TCU cornerback Devin Johnson (26) strips the ball away from San Diego State receiver Dylan Denso during the first half of a football game between the two schools. Authorities arrested 17 students in a sweeping drug sting at TCU on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012. Johnson is one of four members of the Horned Frogs football team accused of selling marijuana to undercover officers during the season and as recently as a few weeks ago. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi, File)
Saturday, Feb 18 at 9:24 PM
Four TCU football players were arrested Wednesday on suspicion of drug distribution, but that doesn’t mean the program’s reputation is entirely tainted .
It’s just in question.
And so is the TCU defense.
The Horned Frogs start spring practice next Saturday and with four players -- Tanner Brock, D.J. Yendrey, Devin Johnson and Ty Horn – kicked off the team, they’ll do so with holes in their roster.
Gaping ones, at that.
Horn, a reserve offensive tackle last season, would’ve competed for – and likely earned – a starting job during spring or summer camps.
But the Frogs proved they could put up points without Horn in the lineup.
Their biggest problem now lies on defense, where they’ll have to replace three starters on a unit that slowly – but eventually – began to develop some continuity toward the end of last year.
Yendrey and Johnson were both in full-time roles by season’s end and Brock, the team’s leading tackler in 2010, started the season opener against Baylor before injuring his ankle and missing the rest of the year.
Yendrey, an honorable mention all-Mountain West pick the past two seasons, started all 13 games at defensive tackle, racking up 37 tackles, including three sacks.
And Johnson, a walk-on safety, was plugged into the starting lineup against San Diego State, one week after the Frogs’ 40-33 loss to SMU at home. TCU won eight straight with Johnson starting in the secondary.
Then, there’s Brock.
Tank Carder, the Frogs’ all-American linebacker, was TCU’s self-made man, the productive, hard-working player who had the big-play knack and a nose for the ball.
But Brock was pure talent, the perfect combination of size, speed and toughness, almost as if he came straight out of a Build-a-Linebacker workshop.
Whether directly or indirectly, the TCU defense struggled without him last year. Its weak secondary took most of the blame for this – and rightfully so.
Robert Griffin lit up in Waco, tossing five touchdowns to hand the Frogs their first regular season loss in three years.
Same for J.J. McDermott and SMU when the cross-town rivals met up on Oct. 1.
The TCU defensive backs and safeties flat-out couldn’t stop a thing the first month of the season.
Still, when Brock went down in the first quarter of the Baylor game, the TCU defense lost its best player.
How big of an impact did Brock’s loss have?
Frog fans were going to find that out in September when Brock got back on the field.
But now he won’t. And neither will Yendrey, or Johnson or Horn.
Problem is, the Big 12 won’t slow down for TCU. Big boy football is about one thing: Depth.
No one’s ever argued the Frogs weren’t talented enough to play on the big stage. The question was always if they could do it on a week-to-week basis.
In order to do that, you need depth.
Does TCU have it? Or enough of it, at least, to replace three, potentially four, starters?
Well, we’ll see in September – and so will the rest of the Big 12.
Ryan Osborne is an associate editor for TCU360.com. Follow him on Twitter for TCU scores and updates, as well as opinions on the rest of the sports world @RyanOsborneTCU.