TCU 2021 Season in Review: Disappointment leads to coaching change in Fort Worth

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2021 record: 5-7 (-1 wins from 2020)

Texas Power Poll ranking: 10 of 12

THE GOOD

TCU entered the Nov. 6 matchup with rival Baylor at 3-5 and on a three-game losing streak that caused the Horned Frogs and long-time head coach Gary Patterson to mutually part ways. Conversely, the Bears were riding high at 7-1. Records rarely matter in rivalry games, and that proved true in Fort Worth. Quarterback Chandler Morris, in his first career start, threw for 461 yards and two touchdowns in the 30-28 win over the eventual Big 12 champions. Morris added 70 yards and a touchdown on the ground in what was undoubtedly the high point for TCU in the 2021 season. 

The running game was solid throughout the year for TCU. Former five-star Zach Evans averaged seven yards a carry. He finished the year with 648 yards and five touchdowns on 92 carries. Kendre Miller added 623 yards and a team-high seven rushing touchdowns on 83 attempts. Emarl Demercado rushed for 446 yards and four touchdowns on 96 carries. As a team, TCU averaged five yards a carry. 

The wide receiver room, led by Quentin Johnston, was also steady. Johnston caught 33 passes for 634 yards and six touchdowns. His average of 19.21 yards a catch helped the Temple product receive All-Big 12 honors. Derius Davis caught 36 passes for 518 yards and a touchdown. He also returned a kickoff for a touchdown. Taye Barber added 514 yards and two touchdowns on 30 receptions. 

Punter Jordan Sandy averaged 43.28 yards on 43 attempts. His long was 64 and he recorded eight punts over 50 yards. He also pinned opponents inside their own 20-yard line on 13 separate occasions. Place kicker Griffin Hall was 14 of 18 on the season, including 4 for 4 on field goals over 40 yards. 

TCU went 2-2 down the stretch with Jerry Kill serving as the interim head coach. The Horned Frogs hired Sonny Dykes to be the new head coach following the end of the regular season. Dykes spent the past few years leading crosstown rival SMU. 

THE BAD

Injury to quarterback Max Duggan, and some conservative play calling, prevented the passing game from truly complimenting the rushing attack for much of the season. Duggan finished with 2,048 yards passing on 63.88 percent completions. He threw for 16 touchdowns to six interceptions. When Duggan was allowed to push the ball down the field, TCU’s offense was plenty capable of winning football games. Duggan led the team with 105 rushing attempts, though some of that is skewed because of the 28 sacks allowed. He was the only player on the team with more than 100 carries. 

TCU was sloppy for much of the season. The Horned Frogs committed an average of seven penalties a game for 61.42 yards. The defense allowed opponents to convert 46.53 percent of their third downs. Teams scored touchdowns on 36 of their 51 trips to the red zone. The TCU defense only managed 15 sacks in 12 games. 

Evans, arguably the most talented player on the roster, announced that he’ll transfer to Ole Miss for his junior season earlier in January. 

THE UGLY

TCU’s run defense was atrocious. The defensive line and linebackers played worse than any front-seven under the direction of Patterson in 20-plus years as the head coach in Fort Worth. The Horned Frogs allowed 5.8 yards a carry and 34 rushing touchdowns in 2021. Teams averaged 7.4 yards a play against TCU. Opponents averaged 222 yards a game rushing against the Horned Frogs, which allowed seven of their final 10 opponents to rush for more than 200 yards. SMU ran for 350. Texas for 272. Oklahoma State rushed for a staggering 447 against the TCU defense. Iowa State recorded 279 rushing yards. 

TEAM GRADES 

Quarterback: C

Running back: B+

Wide receiver/tight end: B+

Offensive line: C

Defensive line: C-

Linebacker: D+

Cornerback: C+

Safety: C

BIGGEST OFFSEASON QUESTION

How quickly can Dykes improve the talent level? 

TCU needs an influx of talent at nearly every position. The 2020 class was ranked 23rd in the country, but Evans, who was one of two top-100 commits in that cycle, is off campus. The defensive stars from that class haven’t panned out as hoped. The 2021 class ranked 53rd in the nation and sixth in the Big 12. Dykes is known as a coach unafraid to attack the transfer portal. He built winning teams at SMU by becoming the second-chance school for prospects in the DFW area. He’ll likely attempt a similar trick at TCU, but can that get done in one off-season? The defense must improve for the Horned Frogs to stand any chance of competing for bowl eligibility in 2022. 

WAY TOO EARLY 2022 OUTLOOK

The offense has potential with Dykes bringing in his high-powered offensive attack to a group of talented players. Morris could be a star at quarterback given what we saw in his performance against a stout Baylor defense. Johnston is one of the best wide receivers in Texas. Even without Evans, the running back room is plenty talented. And the offensive line has already received an immediate starter (Alan Ali) in the transfer market. 

The main concern is on defense. Ochaun Mathis, who was tied for the team lead with four sacks, announced his intention to transfer. There weren’t a ton of difference makers elsewhere on the roster. Leading tackler Dee Winters will be a senior. As will All-Big 12 cornerback Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson. There is plenty of experience available, but Dykes and his staff must find a few difference-makers to plug in the front-seven between now and the start of the 2022 season. 

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