The Horned Frogs totaled 26 interceptions last season — 11 more than the next best Big 12 teams, Kansas State and Texas, who each had 15. Head coach Gary Patterson’s 4-2-5 defense is uniquely designed to slow and ideally stop the offenses that have been bombarding defenses.
The defensive line is the deepest and most experienced part of the defense, led by seniors James McFarland and Davion Pierson. They will be heavily relied on to be leaders of the defense and the team.
Pierson is the foundation of the defensive front. He received 2015 Preseason All-Big 12 honors while also appearing on watch lists for the Chuck Bednarik Award, Rotary Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy.
Pierson had 8 1/2 tackles for loss, including three sacks, among his 30 stops last season. He was a team captain in all 13 games.
His 31 career starts lead all active team members going into his fourth year.
Sophomore Chris Bradley came out of the spring in a first-team tackle position. He played in all 13 games as a freshman, recording 12 total tackles, including two for loss and 1 1/2 sacks.
Junior Tevin Lawson played in all 25 games the last two seasons and is competing for a starting position.
McFarland earned Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Defensive Most Valuable Player honors after an interception in the end zone for a touchdown, in addition to totaling two tackles for loss, including a sack last season.
McFarland led TCU with seven sacks last season, while his 12 tackles for loss placed second. He also tied for the team lead with three forced fumbles. He totaled 41 stops on the year.
Junior Josh Carraway is competing with McFarland at left end. Carraway, who had a team-best eight quarterback hurries, totaled five tackles for loss, including two sacks, last season. He also had a 33-yard interception return for a touchdown at Texas.
Seniors Terrell Lathan and Mike Tuaua return at right end.
Lathan’s 5 1/2 sacks last season were the third highest on the team, while his 10 tackles for loss ranked fourth. He also had a 40-yard fumble return for a touchdown at Texas.
Tuaua, who appears on the watch list for the Polynesian Player of the Year Award, was among the TCU leaders with 8 1/2 tackles for loss and five sacks last year. He tied for the team lead with three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
A group of young players, including seven freshmen out of 10 linebackers on the 2015 roster, are competing to replace the experience and production of Paul Dawson and Marcus Mallet.
Junior Sammy Douglas and true freshman Mike Freeze entered fall camp in first-team positions.
Douglas saw most of his action on special teams last year. His eight special teams tackles tied for the team lead. He totaled 17 tackles last season.
Freeze was an early enrollee who took part in spring drills. The Graham High School graduate was sidelined his senior season due to injury.
Redshirt freshman Ty Summers is competing for a starting position. Summers suffered a season-ending injury in the 2014 opener and received a medical redshirt.
Sophomore Ranthony Texada is a returning starter at one corner, while the other spot is under competition after the graduation of lockdown cornerback Kevin White.
Texada earned Freshman All-America honors last season. He started all 13 games, while his seven pass breakups were second on the team. He had a sack against Oklahoma and an interception versus Iowa State.
Sophomore Nick Orr, who saw action in 12 games as a true freshman and posted his first career interception in the win at SMU last season, will push Texada.
Sophmore Torrance Mosley came out of the spring as the starter at the corner spot opposite Texada. Mosley appeared in five games as a true freshman last season.
Pushing Mosley for a starting job will be senior Corry O’Meally and freshman DeShawn Raymond.
O’Meally, a junior college transfer last season, saw action in eight games last season.
TCU plays with three safeties on the field: strong, weak, and free safety. Two safety positions will be filled with new faces after Sam Carter and Chris Hackett, both major parts of the Horned Frog defense as both leaders and players, graduated in May.
Senior Derrick Kindred is the only returning starter at safety.
At free safety, Kindred earned All-Big 12 honors after placing third on TCU last season with 80 tackles, including 4 1/2 for loss. His four interceptions, including one returned 44 yards for a touchdown versus Iowa State, tied for second on the team.
Kindred appears on 2015 preseason watch lists for the Chuck Bednarik Award and Lott IMPACT Trophy.
Pushing Kindred are Orr and sophomore Steve Wesley. Orr played in 12 games at cornerback as a true freshman last season and could contribute at that position as well in 2015. Wesley appeared in two games last season.
Junior Denzel Johnson opened fall camp in a first-team position at strong safety. He totaled 16 tackles, including one for loss, while playing in all 13 games last season.
Sophomore Travin Howard will compete with Johnson. Howard appeared in all 13 games as a true freshman last season, primarily contributing on special teams.
The weak safety spot has senior Kenny Iloka and redshirt freshman Ridwan Issahaku in competition.
Iloka arrived at TCU from Tyler Junior College last spring as the nation’s top-rated JC safety. He totaled 15 tackles in a back-up role to All-Big 12 selection Chris Hackett.
The Horned Frogs have led the nation in total defense four times under Patterson. Last season, TCU gave up the fewest rushing yards per play and tied for the most interceptions nationally.
TCU also led the Big 12 in nearly every meaningful defensive category last year, including scoring defense, total defense, and pass efficiency defense.