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March 23, 2010

TCU looks to make run at another BCS bid

TCU is coming off a breakthrough season that saw the Horned Frogs reach a BCS bowl for the first time. Expect more of the same in 2010 as TCU continues to stamp itself as one of the nation's top programs.

Check out the resume:

In 2009, TCU won at least 10 games for the sixth time in the past eight seasons.

TCU became the fourth "BCS-buster," joining Utah, Boise State and Hawaii.

TCU had its first perfect regular season since the 1938 squad went 10-0 and won the national championship. The Frogs started 12-0 for the first time in school history.

Coach Gary Patterson has a great thing going in Fort Worth and has had opportunities to leave. But he remains to continue fortifying his empire.

Here's a look at the Horned Frogs as they prepare for spring practice.

TCU AT-A-GLANCE
TCU returns its top five pass catchers from last season, including WR Jeremy Kerley.
THE BASICS
Coach: Gary Patterson
Last season: 12-1 overall, 8-0 in the Mountain West. Lost 17-10 to Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl.
Spring dates: March 23-April 15.
RETURNING STARTERS
Offense (8): T Marcus Cannon, QB Andy Dalton, G Kyle Dooley, WR Antoine Hicks, WR Jeremy Kerley, C Jake Kirkpatrick, G Josh Vernon, WR Jimmy Young.
Defense (7): LB Tank Carder, E Wayne Daniels, T Cory Grant, T Kelly Griffin, S Alex Ibiloye, FS Tejay Johnson, SS Tyler Luttrell.
Special teams (2): K Ross Evans, P Anson Kelton.
POSITIONS OF STRENGTH

Everything begins with Dalton, who will be a four-year starter. Dalton has led the Horned Frogs to 29 wins over the past three seasons. That ties him with Slingin' Sammy Baugh for the most victories by a starting quarterback in TCU history. Dalton, who is mobile, ranked eighth in the nation in passing efficiency last season. He'll be protected by a line that returns four starters and has two legitimate All-America candidates in Kirkpatrick and Cannon. The receiving corps returns its top five pass catchers, led by Young and Kerley. RBs Ed Wesley and Matthew Tucker combined for nearly 1,400 rushing yards as freshmen last fall. Kerley doubles as an electric return man.

HELP IS NEEDED

There are some holes on defense. E Jerry Hughes and LB Daryl Washington are gone after all-star seasons. Four-year starting CBs Rafael Priest and Nick Sanders also are gone. Junior Greg McCoy and senior Jason Teague will take over at corner. McCoy and Teague each made starts last season when Priest and Sanders were injured.

THREE GUYS TO WATCH

LB Tanner Brock: His task is to replace Washington. Brock received national attention as a true freshman last season when his helmetless block keyed a Kerley punt return for a touchdown against SMU. Brock benefitted from having enrolled early and going through spring drills last year.

DE Braylon Broughton: He gets first crack at replacing Hughes. At 6 feet 6 and 250 pounds with 4.6 speed, Broughton - a junior - has the tools to be special. Now is the time for him to put it all together and reach his potential.

SS Aundre Dean: Dean was the No. 10 running back in the nation by Rivals.com coming out of Katy (Texas) High and signed with UCLA. He played as a true freshman for the Bruins in 2008 before transferring to TCU. Dean sat out last season, and because of TCU's depth at tailback, Dean will get a look at strong safety this spring after practicing some at the position last season.

THE PRESSURE IS ON

SS Tyler Luttrell: Luttrell, a senior, split time last season. This spring, he will have to hold off the challenge of Dean and sophomore Jurell Thompson, a four-star recruit who played as a true freshman in 2009.

THE BUZZ

TCU has some holes to fill on defense with Hughes, Washington and both cornerbacks gone, but expect Patterson - a defensive guru - to whip that side of the ball into shape. The offense looks good, though revving up the passing attack wouldn't hurt. TCU will be shooting for its 12th bowl bid in 13 seasons this fall.

Tom Dienhart is a national senior writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dienhart@yahoo-inc.com.



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