But nobody expected that half of the unit’s starters this season would be out because of injuries.
With junior conerback Ranthony Texada suffering a likely season-ending knee injury during Saturday’s contest against SMU, the Frogs are now down seven defensive starters in 2015.
Texada sustained the injury in the second quarter while covering SMU receiver Courtland Sutton, who was called for offensive pass interference on the play. Texada attempted to limp off the field after the play before being helped off by trainers.
“We’ve been about no excuses here and it’s a tough loss with Ranthony,” head coach Gary Patterson said. “We’ll be able to get him back next year. He’s a younger player anyway.”
Patterson said Texada hopes to get a medical redshirt having only played three games this season.
Additionally, senior defensive end Terrell Lathan was taken to the locker room for an injury evaluation during the first quarter, but returned in the second quarter. Patterson said he doesn’t know if Lathan will play next week against Texas Tech.
“It’s not our first rodeo, but with the numbers that we have in specific places it’s tough,” Patterson said. “I’m not going to make this about us being hurt because that’s not what our program is built on.
“We’re not going to make excuses, we’re going to go forward.”
Prior to Saturday, senior safety Kenny Iloka, junior linebacker Sammy Douglas, senior defensive tackle Davion Pierson and senior defensive end James McFarland were already out with injuries.
Iloka suffered a knee injury against Stephen F. Austin in week two, while Douglas suffered an injury early on against Minnesota in week one. Pierson and McFarland have yet to play a game this season, both having suffered injuries during training camp.
Pierson is recovering from a head injury, while McFarland reportedly injured his foot stepping on a sprinkler head.
As is the case with Texada, Patterson said McFarland, Iloka, and Douglas are not expected to play again this season. Patterson said, however, that Pierson is making progress and could play again soon.
The injury bug is not the only problem that has plagued TCU’s defense. Freshman linebacker Mike Freeze, who impressed in week one’s game against Minnesota, went on a personal leave of absence on Sept. 9 and has not returned since.
Senior defensive end Mike Tuaua has also been absent the last two games for unknown reasons.
With the absences piling up, the Frogs now must rely on an even more inexperienced defensive squad to keep the team’s hopes at a Big 12 and national title alive.
“The next man has to step up,” Patterson said. “Either we’ll learn for next year or we’ll learn this year and we’ll win enough games to get to a bowl game and do the things we need to do to make a run at a championship.”
The backups and new starters struggled to contain SMU’s offense Saturday night though, as the Mustangs threw for 330 passing yards and recorded 508 yards of total offense.
“They have to play better,” Patterson said. “You have to play every offense that you play, you can’t just play basketball. You have to move forward and the new guys have to grow up and play.”
Patterson said several players in particular, including senior cornerback Corey O’Meally , need to up their game to the next level. O’Meally came in as the replacement for Texada Saturday night.
Sophomore cornerback Torrance Mosley also struggled against the Mustangs’ offense.
“Corey and Torrance must improve,” Patterson said. “Give a lot of credit to Nick Orr tonight for moving around positions, though.”
A sophomore safety, Orr started the game at corner before moving to safety and then returning to corner later on. Orr came up big late in the fourth quarter when he broke up a pass on fourth down that turned the ball over to the Frogs.
Senior safety Derrick Kindred, one of the few healthy returners from last year’s defense, praised Orr for his versatility.
“Orr is a fighter,” Kindred said. “He doesn’t complain when he gets switched positions. He just goes out there and does his job, and those are the kind of players we need.”
While the defense may appear to be getting thinner each week, players such as junior defensive end Josh Carraway are confident that the new players will improve as they get more experience.
“When you see another guy go down it’s just next man up,” Carraway said. “Torrance can play well. We saw him last year and once he builds confidence he can go out there and do what he normally does.”
If the Frogs want to stay competitive, though, there won’t be any more room for little errors that result in big numbers for the opponent.
“The key isn’t to just play. It’s to play well,” Patterson said. “Tonight we did not play well.”