Filling the void
DCTF's Jake Shaw series on the state's biggest college football replacements concludes.
We close this three-part series by breaking down the new players stepping in for departed players at TCU, UTEP, UTSA and Texas Tech. In Part I, we examined the losses/replacements at Baylor, Houston, SMU and Texas; Part II focused on North Texas, Rice, Texas T&M and Texas State.
Biggest offensive loss: LT Jeff Olson
His replacement: Tayo Fabuluje Jr.
Replacement grade: B-
Explaining the grade: TCU missed out on Fabuluje the first time around. The Arlington Oakridge product originally signed with BYU over offers from TCU and quite a few more. But he eventually transferred back to his home state, took a redshirt last year, and has now taken over as the starter at left tackle. Though Olson manned that job for all 13 games last year, he was a career backup before his senior season — so it's not as if TCU is losing someone like, say, Marcus Cannon, who was a star at left tackle. But it is a very important position, and that Fabuluje is switching from DT at BYU to OT at TCU adds another twist. Still, I think this has the potential to be an upgrade, since Fabuluje sports the size (6-7, 315) of an NFL tackle. (Oh, and losing RB Ed Wesley this offseason also hurts, but with Matthew Tucker and Waymon James back, Olson's job was the bigger hole to fill.)
Biggest defensive loss: LB Tanner Brock
His replacement: Joel Hasley
Replacement grade: C-
Explaining the grade: Losing fellow LB Tank Carder to the Buffalo Bills actually stings more than the loss of Brock. But TCU knew it had to replace Carder all along. The departure of Brock — because of off-field legal problems — was a blow to the Horned Frog defense. As was the reported loss of LB Deryck Gildon, who played in all 13 games last year as a freshman. Gary Patterson arguably plugs in new defenders better than any coach in the country, but he truly has his work cut out for him now. Kenny Cain, an experienced veteran who had 72 tackles last year, steps in for Carder, but with Gildon apparently gone, TCU will reach to what would've been a third-stringer with Hasley. A former walk-on, Hasley played in nine games last year and averaged a tackle per showing. In a matter of a few months, this LB position has sunk from strength to, at best, a question mark.
Biggest offensive loss: RB Joe Banyard
His replacement: Nathan Jeffrey
Replacement grade: C+
Explaining the grade: Banyard led the Miners in rushing the past two seasons. And not only is he gone, but last year's second- and third-leading rushers (Vernon Frazier and Leilyon Myers) are also starting the next chapter of their lives. That leaves two sophomores, Jeffrey and Josh Bell, to compete for the starting job. Jeffrey (26-168, 1 TD), the more highly-touted prospect out of high school after rushing for more than 5,000 yards in his final two seasons, should enter the fall first on the depth chart after capping his spring with a nice showing the final scrimmage. He's got talent, but his replacement grade would be higher if he had more experience. Just not enough there to grade him in the B range.
Biggest defensive loss: LB Jeremy Springer
His replacement: Jamie Irving
Replacement grade: A+
Explaining the grade: I'm not sure if I've awarded an A+ so far, but this is a special case. Irving started at MLB in 2010 and would've repeated that last fall had two separate shoulder surges not gotten in the way. His absence pushed Springer into a starting role, and the Valley product responded by leading the team with 70 tackles and adding 5 TFL. But those numbers still fell short of what Irving produced in 2010, when he started 13 games and recorded 79 tackles. Entering his final year in El Paso with a clean bill of health, the Miners are expecting a big season from Irving.
Biggest offensive loss: N/A
His replacement: N/A
Replacement grade: N/A
Explaining the grade: When you've played just one season in your school's entire football history, there's nothing really to replace. UTSA brings back all 11 offensive starters from 2011 headed into this season, its first as a member of the WAC.
Biggest defensive loss: S Mark Waters
His replacement: Cody Berry
Replacement grade: B+
Explaining the grade: Waters is not only the biggest loss, he's the Roadrunners' only loss from the 2011 team — which made for a very, very short senior day ceremony at the end of last season. But Waters' loss is no joking matter. Given a second chance at UTSA, he quickly became the team's leader, and he backed up his leadership role by finishing with 68 tackles, one shy of the team lead. Berry, a mid-year transfer from a California JUCO who prepped at Cedar Hill, slides into the rover position. He closed his first spring in San Antonio by intercepting two passes in the spring finale. Coming in with two years of junior college experience under his belt, Berry has a chance to make an instant impact.
Biggest offensive loss: OG Lonnie Edwards
His replacement: Beau Carpenter
Replacement grade: C+
Explaining the grade: Edwards started the final 35 games of his Red Raider career. Enter Carpenter, who started one game at right guard in 2011 after using a redshirt in 2010. Originally a tackle, Carpenter will likely get the nod to replace Edwards. Texas Tech is essentially reshuffling most of the line. Deveric Gallington has moved from guard to center; Terry McDaniel has moved from tackle to guard. Texas Tech coaches need these pieces to fit, because the Red Raiders return all their top skill position players. For the offense to go, however, it needs this reworked offensive line to come together quickly. Keeping Carpenter from a score in the B range is, of course, the result of an inexperienced player replacing a three-year starter.
Biggest defensive loss: DE Scott Smith
His replacement: Branden Jackson
Replacement grade: B
Explaining the grade: The Red Raiders return their top six tacklers from 2011. The seventh, Smith, might've been higher on the list had he not missed the first four games of the season (completing a 12-game suspension handed down in 2010). But in those right games, Smith was a playmaker, totaling 37 tackles, 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. But the most interesting statistic: Smith is the only Red Raider from the 2011 team to get a free-agent contract in the NFL (no other Texas Tech players were drafted). Yes, Texas Tech wasn't that good in 2011, but this shows just how young the team was last fall. Just about every defender other than Smith is back, which should help Jackson's transition to start opposite Dartwan Bush (Leon Mackey, a DE last year, has moved to the interior). Jackson has a lot to prove, but surrounded by experience, and considering Smith missed one-third of the season, this isn't a gaping hole. There really isn't one on the Texas Tech defense — now, it's just a matter of these experienced players producing at a higher level than they did a year ago.
Jake Shaw is a special contributor to Dave Campbell's Texas Football and TexasFootball.com.