The defense for Gary Patterson and coordinator Dick Bumpas was again solid a year ago, ranking tops in the Big 12 in total and rushing defense while finishing second in scoring and pass efficiency defense. TCU's offense on the other hand struggled, particularly after starting quarterback Casey Pachall was suspended from the team following week four.
Heading into the 2013 campaign, co-offensive coordinators Rusty Burns (in his second season at that role) and Jarrett Anderson (in his fifth) are tasked not only with ramping up the statistics and points but choosing between a pair of quarterbacks, including a reinstated Pachall.
Below I'll list TCU's skill-position players on offense, break the group down and then take a peek at matchups with opposing players on LSU's defense.
QB: Casey Pachall (6-5, 230, Sr.) OR Trevone Boykin (6-2, 215, So.)
HB: Waymon James (5-8, 203, Sr.)
WR (X): Ladarius Brown (6-4, 220, So.)
WR (Z): Brandon Carter (5-11, 186, Jr.)
WR (3): Cam White (6-3, 200, Jr.)
WR (4): David Porter (6-0, 197, Jr.)
OUTLOOK & ANALYSIS
The first and biggest matter at hand when discussing this TCU offense: Which quarterback will start and take the majority of the snaps on Saturday? Patterson has remained firm in not publicly committing to either Pachall or Boykin, but LSU's defenders say they are preparing for both no matter what they hear.
DT Anthony Johnson said so far it's been a lot like preparing for Texas A&M's offense. Johnson said TCU can go up-tempo like A&M and Oregon and added that, when the Frogs turn to Boykin (who's the more mobile of the two), it's really like getting ready for the Aggies and Johnny Manziel. With Pachall, Johnson said it's more a deal of not letting him get his feet set to throw, whether in the pocket or on the roll-out, because the defense knows Pachall can hurt them with his arm if undisturbed.
For the record: Boykin was probably a little better on the ground than through the air in 2012. He was a 57.2% completion guy with 15 touchdowns to 10 interceptions, but Boykin ran for 417 yards and three TDs on 127 carries. That was good enough to make him the 23rd-leading rusher in the Big 12 last fall. Even if he doesn't start, expect Boykin to enter the game to give LSU a different look.
Elsewhere on TCU's offense, the majority of the returning (and productive) talent can be found at receiver. In the Frogs' spread offense, LSU can expect to see as many as five or six WRs play regularly. The best from a season ago: Brandon Carter (590 yards, 6 TD), LaDarius Brown (385 yards, 5 TD) and Cam White (284 yards, 2 TD). In comparison to starting RB Waymon James, who had only 17 carries a year ago sitting behind older backs, the receivers shine heading into the season opener.
MATCHUPS WITH LSU
Considering TCU returns so much talent at receiver (and runs primarily 3-WR and 4-WR sets), it's a safe assumption that LSU's DBs will be tested at a high level on opening night. Lead corner Jalen Mills will likely be lining up across from Carter (5-foot-11) and Brown (6-foot-4) with regularity. Those two will provide different challenges to Mills, who also figures to play in the box when LSU goes into nickel and dime packages.
The onus will also fall on second CB Jalen Collins and either Derrick Raymond or Dwayne Thomas as the third corner to keep in stride with the rest of the Horned Frogs' targets. That's an awful lot of youth in the secondary for the Tigers that will be stretched out trying to guard multiple receivers on Saturday. Communication will be a big key. Also, look for S Ronald Martin to possibly provide some relief in the box, guarding slot receivers on occasion.
Even with all the weapons at wide receiver, it's important to consider TCU's identity from a season ago. The Frogs ran the ball on 56.0% of their snaps in 2012, and that's an identity Patterson & Co. aren't likely to abandon just at the sight of LSU. That means some of the interior battles will be just as important when it comes to skill positions.
TCU doesn't use much tight end play and doesn't even list a fullback on its official roster, so LSU's linebackers – namely Lamin Barrow and Tahj Jones – will have to matchup with James out of the backfield as well as sophomore Aaron Green, James' primary backup. Finally, with both quarterbacks (but especially Boykin), LSU middle linebacker D.J. Welter will have to be on alert – calling plays and checks out in advance of the snap and holding his ground amid read-option after the snap.
What do you think of TCU's skill players on offense?