The potential of TCU’s linebackers and secondary to make game-changing plays
The TCU secondary has a sort of Jekyll and Hyde personality this season. TCU’s secondary has held up well in coverage and forced multiple turnovers against some decent passing teams this season, such as the Houston Cougars and SMU Mustangs. The Frogs’ pass defense has also held over half of their opponents this season to under 250 passing yards and a completion percentage under 50.
In three of TCU’s last four games, though, it has allowed at least 240 passing yards and two passing touchdowns without a single interception.
The success of teams passing the ball against TCU this season has largely depended on how much they commit to running the football. For instance, the West Virginia Mountaineers and Iowa State Cyclones both threw for under 250 yards against TCU. But West Virginia and Iowa State beat the Frogs by rushing for over 200 yards each and better than 4.5 yards per carry.
If Texas isn’t buttoned up in the passing game this weekend in Ewers’ return to the lineup, and this TCU secondary shows up to play, there are plenty of capable starters the Frogs have in the secondary ready to make plays.
Newton is the first name that comes to mind when considering TCU’s best players in the secondary. He is the second-highest-graded corner in the Big 12 this season. He’s got nearly a half dozen pass breakups and one interception on the season and is essentially guaranteed an all-conference spot for the Big 12.
Redshirt sophomore safety Bud Clark is another returning starter for the Frogs’ secondary after a breakout 2022 campaign where he emerged as a big-time playmaker, leading the team with five interceptions. But Clark has regressed significantly in his production in coverage and helping in run defense this season. He’s not making as many plays in pass defense, and he’s often getting lost in run defense.
Nonetheless, Clark is still capable of making big plays. Think of him as more of a boom-or-bust player this season. He’s got a half-dozen pass breakups and a team-leading two interceptions. On the other hand, he’s given up the second-most receiving yards and touchdowns of any Big 12 safety this fall.
Senior nickel Nook Bradford is another defensive back to watch who can make plays in the secondary for the Frogs. He has one pick in each of the last three seasons, and he intercepted Texas the last time these two teams met in Fort Worth in 2021.
TCU also has some linebackers Texas should be wary of. While he plays erratic in space, senior linebacker Jamoi Hodge is a hard-hitter who is dangerous when he can get after the quarterback. TCU’s best linebacker, though, is Obiazor. He does a little of everything for the TCU defense, leading the team in combined tackles, sacks, and defensive stops.
While this TCU defense has struggled to generate game-changing plays, namely turnovers, in the last four or five games, it’s not like they’re incapable of doing so. There are some experienced starters that can make Texas pay if they’re caught napping early in this game.
Winning the turnover battle will be essential for the Longhorns to come away from Fort Worth this weekend with a victory. TCU is 0-3 when it loses the turnover battle against the Power Five competition this season.