Big 12 Media Day Football

TCU head coach Gary Patterson listens to a reporter’s question on the first day of Big 12 Conference NCAA college football media days on July 15 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Editor’s note: This is the final installment in a 12-part series previewing West Virginia University’s 2019 football opponents.

TCU has never really had the chance to get used to losing under longtime coach Gary Patterson.

The Horned Frogs have had down years here and there since Patterson took over the program in Forth Worth for the 2000 season, but they always seem to bounce back in a big way the following year.

Last season, TCU went 7-6 thanks to a memorable win against Cal in the Cheez-It Bowl. If the 2019 Horned Frogs are to continue the trend of following down seasons with very good ones, they’re going to need to correct some things that held them down a year ago.

TCU returns 12 total starters (seven on offense, five on defense) from last season, but injuries hit hard during the spring. The Horned Frogs were missing 22 players — many of them regulars in the lineup — during spring practice. TCU had such bad luck with spring injuries that it called off its spring game.

Patterson usually has a solid defense and he also recruited well this offseason. Will it be enough to carry TCU back toward the top of the Big 12 standings? Let’s take a look at the roster:

OFFENSE

Quarterback: This position was a big part of TCU’s problems in 2018. For 2019, Patterson sought to shore up his quarterback room by adding Kansas State transfer Alex Delton and four-star recruit Max Duggan. The Frogs also have last year’s backup Michael Collins and 2018 four-star recruit Justin Rogers in the mix.

Running backs: The Frogs are deep and experienced at running back for 2019. Darius Anderson and Sewo Olonilua both return after pretty good performances last season, but both were among the group of TCU players who had to miss spring ball. Anderson is more of a speed back, while Olonilua, who checks in at 231 pounds, ran for a career-high 194 yards against Cal in the bowl game.

Receivers: Top receiver Jalen Reagor was another one of the TCU players who missed spring ball, and he figures to be a big part of the Frogs’ offense in 2019. Reagor led TCU in all receiving categories a year ago and set a school record with a touchdown catch in seven consecutive games, including one in TCU’s 47-10 loss to WVU in Morgantown. Sophomore Taye Barber was second on the team in receptions behind Reagor last season.

Offensive line: This should be another strong group for the Horned Frogs in 2019. TCU brings back four starters from it’s 2018 offensive line, including All-Big 12 tackle Lucas Niang.

DEFENSE

Defensive line: Ross Blacklock missed all of 2018 with an Achilles injury, but he should be back to take one of TCU’s spots at defensive tackle. He’ll pair with Corey Bethley to give the Frogs a solid presence in the middle. The ends, however, will have some holes to fill. Graduate transfer Shameik Blackshear came to TCU from South Carolina and should see the field, while freshmen Ochaun Mathis and Adam Plant could get some playing time as well.

Linebacker: Junior Garret Wallow is TCU’s leading returning tackler. Senior Montrel Wilson has only played in 10 games over the last three seasons due to injuries, but when he’s on the field Wilson is one of the Frogs’ best athletes.

Defensive backs: Patterson’s best defenses have been very good on the back end, and this season’s TCU secondary should be pretty good. The Frogs bring back senior Jeff Gladney, probably the best cover cornerback in the league and an All-Big 12 pick. Veteran safety Nico Small graduated, but TCU could have a suitable replacement in Innis Gaines.

SPECIAL TEAMS

TCU will need to find a replacment for return man KaVonte Turpin. In the kicking game, Johnathan Song and Cole Bunce both have experience at placekicker, while Patterson went to Australia to pluck punter Jordy Sand.

Contact Tom Bragg at tom.bragg@wvgazettemail.com or 304-348-4871. Follow him on Twitter @TomBraggSports. Read Tom’s WVU sports blog at http://blogs.wvgazettemail.com/wvu/