The TCU football depth chart will experience some turnover at key positions in 2018, but the defense looks to be in much better shape than the offense.
The Frogs bring back six starters on defense. But at each of the five spots losing senior starters – defensive tackle, right defensive end, strongside linebacker, weak safety and cornerback – TCU has players with significant experience ready to take over. TCU will probably take a step back from its top-20 ranking in total defense from last season, but the regression shouldn’t be too extreme.
We’ll go over TCU’s likely offensive depth chart, where there is more uncertainty, tomorrow. But for now, let’s project what the two-deep will look like on defense.
Left Defensive End
- Ben Banogu, senior
- Dennis Collins, redshirt freshman
- Gary Overshown, sophomore
Ben Banogu was a first-team All-Big 12 performer last season with 8 1/2 sacks and 16 1/2 tackles for loss. He elected to return for his senior year instead of leaving for the NFL, and now he’ll be the team’s primary pass rusher with Mat Boesen gone.
Dennis Collins will likely be the next man in the rotation, and Gary Overshown has the size and athleticism to contribute some as well.
- Corey Bethley, sophomore
- George Ellis III, redshirt freshman
Despite the departure of Chris Bradley, TCU has plenty of talent returning at defensive tackle in 2018. Corey Bethley proved to be a disruptive force and capable pass rusher from the 3-technique as a freshman. Behind him, George Ellis should be ready to go after redshirting his first year on campus.
- Ross Blacklock, redshirt sophomore
- Joseph Broadnax, senior
Ross Blacklock had a breakout season in 2017 after redshirting in his first season. The 326-pound defensive tackle consumed blockers and helped TCU improve substantially against the run last year.
Joseph Broadnax has proven himself to be a quality rotation player and can start when needed. All four of the defensive tackles in the rotation will be in the 300-pound range, fulfilling Gary Patterson’s desire for more mass up front.
Right Defensive End
- L.J. Collier, senior OR Brandon Bowen, sophomore
- Michael Epley, senior
This is the only position on the defensive line with some uncertainty for TCU in 2018. L.J. Collier proved to be a capable situational pass rusher the last two years, and he has the capability of playing end or tackle. Brandon Bowen, a former 4-star recruit, may be one of the best pure athletes on the team, but has been hampered by injuries so far.
If Bowen has been able to fully recover after a season-ending shoulder injury last year, he offers the highest upside. If he isn’t delivering on his potential, though, expect Collier to hold onto this spot. Michael Epley made some plays last year as well and will continue to factor into the rotation.
- Ty Summers, senior
- Ben Wilson, freshman
TCU experimented with Ty Summers at defensive end last year before moving back to linebacker full time later in the year. Expect him to stay at linebacker this season, particularly given some possible depth concerns at the position after losing Travin Howard and Sammy Douglas. Ben Wilson, a talented freshman from Washington, could see reps if the Frogs deal with any injuries.
- Montrel Wilson, junior OR Arico Evans, senior
- Alec Dunham, senior
Montrel Wilson’s last two seasons have been cut short by injuries. If he can stay healthy, though, he is one of TCU’s most athletic and versatile defenders. As a former safety, he matches up well with tight ends and running backs in the passing game.
Arico Evans played well last year and will definitely see a major role in the linebacker rotation. He’s good enough that he may start even if Wilson is healthy. Alec Dunham is a veteran who can take snaps as well.
- Ridwan Issahaku, senior OR Innis Gaines, junior
- Garret Wallow, sophomore
Ridwan Issahaku was tied for second on the team in tackles last season, so it says something about the growth of Innis Gaines that he could challenge the senior for his job.
Issahaku did a little of everything last year, whether it was blitzing, playing the run or covering slot receivers. TCU gave Gaines more reps as the season went on, and he’s the Frogs’ the most athletic option at the position. Garret Wallow will likely provide key depth after impressing in limited snaps as a freshman.
- Niko Small, senior
- Markell Simmons, senior
Niko Small enters his third year as TCU’s starting free safety. He gave up some big plays in 2017, but he’s still the Frogs’ most experienced option here. Markell Simmons offers quality depth.
- Ridwan Issahaku, senior OR Vernon Scott, junior
- La’Kendrick Van Zandt, sophomore
- Atanza Vongor, freshman
Nick Orr’s departure may be the biggest hole for TCU to fill on defense. Don’t be surprised if Issahaku slides over to weak safety, where he has experience, if Gaines wins the strong safety job outright. Vernon Scott saw significant snaps last year and could be ready for a larger role.
The Frogs also have a couple of highly touted safety prospects in redshirt freshman La’Kendrick Van Zandt and freshman Atanza Vongor who could provide needed depth.
- Julius Lewis, senior
- Tony James, senior
- Noah Daniels, sophomore
Julius Lewis has been a great cover corner for TCU when he’s healthy. However, he’s coming off his second season-ending injury in two years. Expect Tony James, who played significant snaps last year after Lewis went down, to still feature heavily in the rotation. Noah Daniels offers the Frogs another speedy option after redshirting last season.
- Jeff Gladney, junior
- Keenan Reed, junior
- Trevon Moehrig-Woodard, freshman
Jeff Gladney quietly had a tremendous year as TCU’s No. 2 corner in 2017. He has the size to match up with the bigger receivers in the league, but still has impressive speed as well.
Former junior college transfer Keenan Reed moved up the depth chart unexpectedly last season and may be in position for more snaps as a junior. Incoming freshman Trevon Moehrig-Woodard (listed at 6-foot-2) is one of the tallest defensive backs TCU has, which may give him an advantage while competing for playing time in 2018.