Earlier this week at his press conference, TCU head coach Gary Patterson said this team was the youngest team he’s had in his tenure. By looking at the numbers, his statement's right.
Defensively, Gary Patterson is working with the youngest squad he’s ever worked with at TCU. Unlike the 2009 and 2010 seasons, when Patterson had up to six seniors and nine upperclassmen as starters, Patterson will be working with four upperclassmen. Linebacker Kenny Cain has the unusual distinction of being the only senior on the starting lineup.
As a whole, the defense has had a total of 50 career starts. Half of those starts were by defensive end Stansly Maponga, who has started 25 games in two seasons.
To put in perspective how young this team is, players who are not Maponga or Cain have on average less than two career starts. There are five sophomores, one redshirt freshman and one true freshman who are projected to start, according to the most recently available two-deep depth chart.
Despite the youth and inexperience there is potential for the defense. It will feature two former All-Mountain West players: defensive tackle Jon Lewis and safety Jonathan Anderson.
Likewise, the team will feature top prospects, such as defensive tackle Davion Pierson and defensive end Devonte Fields, both four-star recruits out of high school. These younger players will have to adapt quickly from potential to defensive contributors to make up for the lack of experience.
Offensively, the Frogs hold a slightly higher balance of experience. Six seniors are featured in the the starting lineup, including center James Fry, guard Blaize Foltz and tailback Matthew Tucker.
For non-seniors, TCU still gets ample amounts of experience. Junior tailback Waymon James and a number of receivers, including Skye Dawson, David Porter and Brandon Carter, had plenty of playing time last year. What is most important is who will star in the Frogs' offense.
The offense will be commandeered by quarterback Casey Pachall who, in one season of starting, surpassed a number of records Andy Dalton set in 2010. Pachall holds single-season school records in pass yardage, completions and completion efficiency. He’ll fit perfectly into the Big 12's high-flying, pass-friendly offensive culture, especially while throwing to players like senior Skye Dawson, sophomore Brandon Carter and redshirt freshman LaDarius Brown.
Pachall’s favorite target, TCU’s marquee receiver Josh Boyce, returns — the two could very well combine for a 1,000 yard season and 10 touchdowns. They came just shy of that last year, as Boyce gained 998 yards and scored nine touchdowns.
Although the Horned Frogs bring offensive experience, a major question comes from the offensive line. James Fry and Blaize Foltz are the only offensive linemen who have seen consistent time as starters. Eric Tausch had one start last year at center, but has not seen time as a left guard, the position he is expected to start.
Tayo Fabuluje is playing for the Horned Frogs for the first time since transferring from BYU. Aviante Collins and Halapoulivaati Vaitai will see starting time at the right tackle position as true freshmen. With inexperience in the trenches, Foltz and Fry will be counted on by Eddie Williamson to lead the younger starters focused.
While the offense is young, the defense is younger, and both are younger than teams Patterson has had in the past, there’s potential to see TCU mold together as a team and unify around the concept of the youth of this team. If there’s anything to be recognized from past TCU teams, it's that the the Horned Frogs play better and Gary Patterson coaches better when there’s a chip on their shoulders.
Maybe the youth factor for this season is just what’s needed to give the Frogs that same chip for this season.