— By Steve Habel, The Sports Xchange —
When No. 16 TCU opens its season against Southern University on Saturday morning at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas, there will be little doubt about the eventual outcome.
But the Horned Frogs are happy to be able to beat up on someone other than themselves and have plenty to gain from what amounts to a scrimmage that counts and gets them off on the right foot.
The contest is an opportunity to continue the development of sophomore quarterback Shawn Robinson, who is the latest in the line of TCU’s dual-threat signal-callers. It’s also a chance for one or two players out of the Horned Frogs’ stable of running backs to announce himself as the No. 1 main option moving forward.
And there’s a chance for monster defensive end Ben Banogu to begin his proliferation of sacks and tackles for a loss, basically using the Jaguars as fodder for the challenges to come the rest of the year.
TCU and Southern are meeting for the first time. The Horned Frogs are facing an opponent from the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) for just the third time in their history after defeating Jackson State 63-0 last season and Grambling State 56-0 in their 2012 season opener.
Venerable coach Gary Patterson said Monday that he’s relieved to have his Horned Frogs back on a somewhat normal practice schedule and that his players are ready to get into game action, but they aren’t overlooking Southern.
“We have been banged up,” Patterson said. “I feel a lot better now. … We are tired of hitting each other, excited to play a ball game and get into the season. We’re playing a Southern team I think that does a lot of good things. They do a nice job coaching. They do a lot of things that cause you problems. We’ve taken them very seriously.”
TCU’s offensive line has been one of the biggest questions going into the season as four key contributors from last year’s team are now in NFL camps. But Patterson continued to heap praise on the unit and its work in preseason camp.
“Our offensive line, I’ll be honest, has been the big surprise,” Patterson said. “They’ve really gotten better. We still have to keep getting better at one of the tackles. I won’t say which one.”
Southern made it official and named quarterback John Lampley the starter for the season opener at TCU, coach Dawson Odums announced on Monday.
The move comes with little surprise after Odums named Lampley the front-runner in the three-person race early last week. The 6-foot-2 sophomore from Georgia will get his first career start against the No. 16 team in the country.
“We have three very good quarterbacks,” Odums said. “John is just slightly above those guys from a consistency standpoint and that’s really what we look for out of that quarterback position.”
Southern (which went 7-4 last season) is a traditional powerhouse in the SWAC and in the HBCU ranks in general. Southern couldn’t participate in the SWAC Championship or the Celebration Bowl however, due to NCAA academic progress rate violations.
The Jaguars’ first two games (at TCU and at Louisiana Tech) are tough, but the rest of the schedule is winnable if this team finds its stride and can stay healthy.