The 2011 TCU Horned Frogs football team has several new faces in the starting line-up that they will be counting on to defend their title of Rose Bowl Champions.
The Frogs enter the season ranked No. 14 in the Associated Press preseason poll after finishing last season ranked No. 2 overall.
Head football coach Gary Patterson said that the rankings are not the main focus for the team right now.
“We don’t worry about rankings in September anyway,” Patterson said. “It’s all about what happens in November and December and we’re just trying to be the best football team we can be.”
Part of being the best they can be included replacing the seniors from last year’s team who have now graduated. Twenty seniors were on the Rose Bowl championship roster, fourteen of whom signed NFL contracts this offseason.
One major loss comes at quarterback, where the Frogs lose four-year starter Andy Dalton.
Another comes at receiver, where Jeremy Kerley and Jimmy Young left holes.
Casey Pachall will be the starting quarterback for week one, and he is backed by a group of players who Patterson said are in a good spot.
“We’re a better football team because of where [our quarterbacks] are this year,” Patterson said.
At receiver, the guys in purple will look for a more significant contribution from junior Skye Dawson. Dawson is likely to shoulder a lot of the offensive and special teams load that Kerley did last season.
“Kerley was our guy last year, but he’s gone and hopefully Skye can take his place,” Patterson said. “We need great things to happen for [Skye] for us to be a good offense.”
The offensive line was another area that took a large hit at graduation time.
Both of the Horned Frogs’ starting offensive tackles, Marcus Cannon and Zach Roth, are now members of the New England Patriots. Rimington Trophy winner Jake Kirkpatrick, last year’s starting center, is now an Indianapolis Colt.
The defense lost major contributors in nose tackle Kelly Griffin, safeties Colin Jones and Alex Ibiloye, and cornerbacks Jason Teague and Malcolm Williams, all of whom went to the NFL, and also lost All-American defensive end Wayne Daniels.
TCU has had the No. 1 ranked defense in the nation for three consecutive years.
The 2011 campaign kicks off tonight against Baylor. The last time the Frogs met up with the Bears, TCU prevailed with a 45-10 victory at Amon G. Carter Stadium.
That win moved TCU to 50-49-7 all time against Baylor in a series that dates back to 1899.
The Frogs ended practice each day this week by listening to the Baylor fight song. Patterson said that this was not out of the ordinary.
“We do that every game week,” Patterson said. “If it was Oklahoma, it would be Oklahoma’s fight song, if it’s Baylor, it’s Baylor week.”
The Frogs make an effort to win their ninth consecutive season opener tonight. The team is 8-2 in season openers during Gary Patterson’s tenure.