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Texas-TCU Q&A : Horns can exploit depleted Horned Frogs secondary

Expert insight on the Horned Frogs from Jamie Plunkett, the manager of SB Nation's excellent TCU site, Frogs O' War. Be sure to head on over for more TCU news and analysis.

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Burnt Orange Nation: TCU had some understandable growing pains in transitioning to the Big 12, but turned it around with the emergence of quarterback Trevone Boykin in the Meachem/Cumbie Air Raid. Was that something that the Horned Frog faithful anticipated and is it sustainable?

Frogs O' War: I don't know that it was anticipated so much as it was simply hoped for. Frog fans knew that the Meacham and Cumbie hires signaled a shift in philosophy for Gary Patterson, but there were questions surrounding Boykin's ability, along with the guy he was competing with for the starting gig, A&M transfer Matt Joeckel. That all changed, of course, once the season got underway. 

The offense is certainly sustainable beyond Boykin, with guys like Kenny Hill and Foster Sawyer in the mix for the coming years, along with 2016 commit Brennan Wooten and 2017 commit Shawn Robinson. The Frogs have seen another uptick in recruiting since the change in system, and that talent makes a system like this one sustainable, as long as it pans out.

BON: Boykin hasn't always looked especially sharp this year with his passes and I read a scouting report that thought his footwork was breaking down in the pocket under pressure. Can Texas rattle him and force some bad throws by collapsing the pocket or is he capable of standing back there and delivering strikes with guys in his face?

FOW: If you go back and watch the last few drives for TCU in the Texas Tech game, you'll see a little bit of both the things you mentioned. On the second to last drive, Boykin got happy feet, made some poor throws, and TCU punted. On the final drive, Boykin stood tall in the pocket and delivered a few key passes that kept the drive going. Of course, his final throw was a little high, but 6'4 Josh Doctson and a nimble Aaron Green bailed him out. 

BON: Minnesota was able to slow down star wide receiver Josh Doctson. Was there anything specific schematically that the Golden Gophers did to keep him in check?

FOW: TCU's entire offense looked off in that game, and Doctson consistently had a safety over the top of him, allowing the corner to press up and disrupt his routes. He was also less than 100%, as he was still recovering from a hand injury suffered in the spring. 

BON: All the TCU running backs boast impressive yards per carry stats. Is that mostly a product of Boykin and the passing game or a legitimate threat in its own right?

FOW: It's a legitimate threat in its own right, but there's no doubt it's bolstered by the threat of the passing game. Aaron Green got off to a slow start this year, after rushing for 544 yards in the final five games of the 2014 season. He's run for over 160 yards in the past two games, and has incredible burst and elusiveness. Kyle Hicks also seems to be finding his sea legs at the college level, and whenever Trevorris Johnson realizes how big he is and starts running downhill, he'll be a true threat too. 

Of course, Boykin's running ability is a massive part of the running game as well, but even if he wasn't a threat, TCU's running game would still be in very capable hands. 

BON: It's shocking to see the type of explosive plays that the Horned Frogs are giving up this season. Is there enough depth to turn things around and is there any specific level of the defense that is letting down head coach Gary Patterson?

FOW: The defensive line should be boosted a bit by the return of Mike Tuaua on Saturday, as well as a healthier Davion Pierson. Unfortunately, there's not much depth left at safety or cornerback, and the depleted secondary hasn't held its own the past few games. Really the two main weaknesses revolve around Michael Downing (weak safety) and Corry O'Meally (cornerback). Downing struggles to keep up athletically, and O'Meally consistently gets his head around late. 

Patterson's defenses have been known to get stronger as the season progresses, so there's still potential for things to tighten up, but those two guys specifically will need to get things straight for that to happen. 

BON: Do you expect TCU to take a page out of the Oklahoma State playbook and aggressively blitz Texas redshirt freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard?

FOW: It's possible, but TCU's defense has not blitzed much this season, trusting their front four to get pressure. This isn't so much because the line has been getting pressure, but more as an attempt to protect some of the younger, inexperienced guys in the secondary. The Frogs may have to change things up a bit though, because they consistently lost contain on Pat Mahomes, allowing the hobbled quarterback to keep drives alive with his legs. 

BON: With the defense so depleted, do you expect Texas to be able to score with TCU? What's your prediction on how this game plays out?

I definitely don't think the Frogs cover that ridiculous spread, but I also don't think this game is as close as last week's adventure out in Lubbock. I think that in the end the better offense wins out, and TCU takes this one somewhere in the range of 45-35.