Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Breaking down TCU's 2016 recruiting class

TCU has always done very well in recruiting by getting on the road early and using camps to note promising talents before the bigger schools find them, snatching up as many versatile athletes as they can, and then moving the ones that grow bigger closer to the ball.

After moving to the Big 12, they've been able to have greater access to the state of Texas' better players. The fact that Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham have proven to be strong recruiters has also been big in helping Patterson position TCU to compete for the Big 12 crown for years to come.

Here's a glimpse of how the recruiting services have evaluated the Frog classes over the last six years:

I suspect that kids with TCU offers get more benefit of the doubt these days but it's also true that they have more access to the top-ranked players now. What's interesting is the seven "2-star" players above include Derrick Kindred, Josh Carraway, Mike Tuaua, Denzel Johnson, Lloyd Tunstill, Tevin Elliott, Corry O'Meally, and Ty Summers. You're talking about six starters from last year's defense and three of the best players. So TCU has never really needed high-ranked classes to find great players, but now they have them.

Their major needs heading into 2016 include reinforcements in the secondary since they depleted their supply of athletes over the course of 2015 due to injuries or the need to move safeties to linebacker (Montrell Wilson and Travin Howard) or corners to safety (Nick Orr).

They also had an eye to find some short term replacements for Josh Doctson and Kolby Listenbee, although their young WRs played well down the stretch in 2015, and some more OL to replace the loss of four starters.

Patterson landed 22 players, a number which includes eight early enrollees and six JUCOs and came as a result of hitting Texas for 13 players but also snatching up three kids from Louisiana and others from JUCOs across the fruited plains.

The intriguing thing to watch for here is whether TCU recruited well enough to help them solidify their position as a Big 12 contender in 2016 and to ensure that they have enough All-B12 caliber players to stay there in the future.



TCU has been a big part of illustrating the potential of what happens when you combine the Air Raid with a real defense, but they've also been a big part of illustrating the potency of combining a dual-threat QB with the Air Raid thanks to what they accomplished with Trevone Boykin over the last two years. They've got the immensely talented Shawn Robinson signed on for 2017 and a couple of guys already on campus so 2016 might as well have been them taking a shot at a developmental prospect or just the "best available."

Brennen Wooten: 6-1, 184. 3***
San Angelo, TX

Wooten is the kind of high floor, low ceiling prospect that more power programs should be investing in because he can help guarantee that there is always someone on campus who can execute the system and perhaps even be great if his development takes off and he's surrounded by the right pieces. Wooten has enough arm strength, he can throw with anticipation to spots on the field and even excels throwing back shoulder fades, and has enough quickness to handle some QB run game or to take easy yards if defenses don't contain him.

Grade: C+
I like Wooten, I'm not sure if he'll ever start at TCU but things often have a way of working out where these types of kids end up seizing opportunity and emerging down the line if low floor, high ceiling prospects bust. He has all the tools to be an effective Air Raid QB.

Running back

Flex RBs and feature backs that can thrive in outside-zone are at the top of the wish list for the Frogs. They seem to prefer smaller guys that balance the ability to cut upfield with the ability to run some routes.


Darius Anderson: 5-11, 196. 3***
Richmond, TX

Here's the Sparq score for Anderson: 4.74 40, 4.36 shuttle, 33.5' toss, 38.1" vertical.

He's a good athlete, elite speed for some positions but not for running back, but (as you notice from the vertical) he has some real suddenness in his first steps that give him a lot of power and burst when he changes direction or plants and runs through a hole. He's a good outside zone back (most good backs are) and a guy that could make hay in a strong running game.
Grade: B-
No flex RBs here and just a single take but Anderson is a gifted back who's a good fit for what they are trying to do, which is to maintain an effective run game in addition to their phenomenal passing attack.


TCU has made great use of the TE and FB in the last couple of years, especially the TE, for the purpose of running speed option and getting extra blocking on the perimeter or inserting a lead blocker into the B or C gaps on outside zone. They could make great use of a flex or true TE if they found one.


Artayvious Lynn: 6-6, 235. 3***
New Berlin, NY (JUCO)

Lynn was once a Louisiana kid who was fairly athletic and had good hands at 6-6, 205 but wasn't eligible out of high school and went to Milford Academy to prepare for college. Now he's much heavier and a little more schooled in the art of blocking. He's not blazing fast and will never be this horrifying threat running routes but he's got good hands and won't be fun to deal with in the red zone. His development as a blocker and his potential to be an attached TE is the thing to watch for in Ft. Worth.

Grade: C
I really like their lead zone concepts they've been running over the last couple of years and I'm not sure this 6'6" cat can get low enough to really thrive in those schemes but they can probably find a fullback or H-back from the cast of failed DEs or walk-ons to get that job.


TCU has been better than some Air Raids at finding ways to unleash speedy athletes like Kavontae Turpin without requiring a lot in the way of route running, but they still have a need for guys that know how to get open on traditional routes and they really hurt people in 2014 by having true deep threats on either side of the field.

Dylan Thomas: 6-1, 185. 3***
Ft. Worth, TX

Thomas played PG and QB in HS and has great vision and field awareness to go along with great athleticism (4.67 40, 43.5 shuttle) which TCU offered to help him utilize at WR, presumably in the slot. I could see this kid learning to wreak havoc in the seams running option routes but I find it hard to believe that a player with this frame, athleticism, and mindset won't end up at safety before he sees the field in Ft. Worth.

Isaiah Graham: 6-1, 185. 4****
Bastrop, LA

Graham is really fluid and knows how to get open with his quickness, he'll probably stay outside at TCU and be a pain for opponents running curl routes and comebacks. He can do some real damage after the catch if teams miss tackles or lose leverage but he's not an elite burner. He could be a deep threat just because he's fast enough and he knows how to set up DBs to win past them and get open.

Ryan Parker: 6-2, 180. 4****
Tyler, TX (JUCO)

Parker is my 3rd highest rated recruit in this class and he's one of the fastest WRs in the 2016 Big 12 class. Some guys will beat you for TDs if you aren't careful to play with good team leverage and pursuit, Parker will beat you if there's even a sliver of daylight that allows him to take off, I'm guessing he runs in the 4.5 range. He's not just a catch and run guy either as he can take the top off a defense with a deep route if he isn't bracketed or pressed well, he has good hands, and his first few steps are excellent and make him dangerous on slants.

Taj Williams: 6-4, 190. 4****
Council Bluffs, IA (JUCO)

I don't know that Williams is really 6'4" but he's a nice, big target that knows how to use his size and how to get open against zone coverage. He reminds me of a slower, probably smaller Josh Doctson that is effective on the outside working against smaller DBs.

Grade: B+
The Frogs got some immediate help, which I'm not sure they even need given how well their replacement WRs were playing at the end of last year, and they got a couple of high schoolers that will be really dangerous in this offense. Ryan Parker is a real prize and he'll be hard to keep off the field, combining him with Emmanuel Porter and Kavontae Turpin will cause real headaches for opponents in 2016.

Offensive line

TCU has also been early adopters of combining an outside zone-heavy run game with the spread offense and Air Raid passing attack, though Mangino was probably the originator of that approach. In 2015 they had a really quick center and then four really big "obstacle" type OL on the field with very solid tackle play. I think size is probably their main concern, size and feet.

Lucas Niang: 6-6, 312. 3***
New Canaan, CT

Niang is a big kid but his greatest strength is getting fit on a DL (getting his hands inside their armpits and under their pads) and just driving them off the ball. His feet are a bit iffy to my eyes in terms of his ability to play tackle but he has great reach thanks to his massive frame. Lots of good teams that like tall guards went after him, including Penn State and Auburn, and guard is where I think he ends up at TCU.

Austin Myers: 6-5, 290. 4****
Manvel, TX

Myers played RT in high school but might be a LT prospect for college. He has loose hips and quick feet and is good dropping back, good at operating in space, and has nice punch at contact. They'll probably redshirt him and see what comes out in three years.

Big frame, quick feet, good take, let's eat.

Kellton Hollins: 6-3, 298. 3***
Zachary, LA

Hollins is the pup of the litter they've already designated as the future center. He's very quick, which in a gap-oriented run game you want at guard but in zone you want quickness at center since he's a crucial part of executing combo blocks, reaching DL or LBs, and making it as easy as possible for big maulers at guard to focus on plowing the road.

Hollins is idea for that role and has the punch and base to hold his own against DTs in addition to reaching LBs.

Chris Gaynor: 6-5, 295. 3***
Dodge City, KS (JUCO

Gaynor is another taller kid that projects inside to guard where his athleticism will be a big plus. He's good at executing zone combo blocks and he's also good as a puller and often finds work after his initial assignment is dispatched.

Grade: B+
TCU curiously only took four OL after taking four in 2015, those kinds of numbers concern me a little bit at this position but they aren't particularly worrisome so long as there is quality in the takes and kids are getting redshirted. All of these players make good sense for TCU and there's a chance all of them will actually be quite good.


Defensive line

TCU plays mostly four-down, Over fronts in an effort to get their DEs matched up on tackles and TEs in space on the perimeter. Their DTs play back on their haunches somewhat, reading plays and moving laterally first before trying to get upfield to cause problems, and they have a protective instinct to help keep the linebackers free from advancing OL. Their needs here are for athletes at DE that can cause problems and guys with lateral quickness at tackle to move with flow and also to execute their stunts, of which there are many in the TCU playbook.

Sewo Olonilua: 6-3, 217. 4****
Kingswood, TX

Olonilua is listed as an athlete but this is where I think he ends up and where he can have the maximal impact in the TCU program. His sparq numbers: 4.75 40, 4.23 shuttle, 40' toss, 36.3" vertical, all tell of a kid with extreme athleticism for his size and his frame suggests he'll end up being much bigger before all is said and done. He could end up at LB but I think his power and suddenness should bring him closer to the ball than that while his background as a RB would make DE an easier transition.

Gary Overshown: 6-4, 215. 3***
Mesquite, TX

Overshown is more potential than realized brilliance at end right now, but he has a lot of traits that suggest he could be a good DE with the kind of training and development TCU is known to provide. He has nice reach and uses his hands well and he's good at reading and reacting, he's not really an explosive pass-rusher but he could be a good one with time and training. He'll need a redshirt and some time.

Ross Blacklock: 6-3, 326. 4****
Missouri City, TX

Blacklock's tape suggests that opponents weren't really up for challenging him much. He's quick-moving at times but teams rarely tried to go at him and he's too big for anyone to really get him off the line. He'll need to slim down some at TCU even though he is probably a nose tackle down the line. If he can be a guy that's still quick but harder to move off the ball than previous DTs that could be quite the upgrade for TCU.

Isaiah Chambers: 6-4, 252. 4****
Houston, TX

Chambers is a big, athletic kid who's a little better on the perimeter currently than flying into the backfield but when you have a guy that's this long and strong and is quick laterally you're not going to keep him off your QB very well with HS OL. I think he'll eventually grow into a DT for TCU and learn to play low and translate his quickness and reach into beating OGs and killing in TCU's stunt package.

Mat Boesen: 6-4, 238. 3***
Long Beach, CA (JUCO)

Boesen is a really explosive pass rusher with fantastic change of direction that CA JUCO programs struggled to keep out of the backfield. He's proven it in the Mountain West as well where he had three sacks playing as a true freshman at Boise State before getting kicked out for "violating team rules" (sound familiar). He seems like a potential character risk to me but he's a great athlete that could help TCU immediately.

Grade: A-
TCU has a bunch of really promising athletes here and while they've always managed to feature pretty good DL play I think they could make a leap as these kids eventually come into their own down the line. There are some potential All-B12 talents in this bunch.

TCU almost always gets great play from their linebacker corps, these guys are just consistently well drilled on how to play opposing run schemes. No doubt much of that is related to the fact that TCU splits their front from their coverage and keeps things pretty simple for these guys. Anyways, they're looking for much of the same things as everyone else but their DT techniques generally allow them to play more athletic guys at linebacker so that they often just spin down safeties to fill these roles.

Camron Williams: 6-3, 210. 3***
Dallas, TX
It's amusing to me that Tech got three kids from Skyline HS but TCU swooped in and took what might end up being the best player on that roster. The key is that Williams played WR in HS, but he'll play linebacker at TCU. At WR he was good after the catch and could run low to the ground with power, an athletic trait that will translate well to breaking down and making tackles at linebacker. He played some defense at Skyline as well but they used him as an explosive 3-tech DT.

Tyree Horton: 6-0, 220. 4****
Highland, KS (JUCO)
If K-State falls apart in the coming seasons it'll be because they weren't landing in-state JUCO kids like Tyree Horton, who's probably the fastest LB recruit in the 2016 Big 12 class. Horton has what I like to call "all-spark" speed, meaning that he's sudden and explosive moving downhill, laterally, backwards, and in all directions. TCU generally does a good job of covering up their LBs and Horton will really take advantage with his ability to run under tackles, blitz, or scrape and reach the ball carrier. I think they'll have trouble keeping him off the field next year.

I have him rated as the 2nd best player in the class behind Olonilua.

Grade: A
Olonulia or any of the DBs might end up here eventually so there was no real need to load up with lots of numbers, especially when TCU never plays more than two at a time. They did really well here though grabbing guys with the athleticism to match their scheme and getting a player in Horton that could help in 2016.


TCU's system is designed to give Patterson maximal flexibility to move his safeties to wherever they are needed most in a given situation. These guys have a lot on their plate to play deep zone, play run-force, mix in some man coverage in their blitz package, or to blitz themselves. What they need are versatile athletes with the weak safety and strong safety being more of the run-stoppers while the free safety needs to be the best athlete. They don't necessarily need elite players since they have the flexibility to move everyone around as needed but the system thrives with a great free safety and comprehensive nature of the scheme means that there aren't really any limits to the ways that Patterson can make the most of any particularly elite traits in any of the players.

Markell Simmons: 6-1, 190. 3***
Tucson, AZ (JUCO)
Simmons is absurdly quick and rangy for a safety, so if he doesn't end up at corner you figure he'll get his shot at free safety at TCU. He runs to the ball well from a deep zone alignment and is good at using his speed to play over the top so it makes sense that he'd stay back there for the Frogs even though 247 has him listed as a CB.

Innis Gaines: 6-2, 190. 3***
Beaumont, TX
Gaines is a versatile and physical DB who could probably play all three safety positions for TCU but I think he's at his best using his eyes and length in underneath coverage or joining the fray in the box to stop the run so I imagine he'll end up at strong safety.

Grade: B-Both of these players are fantastic takes, but TCU needs a lot more help at DB after taking some injuries this offseason and getting gashed last year by the need to move half their safety corps to linebacker. They'll need to restock with numbers in 2017.


TCU needs great cornerbacks or none of this works. One of their responses to the spread has been increased usage of MEG (man coverage everywhere he goes) techniques from their cornerbacks, either the field corner or the boundary corner, and these guys have to be able to hold up in coverage. They'll also use the boundary corner as a run-force defender or blitzer at times but so long as they have two guys that can lock people down in man on the sidelines they are happy.

Keshawn Somerville: 5-10, 169. 3***
Pflugerville, TX
For the last 10 years perhaps TCU has made out like bandits by happily snatching up all the feisty, 5-10 and shorter CBs around that are elite athletes but were just a tad small. Jason Verrett and Ranthony Texada are two recent examples and Julius Lewis appears to be another if he can get healthy again. 

Check out Somerville's Sparq numbers: 4.45 40, 3.84 shuttle, 33' toss, 35.1".

This is one of the very best athletes in the entire 2016 Big 12 class and TCU snatched him up because he's only 5'9 1/2" and people are looking for bigger corners. Look...that extra height and reach matters a great deal less often than having the quickness to stay with receivers matters. Two years ago Quandre Diggs and Senquez Golson were some of the better corners around and they were both tiny. Last year Duke Thomas and Zach Sanchez were two of the better corners in the B12 and neither of them were very big either.

Somerville is an aggressive tackler and there's really little here to trouble anyone except that he missed much of his senior year with an injury which knocked him down in the rankings.

Vernon Scott: 6-1, 195. 3***
Arlington, TX
I had Scott pegged for safety but Patterson claimed he ran a 4.38 at their camp and demonstrated awesome press coverage skills so they want to start him at corner. At a Sparq event he ran a 4.63 with a 4.49 shuttle, 36' toss and 27.4" vertical. Those don't disqualify a guy from playing corner but the shuttle and toss numbers suggest that if he's not getting a good jam on receivers he's going to struggle to keep up with them.

TCU doesn't keep a safety over the top for their corners very often either so that could be trouble, I think he might be another Corry O'Meally, who racked up approximately 10k pass interference penalties for the Frogs last year.

Grade: C-
I think Scott was a good take for the program, I don't know if he'll be able to help them out at corner. Somerville likely will but they needed more numbers here and didn't get them.

Here's the issue for TCU though, they didn't know they were going to lose a sophomore corner (Lewis) in offseason drills until right before signing day and they rely on early evaluations and offers to bring in recruits and compete with the bigger dogs so it was always going to be hard for them to find corners late. They'll probably be okay but like at safety they're going to need more numbers in 2017 and may look to add some late coming JUCOs to the mix if they can find them.

Overall TCU did very well in this class and recruited quite possibly the fastest class in the league despite getting nine linemen to help them out in the trenches. I think TCU has real staying power, at least as long as Gary Patterson is there, and will probably be competing for Big 12 titles for the foreseeable future.


  1. Good write up.

    What I'm really impressed with in this class is not so much the raw talent TCU is bringing in, as how well it fits with their program. Which, when you have to fight Texas and Oklahoma for recruits, I guess is the only available option to Patterson.

  2. Great work Ian.
    Note on Ryan Parker: Though he was originally a TCU commit, he was supposed to sign in December with OU. It was delayed until the summer. Internet chatter, a lot of it, indicated that OU dropped him because of grades. This is comes with the usual caveats.

    That said, it would be interesting to see how many of these guys actually make it to campus. The NCAA's apparently got new rules in this year that may make qualifying a bit more tricky.

    1. I've been assured that Ryan Parker has a relatively long history of getting in his own way. A real shame, I hope he figures things out.