TCU junior quarterback Trevone Boykin is the key to the second-best scoring offense in the country. Boykin may be the quickest running quarterback that the Longhorns have faced this season, but his 59.3 completion percentage is unbecoming of a Heisman contender.
Sophomore Tyrone Swoopes has the talent to revitalize the Texas offense as Boykin has done TCU, but the results have been inconsistent this season. Swoopes’ rushing totals have dropped off recently, and he will have to start using his big arm more intelligently.
TCU feature back B.J. Catalon’s status is still up in the air for Thursday due to a shoulder injury that has held the junior out of his last two contests. His backup, junior Aaron Green, has performed brilliantly in relief and is a threat to score on every carry.
Junior Johnathan Gray has been on a tear in recent weeks despite senior Malcolm Brown getting most of the team’s carries. Gray’s explosiveness and Brown’s hard running style are just now combining to create the dangerous backfield that Texas was lacking in the season’s early going.
Senior Jaxon Shipley got shaken up against Oklahoma State, but the coaching staff says he will be ready Thursday. His uncanny ability to get open will be a great help to a young quarterback playing against the Horned Frog’s confusing 4-2-5 defense.
TCU’s leading receiver, junior Josh Doctson, has been relatively quiet this season, save for a 225-yard game against Oklahoma State, but his 6-foot-4 frame still makes him a threat anywhere on the field, and a strong supporting cast has picked up the slack.
This group was a major question mark for TCU back in August, but the offensive line, led by senior tackle Tayo Fabuluje, has meshed well over the course of the season. Run blocking is always solid, but pass protection has been a problem at times for the Horned Frogs.
The unit that was once a deadweight dragging down the Texas offense has stepped up in recent weeks. Sophomore right tackle Camrhon Hughes has worked his way back from some rough performances and is now an important cog on a unit that has started five straight games together.
The defensive line has looked like one of the best units in the country in the last few contests. The Hassan Ridgeway-Malcom Brown combo has clogged the middle all season and most recently helped hold Oklahoma State to just 34 yards on the ground.
Three of the four starters on TCU’s defensive line were high school teammates, and their excellent chemistry has helped hold opponents to just 3.1 yards per rush. Chucky Hunter, a hefty senior defensive tackle, has made life miserable between the tackles for opposing running backs.
Senior Jordan Hicks has turned around a defense that was embarrassingly bad at times last season. His linebacking colleagues, senior Steve Edmond and junior Peter Jinkens, have played well enough this season to indicate they can help neutralize Boykin’s run threat.
Linebacker Paul Dawson is a game changer against the run and the pass. The senior has snagged three interceptions, made 15 tackles for a loss and recorded five sacks in 2014. He could add to those totals against Texas’ inexperienced linemen and quarterback.
Senior cornerback Kevin White has been locking down receivers all season. The secondary will give up significant yardage, but a crew of ball-hawking safeties, including junior Chris Hackett, who has six interceptions on the season, makes up for it with big plays.
Quandre Diggs’ move from nickelback to corner has done wonders for the pass defense. He may be needed in run support against an explosive TCU ground game, leaving inconsistent safeties Dylan Haines and Mykkele Thompson to neutralize the air attack.
B.J. Catalon’s injury could leave the Horned Frogs without a returner who is averaging 31.8 yards per attempt. Sophomore punt returner Cameron Echols-Luper has a return touchdown on the season, and junior kicker Jaden Oberkrom has been solid all year.
The Longhorn special teams have played well enough this season to show they can neutralize Echols-Luper and the Horned Frogs’ explosive return game. Good kick coverage will mean little if senior punter Michael Davidson continues to perform inconsistently.