Here's a look at what Horned Frog fans can expect Saturday night from the likely starters on defense, according to the depth chart released last week:
Stansly Maponga — Defensive end
What the Frogs get: A powerful veteran’s presence to the defense. The defensive end is a pre-season, all-Big 12 selection along with being on the watch list for almost every award in his position, including the Chuck Bednarik Award, Rotary Lombardi Award and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy. Hughes draws many comparisons to former defensive standout Jerry Hughes, which makes sense, as Maponga will likely be the face of the 2012 defense like Hughes was the face of the 2009 defense.
Davion Pierson — Defensive tackle
What the Frogs get: A physically massive run stopper. Pierson weighs in at 305 pounds, but has great footwork for a defensive tackle. He came out as the top defensive tackle prospect from Oklahoma and was a top 25 recruit in the state. After taking a redshirt freshman year, expect Pierson to be ready to finally hit the field full stride. Pierson had 129 tackles in his senior year at Millwood High School, 34 of which were for a loss.
Jon Lewis — Defensive tackle
What the Frogs get: A rising star looking to live up to the hype. Last season, the 290-pound Lewis was named an All-Mountain West freshman, recording 16 tackles and a sack in 13 appearances. The former three-star recruit has beefed up in the university weight room, gaining 25 pounds since signing with the Horned Frogs in 2011.
Devonte Fields — Defensive end
What the Frogs get: A true freshman who will surprise. A long-standing idea was that Ross Forrest, a senior, would be Maponga’s bookend on the defensive line. While Forrest was fighting injury, Fields took up the role of starter in fall camp and kept the position. Looking at Fields’ record from high school, Fields has the ability to make a name for himself on the Frogs’ defensive line. A four-star recruit from Arlington, Fields had 73 tackles and 13 sacks in his senior year campaign, while being named to the all-state team by the Associated Press. Perhaps that’s why Gary Patterson admitted after one practice that Forrest’s injury was only a partial reason why Fields was named the starting right end.
Kenny Cain — Linebacker
What the Frogs get: Consistency and seniority. Cain holds a distinction as being the lone senior starter on the defense. After losing a load of linebackers in the offseason, including Tanner Brock and Deryck Gildon, Cain will be front and center in the depleted linebacking corps, and expect him to repeat his team-leading tackling spree. Cain had 72 tackles in 11 games last season.
Paul Dawson — Linebacker
What the Frogs get: A linebacker with experience. Originally a wide receiver at Skyline High School in Dallas, Dawson transferred to linebacker at Trinity Valley Community College and has done well the position. Under Randy Shannon’s coaching, Dawson should complement Cain well in the 4-2-5 defensive scheme.
Sam Carter — Strong safety
What the Frogs get: A likely candidate for most improved player of the year. Carter started last year in the secondary against Baylor, but later played off the bench. As the Horned Frogs look to the sophomore to play strong safety, expect to see a player who’s learned his lesson from his first year and is ready to be in spotlight during his second year.
Elisha Olabode — Free safety
What the Frogs get: A two-year letterman with the most experience. Olabode is the most experienced safety in the Frogs’ defense, playing in all 13 games last year. Originally playing as a cornerback in his freshman year, Olabode has converted into a safety with speed and coverage.
Jonathan Anderson — Wide safety
What the Frogs get: A sophomore coming off a hot freshman year. Anderson played in all 13 games last year, starting his first game against Wyoming. He was named to the All-Mountain West Freshman Team, recording 49 tackles, 17 of which were against BYU in Cowboys Stadium.
Jason Verrett — Cornerback
What the Frogs get: A tackler who stops the ball. Verrett’s 58 tackles last year were the most tackles by a TCU corner in more than a decade. He started 10 times last season, the most of any player in the secondary. Patterson said Verrett has shown improvement since last year, which will help the Horned Frogs against pass-happy teams like Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Texas.
Kevin White — Cornerback
What the Frogs get: Another corner who has seen real game time. White played in 12 games last season for TCU, starting in three of them. He had eight tackles in the season opener against Baylor, and like Carter, he could see a year of blossoming. White has seen enough gameplay action to understand Clay Jennings’ system and work well in the 4-2-5 rotation. Combined with his Verrett’s experience, the corners are more battle tested than any other players in the secondary.