Football: Bonner, Roach lead by veteran example

With the Horned Frogs projected to reclaim the Mountain West Conference championship, all eyes focus on what many consider a standout Horned Frogs defense. Considering the team has great expectations for the coming season, the Horned Frogs secondary is prepared to see if it can match the accomplishments of last year’s stifling unit.

The Frogs will start the season ranked No. 22 in both the Associated Press and USA Today/Coaches polls, and the secondary is expected to play a big role in keeping the Top-25 ranking after having a year that saw the unit allow only nine passing touchdowns.

“The ultimate goal is to allow no touchdown passes,” senior free safety David Roach said. “We can’t be satisfied with nine. You have to keep moving forward, because if what you think you did yesterday is something then you haven’t done anything today.”

The experience of Roach and senior strong safety Brian Bonner allows them to teach sophomore cornerbacks Rafael Priest and Nick Sanders the intricacies of the backfield.

“I’ve learned a lot of things, because I’ve played in a lot of games ever since my redshirt freshman year,” Roach said. “It’s kind of a good thing we have two seniors in our secondary. It just kind of helps everybody out and helps us have more experience from all the mistakes we made and touchdowns that were scored on us in the past.”

Though Priest and Sanders each only have one year of experience, they have already begun to prove themselves as a strong part of this standout defense. Starting all 13 games, both had strong redshirt seasons last year. Priest recorded nine pass breakups – the best on the team and one of the best in the Mountain West Conference last season. Sanders tied for second on the team with three interceptions and was rated among the conference leaders with 10 total passes defended.

Even with the combined talent of Roach, Bonner, Priest and Sanders, head coach Gary Patterson still sees room for improvement.

In his 4-2-5 defensive alignment, three men play the safety position. With four safeties graduating last year, Patterson is concerned about the depth of the position.

“There’s a whole bunch of safeties that need to learn how to get it done that are backups,” Patterson said. “As far as our younger players, they’ve come a long way. The key to it is they have a lot longer to go if they want to play at the level that we like to play at which is among the top 15 defenses in the nation.”

Much of the talk by TCU fans has been on what could be the team’s biggest challenge when it meets the University of Texas Longhorns in Austin during the second week of the season. As for the secondary, all of their focus is on this weekend’s challenge as the Baylor Bears come to Fort Worth.

“The focus hasn’t been on the Texas game for anybody except for the fans, but down here on the field, we’re only focused on Baylor,” Roach said. “We have to focus up and get ready for Baylor to throw the ball a lot, so we’re just training to get ready for that West Coast offense they’re going to run.”

Motivated by the public’s expectations, his secondary is ready to prove to their critics that they are as good as advertised.

“You have to prove people right,” Roach said. “If they feel we’re one of the best defenses, we have to make sure we prove them right. As for the people that don’t believe in us, we have to prove them wrong.