TCU DT Chucky Hunter (US Presswire)
TSD takes an in-depth look at at the TCU defensive line in advance of Saturday's season opener. How might the Frogs' front four look with or without suspended star Devonte Fields, and how will LSU neutralize DT Chucky Hunter. The answers are inside.
All week long, TSD will post scouting reports on the TCU Horned Frogs in advance of Saturday night’s LSU season opener in Arlington.
PREVIOUS SCOUTING REPORTS
TCU Offensive Line
TCU Offensive Skill Players
Today we turn our attention to TCU’s defensive line, a group with only one senior in the three-deep. Gary Patterson’s notorious defenses start up front, and though this may be a young line with some concerns on depth, they are a battle-tested group. One of the nation’s best will anchor the middle, but some question marks still remain with possibly their best lineman facing a suspension.
Below I’ll list TCU’s starting defensive line, break down the group and then take a peek at matchups against the LSU offensive line.
LE: Jon Koontz (6-2, 265, Sr.)
DT: Chucky Hunter (6-1, 300, Jr.)
DT: Davion Pierson (6-2, 305, So.)
RE: Matt Anderson (6-3, 250, Jr.) OR Devonte Fields (6-4, 240, So.)
Notable backups: LE James McFarland (6-3, 248, So.), DT Jon Lewis (6-2, 290, Jr.), RE Mike Tuaua (6-3, 253, So.)
OUTLOOK & ANALYSIS
The hottest topic along TCU’s defensive line has centered around Devonte Fields’ status. Though the Frogs suspended him two games in May for an undisclosed team violation, Patterson announced Tuesday during a press conference that the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year would dress out for the opener Saturday. Whether he actually plays remains to be seen, as Patterson said we’ll “find out at game time.”
This is just the latest game of cat and mouse between Patterson and Les Miles in regards to suspended players, but there’s no question TCU’s defense would benefit by having Fields on the field. As a true freshman in 2012, he topped the conference in tackles for a loss (18.5) and ranked third in sacks (10). Without him, TCU turns to Matt Anderson, who hasn’t played since 2010. Anderson appeared in 10 games that season as a freshman but missed the final three and the entirety of both 2011 and 2012 while recovering from multiple knee surgeries.
Lining up on the opposite side will be Jon Koontz, the lone senior along the defensive line. Koontz does have four career starts, but he’s mostly factored in as a backup during the last two seasons. A pair of sophomores James McFarland — who played in all 13 games last year — and Josh Carraway could also factor into the rotation behind Koontz. JUCO transfer Mike Tuaua brings 68 tackles and 8 sacks from Santa Rosa JC and he’ll likely backup Anderson if Fields doesn’t play.
Much like with LSU, the interior of TCU’s defensive line is the Frogs’ biggest strength without Fields. Led by Chucky Hunter, a second-team All-Big 12 member last year, TCU will look to see the pressure come from the inside. Joined by sophomore Davion Pierson, that duo combines for 15.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks in their careers. Behind them are Jon Lewis, who started four games last year, Terrell Lathan and Jon Lewis, a former freshman All-America.
MATCHUPS WITH LSU
Assuming Fields spends Saturday’s contest on the bench, TCU’s defensive ends should provide LSU’s new tackles with a smooth transition into the position. On the left side, La’El Collins, who moves from the guard spot, will have a 60-pound advantage over both Anderson and Tuaua, and his pure strength should serve as a neutralizer to TCU’s speedy ends. The uber-athletic Jerald Hawkins will be tasked with handling the senior Koontz, but again, the size of LSU’s tackles will be a difficult task for the Frogs’ edge-rushers.
The big matchup to watch will be on the inside, where Chucky Hunter will be the focus of LSU’s protection. Vadal Alexander and Elliott Porter have experienced their growing pains through the fall while Alexander adjusts to a new position and Porter steps into regular starting duty for the first time. They’ll have a tough task from the onset trying to handle one of the nation’s top DTs. Hunter’s an athletic 300 pounds, and you’ll probably see a lot of double teams with hopes of shutting him down.
That will leave Trai Turner to hold down the rest, particularly the 305-pound Pierson. Turner certainly has the ability, but don’t expect the pressure to simply come from this front four. Patterson lives and dies by bringing the blitz from his safeties and linebackers, and that will certainly test the communication of LSU’s offensive line. The offense may get off to a slow start as the group continues to gel, but as they grow more comfortable throughout the game, the Tigers should be able to neutralize TCU’s defensive line.
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