Five things we learned from TCU football training camp

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Training camp is finally in the books for TCU as the Horned Frogs had their final camp practice on Sunday morning.

TCU will get the next two days off to rest and rehab before turning their full attention to Colorado. The 15 or so practices were enlightening in many ways.

We saw a number of freshmen make early impacts, there were also a number of veterans that took a jump and secured bigger roles this season plus a transfer class that has helped fill the void in key areas.

Based on what I’ve seen, TCU looks like a top-20 in the country with the upside to contend for a conference championship. Here are five things we learned from training camp:

Depth, depth, depth

The Horned Frogs lost a lot of starpower, especially at wide receiver with all three of the leading receivers off in the NFL. While TCU doesn’t quite have a Quentin Johnston currently on the roster, the Horned Frogs seemed poised to use overwhelming numbers to replace that production.

You could make the case that the Horned Frogs are eight or nine deep at receiver. Savion Williams, JP Richardson, Warren Thompson, Cordale Russell, Jaylon Robinson, JoJo Earle, Jack Bech and Dylan Wright are all poised to have significant roles on an offense that wants to rotate a lot. Most of them were former four star recruits and players like Williams, Richardson and Robinson have had success at the D-I level.

At cornerback, TCU had two great ones with Josh Newton and Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, but not much behind them. This year the Horned Frogs could rotate as many as six cornerbacks between Newton, Avery Helm, Channing Canada, Mason White and Jaionte McMillan being the first five. Linebacker and the defensive line are all deeper too.

It’s a daunting task to replace stars like Johnston and Hodges-Tomlinson, but TCU has the sheer numbers to do so.

The 2023 class is special

The future is extremely bright for TCU as Sonny Dykes’ first full recruiting class turned heads all camp starting with Russell. The former top-100 recruit dazzled in his first couple of practices and had a long touchdown during one of TCU’s scrimmages. Offensive lineman Ben Taylor-Whitfield cracked the two deep already, jumping ahead of a few veterans. Coaches and players called both ‘special’ talents.

On defense, Jonathan Bax remained with the second unit after a strong spring and continues to look more comfortable at linebacker. Defensive linemen Markis Deal, Avion Carter and Zachary Chapman are already some of the most impressive looking players in the group and Deal or Chapman could break into the two deep early.

In the secondary the freshman trio of Jamel Johnson, Jordan Lester and Randon Fontenette were all solid and Lester even had an interception on Sunday.

Defense has taken a jump

On a scale of 100, I would say the defense emerged victorious from camp with the score of 55-45. There was a healthy back and forth and the offense improved as camp progressed, but overall the defense looks more sure of itself than a year ago.

It helps having so much experience back with seven starters back and you saw players like Josh Newton, Johnny Hodges, Bud Clark and Damonic Williams all stepping up and being more vocal leaders. Moving Namdi Obiazor from safety to STAR was also wise decision and gives TCU a versatile weapon at linebacker. The improved depth has also given defensive coordinator Joe Gillespie more options with his sub packages and different play calls.

TCU should be one of the better defenses in the Big 12.

Bailey should be RB1

Out of all the running backs, Emani Bailey was the most productive and consistent during fall camp. It seemed like every other practice Bailey was ripping off a 10-plus yard run. He’s shown to be the best combination of explosiveness, power and ability to be a weapon in the passing game. When Bailey sees the hole, he’s hitting it and reaching top speed quickly.

It should be noted Trey Sanders had some solid practices in the back end of fall camp and the battle may continue into next week, but if TCU were playing Colorado tomorrow I think Bailey would get the start.

One final position battle

While most of the position battles seem to be settled or in the final stages, there’s one that still needs to be sorted out. John Lanz returned to practice early this week and now will battle with Maryland transfer Coltin Deery for the starting center spot.

There are two potential outcomes of this battle. One is that either wins and mans the middle of line that has Michael Nichols at right tackle, Willis Patrick at right guard, Brandon Coleman at left guard and Andrew Coker at left tackle.

The other is that both Lanz and Deery earn starting nods with one sliding to left guard and Nichols sliding to the second unit while Coker would move back to right and Coleman to left tackle. I think TCU really wants to see that combination of Coker and Coleman on the left side, but offensive line coach A.J. Ricker said it would depend on the players around them if they could make that happen.

Glaring omission?

I’m sure some of you are wondering what we learned about Chandler Morris and the answer is not much. Hear me out, we already know how talented Morris dating back to his first year with the program. We know that accuracy, arm talent and his mobility are all strengths of his game.

We also knew that a smart player like him would pick up the new offensive scheme of Kendal Briles’ pretty quickly. Morris did that and had a good camp. He showcased his physical attributes numerous times in fall camp, but truthfully we won’t learn anything of substance until the first game when Morris can be hit and finds himself in pressure packed moments.

Do I think he can handle those things? Yes, but he has to show that over an extended slate of games and Colorado is the first step.