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Texas vs. TCU: Horned Frogs decimated by injuries and attrition

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The home team is a heavy favorite on Saturday, but it is far from full strength.

Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Good luck with injuries and attrition only lasts so long in college football. The TCU Horned Frogs benefitted from it last season and are paying for it now.

Here's what SB Nation's Bill C. wrote in his excellent preview of the Horned Frogs:

After a few years of untimely injuries, TCU suffered almost none last year.

Running back B.J. Catalon missed five games (and was replaced by the even more effective Aaron Green), No. 4 receiver Deante' Gray missed two, and that was about it for the offense. On defense, the top nine linemen missed a combined one game, the top four linebackers missed zero, and the top nine defensive backs missed zero.

That's an immaculate run that will be almost impossible to replicate.

Sure enough, it didn't take long for the injuries and attrition to begin to mount:

  • Wide receiver Ty Slanina -- One of many weapons at wide receiver in the high-powered TCU offense, the East Bernard product finished fifth on the team in receptions last year. In 2015, he had caught all 11 passes thrown in his direction, but suffered a broken collarbone last week against Texas Tech.
  • Wide receiver Emanuel Porter -- A former high school track star and one-time Texas commit, Porter was an emerging deep threat as a sophomore who could still help complement star receiver Josh Doctson on downfield passes. However, it might be some time until he's able to do so, as he's been limited in practice this week due to his own injury sustained against the Red Raiders.
  • Wide receiver Deante' Gray -- One of the team's big-play threats last season, Gray averaged 16.2 yards per reception and scored six touchdowns. But his recovery from a noncontact knee injury suffered during the spring has been slower than anticipated, so he hasn't played yet this season.
  • Wide receiver Kolby Listenbee -- Known as one of the fastest players in college football, Listenbee doesn't offer much refinement as a wide receiver, but that's not particularly neccessary because of his game-changing speed. He left the SMU game after a bad fall, didn't play last week, and has been limited in practice.
  • Cornerback Ranthony Texada -- The sophomore from Frisco Centennial broke out as a redshirt freshman last year, starting all 13 games and finishing second on the team in pass break ups with seven. His sophomore campaign lasted less than three games, as he suffered a season-ending knee injury during th first half of the SMU game.
  • Safety Kenny Iloka -- The former Texas target and junior college transfer was mostly a special teams player last season because of veteran players in front of him. This year, he was expected to become a critical part of the secondary, but suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first half of the game against SFA.
  • Linebacker Mike Freeze -- A redshirt freshman, Freeze started the first game of the season, but then left the team due to personal reasons and may not return.
  • Linebacker Sammy Douglas -- Like Iloka, Douglas was primarily a special teams player last season as he waited for his opportunity to earn a starting job. Like Iloka, Douglas wasn't able to stay healthy long enough to truly capitialize on his chance, as the team's most experienced linebacker suffered an undisclosed season-ending injury during the second series of the opener against Minnesota.
  • Defensive end Terrell Lathan -- Only a part-time starter in 2014, Lathan nonetheless recorded 5.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss. He'll sit out for a second straight week because of a shoulder injury sustained against SMU.
  • Defensive end Mike Tuaua -- The senior drew headlines recently when he and another Horned Frogs player were charged with beating up a fellow student and stealing his Keystone Light. However, the school reinstated Tuaua to the team on Wednesday evening, so he's expected to play against Texas this weekend.
  • Defensive tackle James McFarland -- The team leader in sacks last season with seven also recorded 12 tackles for loss and a key interception in the Peach Bowl. A foot injury could keep him out for the season.
  • Defensive tackle Davion Pierson -- With so many players lost to graduation, Pierson entered the season as the team's most experienced defender after starting 31 games in his career. Lingering issues from a concussion kept him out of the first three games, but he returned last week and should play on Saturday.

Though head coach Gary Patterson evalutes extremely well on the recruiting trail, the Horned Frogs still don't recruit at the level necessary to survive so many injuries. And few teams could -- Texas head coach Charlie Strong stopped and chuckled for a solid 10 seconds on Monday when he stopped to consider the implications of the Horns losing six starters from the defense. IT certainly would be ugly.

The end result for TCU is that there's only defensive starter remaining from the group that began the game against Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl -- senior safety Derrick Kindred. All told, the team lost six of its top seven tacklers from last season. On Saturday, only one of the top 10 tacklers from last season will play. Of the top nine players in tackles for loss in 2014, only Tuaua will play on Saturday, who is also the only player among last year's top six in sacks who will play.

All of the injuries and graduations haven't added up to the oddsmakers believing that Texas stands a chance in this game, but there's no question that there's opportunity there for the taking.

So is this the week that the Horns take advantage and turn close into hitting the center of the target, as defensive coordinator Vance Bedford would say?