The challenge for the Horned Frog defense in 2008 will be replacing Tommy Blake and Chase Ortiz who were two of the best DE’s in TCU history and All Mountain West Conference performers. The Frogs return just one of their top four tacklers from 2007, but the foundation has been laid for TCU to have another good defense.
Sr. LB Jason Phillips has been named the top linebacker in the state of Texas by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football, but he is also an All Mountain West performer and was named as Preseason MWC Defensive Player of the Year. Phillips was the leading tackler for TCU in 2007, registering 87 tackles, 2 sacks, 6 pass break ups and 1 INT. Also returning for the Frogs are Sr. LB Robert Henson (66 tackles, 2 INT’s) and Sr. SS Stephen Hodge (57 tackles, 7 pass break ups). While Henson was not a starter, he rotated into the game often with Phillips and former LB David Hawthorne. Hodge (6-0, 221) returns as the SS, but he is often used like a LB in TCU’s unique 4-2-5 defense where the Frogs use 4 defensive linemen, 2 LB’s, and 5 in the secondary. Hodge led the nation for defensive backs with 8 sacks.
While the Frogs lose Blake and Ortiz, they return staring NT Cody Moore as well as several lettermen from the 2007 team. At DT/NT the Frogs will rely on Sr. John Fonua (5-10, 270), So. Cory Grant (6-2, 303), Sr. James Vess (6-3, 290), and So. Kelly Griffin (6-1, 280) who started as a true Freshman (1st ever for Gary Patterson) earning Honorable Mention Freshman All American by the Sporting News. At DE, the Frogs return lettermen Jr. Jerry Hughes (6-2, 248) and Sr. Matt Panfil (6-2, 232) along with Redshirt Freshman Braylon Broughton who was voted as Preseason MWC Freshman of the Year. Broughton (6-6, 240) was ranked number 59 at DE out of high school and a 3 star recruit by Rivals.com in 2006 and is expected to fill some of the void left by the departure of Blake and Ortiz.
In the secondary, the Frogs return Hodge, and Sr. FS Steven Coleman (6-3, 204). Coleman had 48 tackles, 6 pass break ups, and 3 INT’s. At CB, the Frogs will rely on returning starters Jr. Nick Sanders (5-10, 174) and Jr. Rafael Priest (5-10, 163). Sanders and Priest only accounted for 4 INT’s last year, and they need to be better at the take aways if TCU is to return to double digit wins. The WS spot is up for grabs between Jr. Corderra Hunter (6-2, 202) and So. Tejay Johnson (6-1, 195). Whoever wins the job will be a fist time starter.
If the TCU defense has an X Factor, it’s Jr. Daryl Washington (6-3, 228). Texas Football has tabbed him as their Breakout Player for TCU. According to DCTF, Washington had a great spring practice and worked out at both at LB and Safety. Washington is a beast as he also recorded 3 blocked punts last season to along with his 32 tackles as a backup including 2.5 for a loss.
Ranked number 2 by Phil Steele for 2007, TCU will have to return Kicker Chris Manfredini who was almost a given when he kicked and Punter Derek Walsh who averaged 42.5 yards per punt. Penciled in for TCU is Ross Evans at Kicker and Anson Kelton at Punter. Evans will be a True Freshman in 2008, coming from Burnet, TX where he was All State two years straight and had 37 career field goals ranking number 2 all time in the state of Texas. Kelton, who red-shirted for the Frogs in 2007, is from Aledo, TX and averaged 44 yards per punt as a senior. TCU returns Aaron Brown at Kick Return but will have to replace Donald Massey who will not return in the fall. The Frogs will turn to Jeremy Kerley to return punts.