With TCU eyeing a run at the Big 12 title this fall, the Horned Frogs hit the practice field to kick off spring football last weekend. Here are some things to keep an eye on during TCU’s spring drills:
Offensive returner ready to take next step: TCU’s new up-tempo offense will need as many quality receiving targets as possible. Senior David Porter came on down the home stretch of the 2013 season with 17 receptions for 236 yards and four touchdowns during the month of November. He was a key target with 14 of those 17 receptions going for first downs, while his 82.4 first-down percentage was third in the Big 12 in November. If he uses the spring to prove he can be that consistent, he could rank among the Big 12 leaders in receptions this fall.
Defensive returner ready to take the next step: Derrick Kindred has never been "the guy" at either safety spot during his first two seasons, but he started at least one game in 2012 and 2013. The junior should make a seamless transition into a starting safety spot, particularly after starting the final three games of 2013 and finishing seventh on the squad with 48 tackles. He's an active playmaker who is always around the ball and should help TCU's secondary continue to rank among the conference's top units.
Redshirt freshman to watch: Several eyes will be on cornerback Ranthony Texada, who opened the spring as Jason Verrett’s replacement opposite Kevin White. A three-star prospect out of high school, Texada is known for his speed but faces a tough task as the player sliding into Verrett’s spot. This spring will be key for Texada to show he can match the competitiveness and desire that Verrett brought to the table each Saturday.
Most significant position battle: The quarterback battle might not be decided during the spring but its easily the most important competition in this program. New offensive coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie need to find a signal-caller with Trevone Boykin, Tyler Matthews and Zach Allen taking reps this spring. If Matthews or Allen steps up during the spring, it gives the coaching staff the freedom to move Boykin to receiver, where he excelled after Casey Pachall returned to the lineup late in the 2013 season.
Key midterm enrollee: The Horned Frogs are hoping Frank Kee’s arrival at the guard position can help solidify the offensive interior and spur competition among TCU’s offensive front. Kee, a junior-college signee, brings bulk and athleticism at 6-foot-4 and 345 pounds. He’s set to battle Jamelle Naff at left guard this spring.
Question that could be answered: How will Boykin be used? That question could be as important as who wins the starting quarterback job. Matthews or Allen’s emergence during the spring would be the best-case scenario because Boykin looked like TCU’s best receiver when he lined up on the outside in 2013. If Meacham and Cumbie aren’t worried about the quarterback spot, it opens up ways to use Boykin all over the field and, more importantly, it gives the coaching staff the summer months to devise the best ways to use Boykin without worrying about the quarterback position. The talented junior has the most experience at quarterback, but it could be his least effective position in the offense in 2014.
Question that won’t be answered until fall: Can TCU count on Devonte Fields to return to his freshman form? Even if Fields has a stellar spring and looks like the dominant force he was as a freshman, the Horned Frogs are going to make him earn his starting spot back. Fields begins the spring listed with the second-team defense, a sign that he will have to regain the trust of the coaching staff. Fields will need to carry any momentum he creates during the spring into August practices and September games before he re-establishes his name among the Big 12’s best defenders.