No. 17 TCU goes into Dykes’ 2nd season with holes to fill after getting bullied in CFP title game

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — TCU cornerback Josh Newton still looks at a photo showing him standing on the field after the lopsided loss in the national championship game as confetti rains down and Georgia celebrates its second title in a row.

“I was just standing out there just to try to remember that feeling forever so I can come back and conquer it,” Newton said.

The other figure in that photo from last January is Chandler Morris, the quarterback who was the starter for the Horned Frogs in their opener before he got hurt and spent the rest of the season backing up Heisman Trophy runner-up Max Duggan.

“One thing (Morris) told me … we’ll be back next year,” Newton said. “I haven’t doubted it since.”

Even though so many others do. The 17th-ranked Horned Frogs were picked to finish fifth in the Big 12 preseason poll after the departures of Duggan, their top two running backs, top three receivers and offensive coordinator Garrett Riley.

Then again, no one expected the Horned Frogs to have an undefeated regular season and be in the College Football Playoff in their first year with coach Sonny Dykes.

“When the season started I felt like we were an average football team, honestly, probably slightly below average. We won some games, got a little confidence,” Dykes said. “It was a fun ride go on. … At the same time, we’ve got to move forward. What happened last year is certainly not going to have any bearing on what’s going to happen this year. A big challenge for us.”

TCU got into the four-team CFP even after an overtime loss to Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game, then beat Michigan in the national semifinal game before that 65-7 loss against the dominant Bulldogs to finish 13-2.

“It’s motivated us,” said linebacker Johnny Hodges, who led the Frogs with 87 tackles after transferring from Navy. “We had a great year, we had a fun time. … The end of the season kind of left a foul taste in our mouth.”


Morris, the former Oklahoma transfer, again goes into the season as TCU’s starting quarterback.

“No one wants to lose their job kind of in the way that Chandler lost his last year. But I think that Chandler is smart enough to understand in a lot of ways it’s an opportunity to kind of sit back and to watch and to learn and to come out of the other end better,” Dykes said. “He just seems like a different guy right now than he did a year ago. I think he’s more mature. I think he’s more focused. I think he understands his role more than he did.”

Even while playing games in each of the last three seasons, Morris is listed as only a sophomore. After the 2020 season at Oklahoma during the pandemic that didn’t count against any player’s eligibility, he got in four games for TCU in 2021. That included his first start when he had 531 total yards (461 passing and 70 rushing) filling in for an ailing Duggan; Morris got hurt after starting the next game.

“I want to go prove that I’m the best on this team, and I want to go prove that I’m the best in the country,” Morris said.

He will be working under offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, the former Baylor assistant who left Arkansas after three seasons to replace Riley after he left for the OC job at Clemson.


There are three Alabama transfers who could have immediate impacts on TCU’s offense, two of them returning closer to home.

JoJo Earle, a receiver who broke his foot in preseason practice before returning late to start five games for the the Crimson Tide, is from nearby Aledo. Former five-star offensive lineman Tommy Brockermeyer is back in his hometown of Fort Worth after two season in the Alabama program. The other Tide transfer is running back Trey Sanders, another former five-star who played in 23 games the past two seasons.


Earle is among six transfer receivers that TCU has added from other Power Five schools.


In one of the nation’s most-hyped season openers, TCU will host Deion Sanders’ coaching debut with Colorado. The Buffaloes, who won only one game last year after opening with a 38-13 loss to TCU, will be rejoining the Big 12 next season.

The Horned Frogs’ league opener is at former Southwest Conference rival Houston on Sept. 16, and they also go on the road for their championship game rematch against Kansas State on Oct. 21. Departing Big 12 members Texas and Oklahoma await in the last three weeks of the regular season.


AP college football: and

Copyright © 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

Federal News Network Logo

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up