RB Robert Merrill

2005 Statistics

Coach: Gary Patterson
43-18, 6 years
2005 Record: 11-1
at Oklahoma WON 17-10
at SMU LOST 10-21
UTAH WON 23-20 (OT)
at Brigham Young WON 51-50 (OT)
at Wyoming WON 28-14
ARMY WON 38-17
at Air Force WON 48-10
at San Diego State WON 23-20
vs. Iowa State WON 27-24

2005 Final Rankings
AP-11, Coaches-9, BCS-14

2006 Outlook

We try not to look backwards, but last year was one that got away, and head coach Gary Patterson won’t soon forget it. After shocking the college football world with a win over Oklahoma, TCU tripped up their very next game against SMU…SMU!!! They won the rest of their games (to presently hold the nation’s second longest winning steak at 10), and now “coulda-woulda-shoulda” cannot be a lingering mantra that affect the team’s psyche. Still, this group is capable of picking their 2005 ways right up and continuing everything Patterson & Co. have put in motion. A quality senior QB (Ballard) and two Lombardi watch-list candidates on the DL (three total if you count RT Taylor) mean both sides of the ball have the leadership to do such.

But one trouble area could be the revamped OL, and their spread offense that intimidates so many starts – like any other point-scoring machine – up front. Patterson did more with less in restructuring the OL last campaign, so don’t bet against him as a master motivator who can get more out of two- and three-star recruits than many coaches get out of much higher-graded newbies. Like the DL, the OL is small-and-quick, which works in the MWC (went 8-0 in their inaugural effort here) and in the schemes TCU now employs. The other problem spot could be at corner(s), but the other DBs are good enough to make up for any drop-off until starters are in swing with their 4-2-5 approach. Though injuries at LB would lead to drop off, there always seems to be a way to make up for any marginal dimensions with Patterson.

The deck is stacked with Texas Tech and (at) Utah in their second and fourth games, respectively. The Tech game will be one of this year’s best non-conference matchups, as both clubs should be powerhouses…but someone has to lose, and the winner will have an early advantage in voters’ eyes. And though we poo-poo the MWC a bit here, three of their games in-conference were decided by a total of seven points, so nothing is written in stone against anyone (well, except maybe Army, sorry Bobby). And even by going 12-0, TCU could still not be the second mid-major to make the BCS unless they really win big all year.

This is just a fun team to follow and watch live, so be careful of when you make a trip to the fridge if they are playing…you may miss something that will make you discover why the Horned Frogs are one of the best teams no one knows much about, except you.

Projected 2006 record: 10-2
QB - 3.5 DL - 3.5
RB - 5 LB - 3.5
WR - 3 DB - 2.5
OL - 3.5 ..

Passing: Jeff Ballard, 232-139-7, 1801 yds., 13 TD

Rushing: Robert Merrill, 187 att., 911 yds., 10 TD

Receiving: Quentily Harmon, 28 rec., 318 yds., 1 TD

Scoring: Chris Manfredini, 13-13 FG, 40-44 PAT, 79 pts.

Punting: Brian Cortney, 62 punts, 38.6 avg.

Kicking: Chris Manfredini, 13-13 FG, 40-44 PAT, 79 pts.

Tackles: Jason Phillips, 71 tot., 41 solo

Sacks: Chase Ortiz, 9 sacks

Interceptions: Brian Bonner, 4 for 36 yds.

Kickoff Returns: Michael DePriest, 4 ret., 16.2 avg., 0 TD

Punt Returns: none


DE Tommy Blake


OFFENSE: Tye Gunn-QB, Matt Grimmett-WR, Michael Toudouze-OT, Shane Sims-OG, Stephen Culp-C, Ben Angeley-OG, Cory Rodgers-WR (NFL)
DEFENSE: Ranorris Ray-DT, Jared Kesler-NT, Zarnell Fitch-NT, Quincy Butler-CB, Drew Coleman-CB, Jeremy Modkins-FS

Senior Jeff Ballard is everything he can be in an offense that seems to lay waste to defenders at all levels. With so much talent, Ballard passed Tye Gunn to become the Horned Frog starter, and hasn’t looked back since. Ballard has the keen instincts to be feared by competitors on any/all level(s), for he can run deceptively fast if the play develops that way. But it is his 60% completion rate and 13:7 TD:INT ratio from 2005 that proves why he hasn’t lost yet as a starter. The Friendswood-native will again give this offense maximum impact, winning games more often than setting statistical records. Hey, that’s what the bottom line is, so no arguments make him marginal to us. Junior backup Chad Huffman (also a dual threat) would constitute a step back if inserted for major playing time, but we only foresee that happening if Ballard is injured. Head coach Gary Patterson can make firepower with two wet sticks, so never underestimate any QB he chooses. Still, Huffman would have to learn to play at the same high levels and prove such before defenses would respect him as much.

Running Back
Robert Merrill has made a name for himself in Fort Worth and beyond. Merrill has the size-speed combination NFL scouts love, and his production has not disappointed. Though not a breakaway threat, Patterson can insert Aaron Brown (second last year in total rushing yards, runs a 10.45 100-meters and was MWC Freshman of the Year) for the lightning needed. The combination is too much for most foes, and will continue to catch them unable to stop either for more than a play at a time. The spread used by TCU means there is plenty of room for whoever gets the rock, including the school’s freshman record holder, Lonta Hobbs. The Clarksville-native has struggled since then, but will surely make the most of his last campaign. Hobbs is brought in for the same effect as Merrill (same size and speed), so fresh legs out of the backfield – along with Ballard’s feet – mean foes get no rest as TCU runs it twice as much as they throw. Ex-LB William Jackson can do it all as a hybrid FB-type, even kick FGs if need be! This unit also will be bolstered by reverses turned in by many members of the WR corps, so distractions and formations will prove invaluable for when the real backs get to “Carry” the team to victory.

The loss of their main receiver (NFL) won’t likely make these guys worse, though who steps into the main role won’t be known until it happens with the variables Patterson uses. Junior Donald Massey has been an underneath-possession type, but has the size and speed to go downfield and do damage, but classmate Derrick Moore and/or senior Michael DePriest will likely be that guy more often. Also going deep often will be proven senior Quentily Harmon, a sure-handed snarler with the longest play from scrimmage in ’05 (44 yards) of the three. This is a “red flag” subject, for only two pass plays went over 50 yards all year, meaning something has to give so that there is more room underneath for the many swing/screen passes employed. Then the offense would be that much more efficient and the spreading of conference foes could yield more (YAC) overall. With the three-and four-receiver sets Patterson chooses, the unproven depth will not take long to make names for themselves, too.

Tight End
Seniors Chad Andrus and Chuck Hecht will be invaluable – both can catch the balls that come their way, but the new linemen will need their pushing and leadership skills to settle into a rhythm. Hecht cam to TCU as the No.1 JUCO TE prospect, and the sure-handed Andrus is a weight room fixture. They both hover around 250lbs. and are proven in either facet.

Offensive Line
There are huge losses here, but just last year, three new starters stepped into their roles with amazing success, so don’t say this can’t happen again with these same coaches. Eddie Williams (also an assistant head coach) made two of the new starters into all-MWC quality, and his third all-conference guy, Herb Taylor, returns at right tackle to anchor the rebuilding efforts. Preston Phillips looks good to step up and impress at left guard, and he saw enough action so that he isn’t green by any means. Tyler Marrou at center is a strong possibility (though small for the interior at 245lbs.), as is Will Oliver as a candidate for an inside post (G or C). Wade Sisk saw time behind Taylor, and Heath Raetz could easily figure into the mix outside, too. The Horned Frogs have mostly sub-300lb. guys who use athleticism and footwork to make up for bulk, and in the spread schemes, this is why any/all of them should still make the offense click.

Gary Patterson has implemented wide open sets to make this a strong running team that has WRs who can be as physical as needed (as blockers) when they run it over two-thirds of the time. Then they pass underneath and rack up the YAC while defenders scramble to decipher what kind of creativity is developing. It all reflects balanced results with few TOs (lead the nation in TO-margin) and lots of scoring (22nd ranked for points while 41st in total offense). TCU was way too much for MWC foes (8-0), and though this isn’t a conference known for defense(s), TCU should pick up right here, again, scorching opponents. Jeff Ballard is their senior QB and is likely the best collegiate field general most have never heard of. But Ballard has the passing touch while also knowing how/when to take it himself. The RBs afford him much distraction, and the WRs know how to work together so that all of Patterson’s efforts are maximized. The only rough part will be getting the right linemen to that upper echelon, but since two of last year’s new big guys were all-conference, there is no reason to believe that will not happen this time around, too. Patterson turns it up only when needed and won’t show his entire playbook unless pressed. Still, they will be exciting to watch as they efficiently break opposing Ds down on a regular basis.


OT Herbert Taylor


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Jeff Ballard-Sr (6-1, 208) Chad Huffman-Jr (6-1, 206)
FB William Jackson-Jr (6-0, 235) Chris Smith-Fr (5-11, 231)
TB Robert Merrill-Sr (5-10, 204)
Lonta Hobbs-Sr (5-10, 220)
Aaron Brown-So (6-1, 196)
WR Marcus Brock-Jr (6-0, 185) Derek Moore-Jr (6-3, 174)
WR Michael DePriest-Sr (6-0, 192) Ervin Dickerson-Jr (6-1, 200)
WR Quentily Harmon-Sr (6-1, 184) Donald Massey-Jr (5-11, 170)
TE Chad Andrus-Sr (6-5, 246) Brent Hecht-Sr (6-4, 270)
OT Herbert Taylor-Sr (6-4, 287) Nic Richmond-Fr (6-8, 300)
OG Giles Montgomery-So (6-5, 275) Preston Phillips-So (6-6, 285)
C Blake Schlueter-So (6-3, 275) Tyler Marrou-Fr (6-5, 245)
OG Matty Lindner-Jr (6-4, 293) Maurice Bouldwin-Sr (6-4, 290)
OT Wade Sisk-Jr (6-7, 270) Heath Raetz-So (6-5, 280)
K Chris Manfredini-Jr (5-9, 170) Peter LoCoco-Sr (6-1, 208)



Defensive Line
Junior DEs Chase Ortiz and Tommy Blake, like QB Ballard, are the best guys at their positions you’ve likely never heard of. Combining for 27.5 TFLs and16 sacks, they helped anchor the nation’s 15th-ranked run stopping effort. Ex-LB Ortiz entered 2005 as the third-string, but was/is too good not to be where he is now - starting. Former-RB and top roundballer Blake is athletic, too, and both get into opposing backfields early and often enough to have made this year’s Lombardi Trophy “watch list”. What hurts is the departure of beef that goes/went two-deep inside, with only soph Lorenzo Jones and his 300lbs. left to build upon. Quickster James Vess looks good to be part of the mix at DT, but there is too much inexperience to say any more until developments occur. Things should progress well with Blake, Ortiz and other outside guys to distract extra hats. But the range of results inside, and therefore for how well the entire line plays, is, like the OL, still a variable until proven.

The starting LBs are both worth their weight in gold to the Horned Frogs, and the reason is dual edged. Yes, junior David Hawthorne and soph Jason Phillips both cover ground and make plays well enough that they are the heart of the defense. But with only one qualified backup, sophomore Robert Henson, any injuries here would truly affect the team’s defensive results. Ex-QB Phillips lead TCU in tackles, but he has yet to impress in coverage, though quick. Hawthorne seems more well-rounded to make stops against whatever play is called. Henson is similarly able like Hawthorne, and is built more like a safety. Then there is huge drop-off, with no true LBs listed in the last two recruiting classes. In this 4-2-5 approach, DBs an easily step into their roles and produce. But that reality too often would lead to an undersized group being behind the line when all are in the box. This might work against some in-conference foes, but spells trouble against top 25-types TCU, Utah, and others who can exploit such.

Defensive Back
Marvin White and Brian Bonner are the key players for what we just referenced – safeties who can bolster the run and become “third LBs” when needed. Ex-QB Bonner has the instincts to make big plays often, and his backup (dime), Eric Buchanan, can also step into the box effectively. Elvis Gallegos enters his senior year as the new starter in the free safety slot, and is another ex-QB (ex-WR, too) who can use his instinctual mind well to get where needed. Then there are two departed corners, so that area will tell much as to whether the Horned Frogs will be spread thin already so that aiding the “front six” will cost. Corderra Hunter seems to fit the bill – the sophomore is well-sized and runs like the wind all day (came in second in the 200 m. in prep behind Frog WR McDaniel). Young three-star recruits dot the roster, so there is talent to be extracted for maximum results, but finding those elusive corners will go a long way toward defining the way the entire group of 11 plays.

Although not the biggest or best, this unit plays hard and well as a team, so 4+2+5 = (way more than) 11. And in the MWC, they seem to be a head above the rest (like the Utes were under Urban Meyer). It all starts up front with Ortiz and Blake, two guys who, like the DBs, can bolster the LB unit when needed, although both are found in opponents backfields much more often than that. And the LBs aren’t shabby; it’s just that with only two on the field at once, schemes for the underneath and/or middle part of the field have to make up for this factor. That’s where the versatility of the DBs is so important, and they are a deep, well-sized group that can handle it all. This side of the ball won the vaunted OU game, and with rankings that show they know how to bend and not break (especially in finishing 63rd in pass defense, but ninth in the all-important efficiency category), there is reason to believe DC Dick Bumpas will make this group formidable again. Rushing D was 15th in the nation, and this group held its last two regular season opponents to no TDs (though UNLV and CSU were not very good). These ball-hawks can again win games this year if Patterson needs them to, but consistency should allow for their efforts to be ample for whatever plays out.


DE Chase Ortiz


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE Chase Ortiz-Jr (6-3, 250) Jared Retkofsky-Sr (6-5, 270)
DT Cody Moore-So (6-1, 275) James Vess-So (6-3, 260)
NT Lorenzo Jones-So (6-4, 300) Jarrarcea Williams-Sr (6-0, 310)
DE Tommy Blake-Jr (6-3, 250) Jamison Newby-Sr (6-3, 252)
SLB David Hawthorne-Jr (6-0, 235) Robert Henson-So (6-1, 222)
MLB Jason Phillips-So (6-1, 240) Andrew Ward-Sr (6-2, 232)
CB Nick Sanders-Fr (5-10, 170) Mike Salvage-Sr (5-10, 190)
CB Rafael Priest-Fr (5-10, 175) Vernon Russell-Sr (6-0, 195)
SS Brian Bonner-Jr (5-11, 203) Eric Buchanan-Sr (5-11, 196)
FS David Roach-Jr (6-2, 210) Steven Coleman-So (6-3, 205)
WS Marvin White-Sr (6-2, 200) Brian Bonner-Jr (5-11, 203)
P Brian Cortney-Sr (6-4, 215) ..




Junior Chris Manferdini was perfect in his 13 tries, but don’t be surprised when Peter LoCoco is brought in for those kicks outside the 50 yard line. LoCoco was not nearly as accurate, but his leg seems bigger and is therefore the KO guy, as well. Coverage here reflect the team’s superior defense, and should continue to impress (gave up only 18.7 per return).

Senior Brian Cortney is one of the only marginal spots TCU has. He boots it high but not long, and net results struggled (59th ranked). The JUCO-transfer went for more than 40 per in C.C. (Mesa), so he has it in him to improve. TCU ostensibly doesn’t need him to win, but this dimension still could use improvement to be on par with every other unit.

Return Game
This area could hurt if a replacement for Rodgers isn’t found early on. Michael DePriest seems in line for the shot to be both KR and PR guy, but he has too many guys gunning for either spot to say he is their sure pick for either/both. But the ex-sprinter (100, 200 meters) and triple-jumper is the best choice by our view. The talent is there for whoever gets the nod to soar.