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July 21, 2014

Preseason awards set high expectations for Fields, defense

There are 40 days remaining until TCU kicks off its 2014 campaign against Samford, which means preseason predictions are dominating the airwaves and the twitterverse.

This time of year, players are named to preseason all-conference teams and are put on the watch lists for prestigious awards. While these predictions don't mean much, they offer perspective and set expectations for the season.

The Horned Frogs landed seven players on 11 different watch lists, and had one tabbed as the conference's player of the year on defense. Let's take a look.

Bednarik Award - Sam Carter, Devonte Fields, Chucky Hunter

Butkus Award - Paul Dawson

Walter Camp Award - Fields

Lou Groza Award - Jaden Oberkrom

Hornung Award - B.J. Catalon

Rotary Lombardi Award - Fields, Hunter

Nagurski Trophy - Carter, Fields, Hunter

Outland Trophy - Hunter

Rimington Award - Joey Hunt

Jim Thorpe Award - Carter

Doak Walker Award - Catalon

Preseason All-Big 12 Team - Carter, Fields, Hunter

Preseason Defensive Player of the Year - Fields

Defensive domination:

The watch lists and media predictions demonstrate TCU's reputation for fielding a great defense. Four of TCU's defensive players are on at least one watch list for a major award. Carter, Fields and Hunter are all on the preseason all-Big 12 team, and will be expected to anchor a defense that returns nine starters not counting Fields.

Fields comes into the season with the loftiest expectations from the media of any Frog. He missed nine games last season due to injury and suspension, but was still picked by the Big 12 media as the best defensive player in the conference.

It may be too much too assume Fields will be the dominant player he was as a freshman, when he won Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year with 10 sacks and 18.5 TFL. It will be especially hard if he doesn't have another strong pass rusher lining up opposite him as he did with Stansly Maponga. Teams will still game plan for his athleticism, however, double-teaming him and opening up opportunities for his teammates.

Consistent Catalon:

Catalon is TCU's only skill position player named to an award watch list. He was one of TCU's most reliable weapons on an offense with few consistent playmakers last year.

Sharing duties with Aaron Green, Kyle Hicks and Trevorris Johnson in a more pass-heavy offense means Catalon probably won't carry the ball enough to earn the Hornung Award, given the country's top running back. The Walker Award, however, is very much a possibility.

The Walker Award is awarded to the nation's most versatile player, and Catalon has a diverse set of skills. Barring injury, it would not be surprising to see Catalon lead TCU in rushing yards for the third year in a row, and he will likely compete for the job of kick returner again as well. Also, in the Frogs' new offense, he could be used as a receiver out of the backfield more often.

And in case you didn't know, in 2000, a TCU running back won the Walker Award. His name was LaDainian Tomlinson.

Rounding out the list:

Oberkrom has one of the biggest legs in the country, and if he can improve his accuracy, which is already very good, he should be a finalist for the Groza Award.

Despite Hunt's struggles last season, he showed flashes of being a great interior lineman. If the rest of the offensive line can mesh together and play well, he will have the chance to excel, though a national award is probably hoping for too much.


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