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January 2, 2014

Previewing TCU's new offense: Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

This week, we're continuing our position-by-position analysis TCU's new offense.

The Frogs had a very disappointing season offensively in 2013. With all the talent at the skill positions and Casey Pachall returning at quarterback, TCU expected to do much better than eighth in the Big 12 in scoring offense (25.1 PPG) and ninth in total offense (344.8 YPG).

The TCU offense is sure to look very different in 2014 with the additions of Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie as co-offensive coordinators. Meacham and Cumbie were hired to fix the Frogs' problems, and they will need to call plays that put their players in better positions to succeed.

Last week, we looked at how the new scheme would affect the offensive line. Next up:

2) Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

TCU's wideouts were less than impressive in 2013. They dropped numerous passes, ran the wrong routes, and no one stepped up to become the No. 1 target. Not to mention the drama that Brandon Carter brought to the equation.

The good news for the Frogs is that both Meacham and Cumbie have experience with coaching receivers, and have had success doing so. Meacham coached inside receivers at Oklahoma State from 2005 to 2012. Cumbie served as inside receivers coach and later outside receivers coach during his four seasons at Texas Tech.

Tech and Oklahoma State boast two of the Big 12's best passing attacks, and each one has turned out some great receivers in recent years. Between Cumbie and Meacham, there should be more than enough expertise to turn TCU's young but talented receiving corps into a dangerous group.

Just like with the offensive line, TCU's new offensive scheme should mean better results from the receivers even before you consider the personnel. Cumbie and Meacham know how to use route combinations to get receivers open. The Frogs will use a more diverse route tree and get their quick receivers in the middle of the field where they can do damage in open space.

That's why fans should keep an eye on TCU's slot receivers like Ty Slanina and David Porter. Both of those guys showed plenty of explosiveness in 2013, and can be very dangerous in the open field. At Texas Tech, Cumbie had Jakeem Grant. At Oklahoma State, Meacham had Josh Stewart. Both coaches know how useful a speedy slot man can be in an offense, and you can expect them to make use of a couple guys in that role.

But that doesn't mean the perimeter receivers will be forgotten. Deontay Greenberry had 1,106 yards and 11 touchdowns playing on the outside for Houston in 2013. Eric Ward had 83 receptions for 947 yards and 8 touchdowns for Texas Tech this season. Meacham and Cumbie both make plenty of use of their bigger boundary receivers.

By using the middle of the field more often, something the Frogs didn't do much of in 2013, things will open up for the outside receivers. Ja'Juan Story and LaDarius Brown should get one-on-one matchups down the sideline that lead to explosive plays. Expect Josh Doctson, one of the most consistent Frogs in 2013, to get some more chances as well.

And of course there is the tight end position. The big guys never got much attention in TCU's offense until now, but that could change in 2014. Cumbie got to work with the best tight end in the country in Jace Amaro at Texas Tech. Amaro led the Red Raiders in yards (1352) and receptions (106) in 2013.

Houston completed zero passes to tight ends in 2013, and some may see that as a sign that Meacham will neglect the position.

That may happen, but it's more likely that the Cougars just utilized the positions where they had the best athletes. Not everyone has an Amaro around whom they can design an offense. But remember, when Meacham coached Brandon Pettigrew, an eventual first round draft pick, at Oklahoma State, the tight end was one of the Cowboys' top three targets in terms of number of catches from 2006 to 2008.

The question will be if TCU can get a game-changer at tight end. Gary Patterson was very high on Griffin Gilbert before a back injury ended his season. And if the Frogs can grab a recruit like Frank Iheanacho, they'll have two impressive athletes at the position that they can feature in their new offense.

For the receivers and the tight ends, the question will be the same: who will step up to become the go-to guy? Who will become that reliable target that the quarterback will look to on third and long? Patterson lamented that no one became that for the Frogs in 2013. Meacham and Cumbie will need someone to turn into that next season.


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