TCU, WVU relying heavily on freshmen
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The two newest members in the Big 12 Conference are catching their second wind approaching Saturday's 3 p.m. game at Milan Puskar Stadium.
For West Virginia (5-2, 2-2) and TCU (5-3, 2-3), the paths taken are eerily similar: fast starts followed by recent slumps.
Both teams are nursing two-game losing streaks.
Due to injuries and a lack of depth, both teams also have seen more freshmen pressed into action.
West Virginia played a season-high nine freshmen on defense in a 55-14 loss to Kansas State. At TCU, more true freshman have played (16) than scholarship seniors (11).
“We knew the biggest thing was going to be depth,” WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said.
“As coaches, we all like to redshirt kids,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “A couple things happened, though. We've had to play freshmen because there wasn't anybody else.”
WVU's inability to rally against Kansas State and Texas Tech indicates a lack of experience.
“We got off to a hot start, but we had some issues that a pretty good Texas Tech team and a real good Kansas State team exposed a little bit,” Holgorsen said.
Offensively, true freshmen Jordan Thompson and Tavares Copeland have started at receiver for WVU. Redshirt freshman Cody Clay is a backup fullback.
Nine freshmen are listed on this week's two-deep depth chart on defense. Three of them, inside linebacker Isaiah Bruce (team-high 66 tackles) and defensive backs Karl Joseph (second in tackles and pass breakups) and Nana Kyeremeh, are starters.
“We've got a strange combination of a bunch of kids that want to finish the year strong, that want to keep winning, that want to get into a good bowl game,” Holgorsen said. “Then there's a bunch of young kids that don't understand it yet.”
TCU is tied with LSU and North Carolina for the D-I lead with 28 combined true and redshirt freshmen receiving playing time this season.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Trevone Boykin is 1-3 as a starter. He is the first player in school history to throw four touchdown passes in back-to-back games. Boykin replaced junior Casey Pachall, who left school to enter a drug and alcohol treatment facility following his arrest on drunk driving charges.
While TCU true freshman defensive end Devonte Fields leads the Big 12 in sacks and tackles for loss and true freshman running back B.J. Catalon leads the team in rushing, linebacker Kenny Cain is the lone senior to start and receive playing time on defense.
“The biggest thing we're learning is you'd like to play with older players your first year in the Big 12 than younger players,” Patterson said.
John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.