2024 Summer Magazine: TCU Preview

Photos by Wayne Grubbs

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Playing in a national championship game has its challenges. TCU learned that the hard way. 

A slide down the mountaintop was always in the cards after a 13-2 fairytale season in Sonny Dykes’ first year in Fort Worth, but the fall was steeper than expected. In 2022, TCU became the first FBS team from Texas to play for a national championship since the 2009 Longhorns. In 2023, the 5-7 Frogs became the first national runner-up to not reach a bowl the following season since the 2010 Longhorns.

After the miracle run of 2022 ended, Dykes was faced with a harsh reality. His Frogs arrived back in Fort Worth a wounded squad following the 65-7 loss to Georgia in the national title game two days before the spring semester began. He gave the squad three weeks off to recover from the 15-game season that was spread over five full months. 

“I never felt like we caught up, especially with a new offensive coordinator and so many new faces on the team,” Dykes said. “It was a mess. We were so far behind.” 

The loss of time early in the 2023 offseason was compounded by roster turnover. Only programs like Ohio State, Alabama, and Georgia can lose eight players to the NFL, like TCU did after the 2022 season, and reload quick enough to compete for a national title. TCU recruits well, but not THAT well. 

More than pure talent, TCU lost its leaders. And its edge. Dykes inherited a team with a chip on its shoulder and a roster without much bowl experience. Replacing the sheer talent of Quintin Johnston, Kendre Miller and Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson was hard enough. Finding new voices in the locker room after losing Max Duggan, Steve Avila, and Dee Winters proved impossible. 

“We went from one of the most experienced to one of the least experienced teams in the country and that stuff matters,” Dykes said. “In ‘22, we were opportunistic. In ‘23, we seemed to make mistakes in critical situations. We also didn’t create as many big plays on either side of the ball.”

The good news in Funky Town is that the Frogs are reunited with the chip on their shoulder. TCU brought in Andy Avalos as its new defensive coordinator. The staff believes Year 2 in Kendal Briles’ system, as well as young gunslinger Josh Hoover, will jumpstart an offense that struggled to score touchdowns in the red zone last season. Hoover is also part of a budding leadership revival that includes players such as Savion Williams, Caleb Fox, and Bud Clark. 

More good news for the Horned Frogs is that the margins in the Big 12 are razor thin. TCU was 6-1 in one-possession games during the 2022 season. The team was 0-4 in those games last year. Baylor won two games the year before winning the Big 12 crown in 2021. TCU was a five-win team the season prior to reaching the national championship game. With Texas and Oklahoma gone, the Big 12 is the new Wild West. 

“We want to be in the conversation for the Big 12 championship,” Dykes said. “That’s where we should be every year. We had a bad year last year and everyone’s hungry for us to improve.”  

An expanded playoff provides more hope for programs like TCU. The Frogs don’t need to finish 12-0 in the regular season and hope for help. Starting in 2024, all it takes is winning your conference. Take away expected favorites such as Utah and Arizona, and there aren’t many rosters better than TCU. Dykes & Co. signed the Big 12’s best class in 2023 and the second-best in 2024. Their 17th-ranked transfer class this year checks in second behind Colorado and includes potential breakout candidates such as wide receiver Eric McAlister, tight end Drake Dabney and linebacker Kaleb Elarms-Orr. 

“We learned from last year as a staff and we’re a better program because of that adversity,” Dykes said. “We’re so far ahead of where we were last year. We’re in a better space as a team. I think we’ll see that pay off in the fall.”  


A second year in Kendal Briles’ system should help TCU’s offense regain its footing after falling from 38.8 points per game (7th in FBS) to 31.3 points per game (41st in FBS). Moving the ball wasn’t an issue for the Frogs as the unit averaged the 11th-most yards in the nation at 466.7 per game. 

“Everyone is speaking the same language this spring and that wasn’t true when I arrived last year,” Briles said. “We felt better by Practice 4 than we did at the end of last season.” 

Chandler Morris entered the previous two seasons as TCU’s starting quarterback before injury derailed his career in Fort Worth. With him now at North Texas, the job is clearly Josh Hoover’s to lose despite missing spring as he recovers from injury. Former Texas high school standout Ken Seals was brought in from Vanderbilt while stud freshman Hauss Hejny earned more snaps than normal in the spring because of Hoover’s absence.  

The quarterback room won’t lack targets at wide receiver. Savion Williams, one of the better athletes in college football, returns as the No. 1 target on the outside. JP Richardson, Dylan Wright, and JoJo Earle are also back in the mix. TCU also brought in Eric McAlister through the portal.

Sophomore Cam Cook is a breakout candidate at running back. He shares a backfield with Trey Sanders and Trent Battle. Baylor transfer Drake Dabney impressed the staff in the spring at tight end.

Carson Bruno (guard) and Bless Harris (tackle), who started for Florida State last season, are two transfers expected to start in 2024. Cade Bennett and James Brockermeyer arrived in the summer to bolster the ranks. In the spring, Coltin Deery was starting at center and Mike Nichols was at right tackle. 

MVP - QB Josh Hoover started five of TCU’s final six games at quarterback in 2023. 

Position Group Ratings

QB: B- 

RB: B-


OL: C+ 

Breakout Candidates

RB Cam Cook – The sophomore from Round Rock could end up TCU’s top rusher in 2024 after playing nine games in 2023 despite battling an injury early in the season. His explosiveness offers a different dimension to Sanders.

WR Eric McAlister – A Boise State transfer who played high school ball at Azle, McAlister figures to be a heavy part of the wide receiver rotation in Fort Worth. He caught 47 passes for 873 yards and five scores in nine games last season. 

WR Blake Nowell – He’ll need to hold off young pups like Braylon James and Dozie Ezukanma, but Nowell is a senior who has the staff’s trust. 

OL Remington Strickland – One of multiple offensive line transfers brought in to boost the trenches at TCU. Strickland worked at guard and center during the spring. 

Keep An Eye On

The main reason why TCU ranked 11th in total yards but 41st in scoring was poor execution in the red zone. The Frogs ranked 80th in red zone touchdown percentage at 58.82 and 124th in red zone scoring percentage at 72.55. The touchdown percentage was 68.85 percent in 2022. Briles attributes the lack of success to turnovers. His unit committed nine of them and kicked seven field goals in the red zone. TCU won the close games in 2022, in part, because the team capitalized on nearly every opportunity. That wasn’t true last year. 

Projected Starters 

QB: 10 Josh Hoover   Soph. 

RB: Cam Cook Soph.   

WR: 3 Savion Williams  Sr. 

WR: 16 Dylan Wright  Sr. 

WR: 7 JP Richardson Sr. 

TE: 9 Drake Dabney   Sr. 

LT: 58 Bless Harris    Sr. 

LG: X Cade Bennett   Jr. 

C: 51 Coltin Deery      Jr. 

RG: 62 Carson Bruno Jr. 

RT: 71 Mike Nichols   Sr. 



Sonny Dykes decided a change was necessary on the defensive side of the ball after TCU allowed an average of 28.4 points per game over his first two seasons in Funky Town. Enter former Boise State head coach Andy Avalos to usher in a new era for the Frogs. He brings an aggressive style that bases out of a four-man front to a unit filled with experience and potential. 

“Defense is a mentality, so our first goal in the spring was to build a foundation of confidence,” said Avalos, a former Broyles Award semifinalist in 2019 as the defensive coordinator at Oregon. “We’re not locked into one scheme. We want to build a menu to address different problems.” 

Defensive tackle Caleb Fox is now the leader up front after two-year starter Damonic Williams’ transfer. Seniors Tymon Mitchell and Zachary Chapman provide interior depth in the trenches. Returning sophomore Paul Oyewale and transfer Devean Deal lead a pack of edge rushers that also includes Marcel Brooks and Notre Dame transfer Nana Osafo-Mensah. 

Linebacker is a strength, at least on paper. Former safety Namdi Obiazor made a successful transition to outside linebacker in 2023 and is expected to start in the middle for the Frogs in 2024. He’ll be flanked by players such as Johnny Hodges, Kaleb Elarms-Orr, and Shad Banks Jr. 

Safety is another strong spot for TCU with Bud Clark and Abe Camara, who will play more nickel, back in the fold. The Horned Frogs also added Richard Toney Jr. and Cam Smith through the portal. Avery Helm returns for his senior season as a starting cornerback. The other spot is expected to be manned by either JaTravis Broughton, LaMareon James, or Channing Canada.  

MVP - LB Namdi Obiazo

Position Group Ratings

DL: B-

LB: B+



Breakout Candidates

CB LaMareon James – The Old Dominion transfer will compete with Broughton, Canada, and Helm for snaps at corner. James started all 13 games for ODU last year as corner and kick returner. 

DE Nana Osafo-Mensah – A return home might be exactly what Osafo-Mensah needs to unlock his full potential. After starring at nearby Nolan Catholic, he played in 39 games in his career at Notre Dame. 

LB – Kaleb Elarms-Orr – Don’t be shocked if the Cal transfer is an entrenched starter at linebacker sooner rather than later. He was second-team All-Pac-12 last year after leading the Golden Bears with 92 tackles.

S Jamel Johnson – One of the younger guys in an experienced safety room, Johnson impressed his new DC in the spring and is in line for a bigger role as a sophomore. 

Keep An Eye On

The Frogs defense accounted for 26 sacks in 2023, which was tied for 70th in the country with programs such as UTEP and Houston. The two sacks per game average in 2022 ranked 81st nationally alongside UConn and Purdue. New defensive coordinator Andy Avalos knows how to create pressure. His Boise State squad last year registered 36 sacks – 18th-most in the FBS. He led a defense in 2019 at Oregon that was 13th in sacks with 41. An improved pass rush should help TCU create more turnovers and prevent big plays. It’ll help edge players like Oyewale and linebackers like Brooks to reach their full potential. 

Projected Starters 

DE: 97 Paul Oyewale Soph.

DT: 90 Caleb Fox       Sr. 

NT: 91 Tymon Mitchell Sr. 

EDGE: 11 Devin Neal            Jr. 

LB: 4 Namdi Obiazor Sr.  

LB: 57 Johnny Hodges          Jr. 

NB: 1 Abe Camara     Sr. 

CB: 24 Avery Helm    Sr

CB: 13 JaTravis Broughton    Sr. 

FS: 21 Bud Clark        Jr. 

SS: 23 Richard Toney Jr.       Jr. 



Savion Williams fell in love with muscle cars as a little kid. His grandpa owned a 1960 El Camino and the young Williams enjoyed its loud sounds and fast speed. He arrived at TCU with a Challenger equipped with a V8 engine and eventually introduced former teammate and current Los Angeles Charger Quentin Johnston to the hobby. 

“I like doing stuff to cars…make them loud, fast, add horsepower to them, stuff like that,” Williams said. “He went to some car meets with me and [we] bonded over it.” 

Williams looks like a muscle car. The Marshall, Texas native is listed at 6-5 and 225 pounds. He was ranked at No. 56 on Bruce Feldman’s College Football Freaks list for the 2023 season because he broad jumps 10-6, has a vertical over 40 inches, and can run a 4.5 40-yard dash. Oh, and he has the strongest arm at TCU. Maybe even the State of Texas. When asked how far he can throw a football, Williams smirks and casually remarks, “I threw one between 75 and 80 yards the other day at practice.” 

But Williams’ job isn’t to chunk it deep. He’s the Frogs’ top wide receiver. He had career highs in receiving yards (573) and receptions (41) to go along with four touchdown catches in 2023. He flashed his ceiling in a close loss against Texas with 11 catches for 164 yards, including a 14-yard score. The last Horned Frog to record at least 11 grabs in one game? His fellow gear head, Johnston. Williams doesn’t think he did anything special against the Horns, however. It was a matter of opportunity. 

“The ball was coming my way more, that’s all it was,” he said. “I did the same things when I got the ball in other games, but in that game I got the ball more.” 

The TCU offense averaged seven points fewer in 2023 as it did in 2022 while the team fell from 13-2 to 5-7. The Frogs moved the ball, but nine red zone turnovers and too many field goal attempts cost them points. Second-year offensive coordinator Kendal Briles agrees with Williams. He knows that one way to get better in the red zone, and everywhere else on the field, is to get Williams the ball. 

“He’s got to touch the ball at least eight times a game,” Briles said. “That’s on us to figure out the best ways to do that each week.” 


Celling – 11-1 

TCU is talented enough to win every game. The non-conference schedule is manageable despite trips to Stanford and SMU. The Horned Frogs get Oklahoma State and Arizona at home. An improved offense in Year 2 under Kendal Briles and a new scheme on defense might put the Frogs back on that 2022 track. 

Floor – 5-7 

Improvements in the red zone and on defense aren’t guaranteed. And neither is a 3-0 record in non-conference play, especially with an improving SMU on the schedule. If the coin-flip games go against the Frogs, a losing season is possible. 



The Horned Frogs start the season on the West Coast to take on Atlantic Coast Conference member Stanford on a Friday night in a game that perfectly illustrates the lunacy of modern college football. A trip to Dallas to face SMU for the Iron Skillet has extra stakes with the rivalry coming to a possible end. The Big 12 schedule includes trips to Utah and Kansas. The Big 12 home slate consists of UCF, Houston, Oklahoma State, and Arizona – three of which weren’t in the conference before 2023. The regular season ends with a trip to Cincinnati. 



DATE                      OPPONENT     RESULT

Sept. 2                  Colorado            L, 45-42

Sept. 9                  Nicholls               W, 41-6

Sept. 16               at Houston        W, 36-13

Sept. 23               SMU      W, 34-17

Sept. 30               West Virginia   L, 24-21

Oct. 7                    at Iowa State   L, 27-14

Oct. 14                 BYU        W, 44-11

Oct. 21                 at Kansas State              L, 41-3

Nov. 2                    at Texas Tech  L, 35-28

Nov. 11                 Texas    L, 29-26

Nov. 18                 Baylor  W, 42-17

Nov. 24                 at Oklahoma   L, 69-45

Record: 5-7 (3-6)



DATE                      OPPONENT     RESULT

Aug. 30                 at Stanford        W

Sept. 7                  Long Island       W

Sept. 14               UCF       W

Sept. 21               at SMU                  W

Sept. 28               at Kansas           L

Oct. 5                     Houston              W

Oct. 19                 at Utah                 L

Oct. 26                 Texas Tech         W

Nov. 2                    at Baylor              W

Nov. 9                    Oklahoma State             L

Nov. 23                 Arizona                 L

Nov. 30                 at Cincinnati   W

Record: 8-4 (5-4)


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