Opponent View: TCU
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We caught up with Billy Wessels of PurpleMenace.com, the TCU site on the Rivals network. Below are excerpts from the interview.
GoldandBlack.com: What can fans expect offensively from TCU?
Wessels: The biggest question on the offense for TCU so far is the quarterback. They started Alex Delton in the opening game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Looks fine, but if you’re a fan of Big 12 football, I know going up to Big Ten country, but you’re familiar with Delton. He’s been a starter at Kansas State the last couple years; grad transfer, came to TCU. He will likely start this game, but I think we’ll see some Max Duggan, a true freshman just coming to town and kind of taking over. He played really well in the Pine Bluff game. He’s kind of a guy the fans are rooting for. He completed about 80 percent of his passes for a couple touchdowns, also had a rushing touchdown in this game. He’s looking like he’s going to win this job sooner or later. So I think you’ll see Delton start but I think you’ll see half the stats also going to true freshman quarterback Duggan in this game.
GoldandBlack.com: What’s the real strength of the TCU attack?
Wessels: They have a future first round pick in WR Jalen Reagor, no doubt in my mind. He is absolutely incredible, so it’s finding ways to get him the ball. He looked great against Pine Bluff as well including a long touchdown catch from Duggan. TCU returns its entire offensive line, return two running backs (Darius Anderson and Sewo Olonilua).
Delton is known for more for his legs than his arm so this could be a running team, but they also like to throw it too. It will be a really well-balanced team. The strength should come from the running game, and TCU will pass it when necessary.
The defense is pretty good, too, so it comes down to TCU just taking care of the football. Don’t make too many mistakes (is the key).
GoldandBlack.com: What are the strengths of this year’s defense?
Wessels: This is going to be one of the better defenses of the Gary Patterson era, which is known for having great defenses throughout his tenure. The biggest key for the team is the return of Ross Blacklock, the freshman All-American. He tore his Achilles last season, so he is returning from missing a year. He’s causing havoc in the middle of the field, the middle of the offensive line. Blacklock and Corey Bethley are twin towers at defensive tackle.
Linebacker Garret Wallow, number 30, leads the team in tackles and he’s just a high-motor guy. He’s going to be all over the place. He’s unbelievable. The secondary is really strong, too. Senior Innis Gaines, he missed half a season last year due to injury, he’s back at one of the safety spots. Jeff Gladney also is probably going to be a second-round (NFL) draft pick and is a starting corner.
The biggest issue coming into this game is the opposite corner, Julius Lewis. He’s going to be questionable with a knee issue. He missed the first game. They said it would be a two-to-three week injury, so here we are, Week Three. I think he’s going to be questionable. If he can make the trip at all to West Lafayette, maybe you’ll see him on the field. He’s a speedy guy as well as a second corner spot. If he can’t go, look for freshman Kee’yon Stewart, who started the game against Pine Bluff. He had a pretty solid game but gave up one big play.
GoldandBlack.com: What is the strongest part of the defense?
Wessels: Probably the defensive line. I just think every year, TCU is going to have a great defensive line. They had two guys go in the NFL draft last year and just kind of reloaded. Ochaun Mathis, a defensive end, is one of the guys that Gary Patterson talks about like a future NFL Hall of Famer. He talks the guy up and he’s only a sophomore ... actually a redshirt freshman. He played great in the four games he played in last year. Patterson has been so mesmerized at what he can do as a defensive lineman.
Him, Corey Bethley, Ross Blacklock and the other defensive end to spot is probably grad transfer Shameik Blackshear from South Carolina. He played pretty well in the first game. They’re kind of going slow with him. Also, Adam Plant, who is a true freshman, he’s a giant human being … like six-foot-seven, 300+ pounds (listed at 6-5, 264). He’s a big guy that can play well on the defensive line.
In the secondary, Trevon Moehrig is a guy who got a pick last week. So did Ar’Darius Washington in his first start. So, the secondary is really good, too. This is going to be a high-caliber defense all over the place for TCU.
GoldandBlack.com: Anything to note on the return game? How are the kicker and the punter looking?
Wessels: True freshman punter, Jordy Sandy, an Australian guy. We saw him a couple times against Pine Bluff, so we don’t really know what to expect necessarily from what he can do. In the kicking game, Jonathan Song seemed to have taken that job over. This was a question mark coming into the year. He hit about half his kicks last year. And this year, he had a perfect five-for-five in the opener, obviously (he hit) the game-winner in the Cheez-it Bowl last year, too.
So, with kicking and punting, I think we might have an answer with Sandy and Song. But as far as the return game, Jalen Reagor, like I said, is an All-American. He’s a guy who they expect to be a first-round draft pick, he’s your star returner. So, he can make things happen if he gets the ball in his hands.
GoldandBlack.com: What are two or three keys for TCU to win this game?
Wessels: Don’t make mistakes, that’s the biggest thing (for TCU). When the season got away from TCU early last season, they were negative-11 in turnover margin. When TCU needed to win the last three games to be bowl eligible, they ended up winning the turnover margin to get into the bowl conversation. So, they can’t make mistakes.
(Another key) I would say is to control Rondale Moore. Him and Reagor are probably the two best players that will be on the field this weekend as far as skill positions go. If TCU can find a way to contain him despite not having full strength of the second corner spot (that will be key). This is going to be a great match up between Gladney (CB) and Moore. So, if TCU can control him and take care of the football, it can go on the road and get a win, I think.
GoldandBlack.com: TCU has had two weeks to prepare for this game, obviously an advantage, right?
Wessels: Yeah it has to be, considering Julius Lewis got a little banged up and a couple other guys got nicked up from camp. So coming back, they should be mostly healthy. Lewis is (still) a question mark. But they should be (more) healthy having two weeks to prepare.
Rondale Moore, the similar-type player to a guy that TCU fans are familiar with in KaVontae Turpin who was kind of their big clutch return man and also explosive little wide receiver before getting kicked off the team last year. So, TCU has seen these kind of guys before. TCU has made a living off of making these kind of guys into players. So, I think if anyone can stop Purdue and Moore, it could be TCU. Giving Patterson more than a week to prepare for anybody is going to be a tough challenge for the opponent.
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