell. See the numbers these guys have racked up so far this season below:
As you can see, all four of these guys have had success. Oh, and to go along with these productive backs, TCU has a dual-threat quarterback who isn’t afraid to call his own number in the rushing attack. Kenny Hill hasn’t gone for much on the ground this year, and has been sacked four times so far, but his 609 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns in 2016 prove his skill as a runner.
That being said, TCU might need Hill’s legs more than they have this season as former 1,000 yard rusher Kyle Hicks is expected to be out against the Cowboys according to TCU head coach Gary Patterson. This will be a big loss for the Frogs, but their ground game is still extremely dangerous and diverse without Hicks.
TCU likes to gain yards on the ground with several different looks and different styles.
They will spread you out and run it, similar to the Art Briles’ Baylor offense and to what the Pokes saw from Tulsa in the opener. Here you see four-wide receivers split wide to each sideline. Hill takes the snap and hands it to Hicks up the middle. The TCU line, which has been pretty solid this season, opens up a big hole and Hicks takes advantage:
Here’s another four-receiver set, this time 6’3, 225lb Sewo Olonilua gets the call:
They will also spread you out with an empty backfield and allow Hill to keep it on a quarterback draw. TCU found success throwing the football in this five-wide set against SMU, so I expect to see it quite a bit against the Cowboys. And what OSU will need to be aware of is that Hill will keep it out of this look, and he’s incredibly dangerous in the open field:
TCU will also run something similar to what the Cowboys last opponent, the Pittsburgh Panthers, liked to run... the jet sweep. Here they have running back Kennedy Snell lined up as the slot receiver on the left side, they send him in motion and give him the ball around the end. The blocking on this play isn’t great by any means, but Snell is able to beat the defenders to the edge with his track-star speed, and get into the end zone.
The Frogs will also fake the sweep and give it to the running back up the middle, as you can see here:
And they didn’t just find success running against the Mustangs of SMU, they were also able to find the end zone against Arkansas as well. Here TCU shows Olonilua in the wildcat formation as he carries pretty much the entire Razorback defense in with him for six:
The wildcat was so nice… they tried it twice, and found a similar result again with Olonilua:
As you can see, TCU attacks and finds success in multiple different ways out of the backfield. Even though OSU’s offense is a high-scoring machine, I have a feeling Gary Patterson and his Horned Frog offense will be looking to establish the run early on Saturday.
TCU was able to find success through the air against Jackson State, but… and no disrespect to Jackson State, I’m not going to give the Frogs much credit for that. Against Arkansas, Hill only threw for 166 yards and had one interception. He wasn’t really ever able to find his rhythm in that game, and I hope the Cowboys can replicate this when they face the TCU signal caller. However, the TCU lead man did find plenty of success against SMU last week.
Since we spent so much time talking about the running backs, why not start off with them in the passing analysis as well? TCU likes to get the running backs involved out of the backfield, as you can see in the two plays below.
In this first clip, Snell sneaks out of the backfield after a slight delay, and, as I’ve already made clear, once this guy gets the ball in the open field… he’s gone:
Here you see Hicks on a little flare out to the left, which also turns into a big gain:
But where TCU really found success against the Mustangs was the five-wide set that I mentioned earlier:
Hill repeatedly found his receivers open in the middle of the field for big gains:
The slant and post routes were open all day against SMU. They also found a little bit of success out of this look against Arkansas:
Hill tends to hold onto the ball too long, or scramble when it’s not needed, but his offensive line has given him ample time this season and when he plants his foot and makes the throw, he has a great arm and has guys on the other end that can make the catch.
The last look I’ll show is a tunnel screen. This play can be extremely dangerous due to the pre-snap motion. Hill sends KaVontae Turpin in motion. Due to his dynamic playmaking ability, the defense will have the tendency to cheat to Turpin’s side, then Hill snaps the ball and they run a tunnel screen away from Turpin’s side of the field for a solid gain (while truck sticking the ref).
All in all, TCU has a lot of playmakers, even without Hicks, and can score in a hurry if they aren’t taken seriously. That being said, I believe Glenn Spencer and the Cowboy defense will come out fired up for their first Big 12 matchup and will slow this TCU defense down enough for Mason and crew to put this one away. Either way, I’m excited for Big 12 play to start and to finally have a game back home in Stillwater.