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TCU football notebook: New defense continues to build confidence

As spring practice winds down for TCU, the Horned Frogs are feeling good about where things stand with just one practice remaining before the spring game.

Despite injuries ravaging the offense, there’s been a number of encouraging signs especially on defense when once again defensive coordinator Andy Avalos’ unit won the day against the offense.

The defense gave up just three points in six 11-on-11 drives Tuesday and also forced multiple turnovers once again. It’s the type of performance that the defense has become accustomed to during the spring and for returning linebacker Namdi Obiazor, the new defense is one reason he’s optimistic the upcoming season will be much different than last year’s 5-7 campaign.

“People were starting to lose faith in the other defense we had,” Obiazor said. “The new defense is giving us confidence. Everybody just has to do their job and we’ll be good.”

Obiazor moved down to linebacker from safety and led the Horned Frogs with 84 tackles and four sacks while being honorable mention All-Big 12 in previous defensive coordinator’s Joe Gillespie’s 3-3-5 scheme.

With the Horned Frogs mainly using a 4-2-5 look under Avalos, the duties and responsibilities of Obiazor have changed, but the challenge of learning the new system has been one he’s been enjoying so far.

“I feel like as a defense we’re doing good, we’re putting in installs everyday,” Obiazor said. “I feel like right now we’re in a good spot. It’s been a lot of fun, playing WILL (linebacker) is a lot different for me. It’s a new position having to learn everything. There’s new techniques, new roles so it’s been fun.”

Linebackers like Obiazor are the exact type of players that Avalos has had the most success with during his career. Obiazor’s bulked up to 225 pounds, but still has maintained the athleticism that allowed him to play in the secondary.

Avalos has used Obiazor in a variety of ways including sending him after the quarterback as a blitzer or letting him drop back in coverage to make plays with the ball in the air.

“We just put in some new coverages where I’m still able to play man coverage,” Obiazor said. “I’m liking that, I’m still able to show my pass coverage abilities. They’ve also got me doing a whole lot of blitzes from the A, B and C gap. I feel like showing the quarterback different things and lining up in different spots it’ll make the quarterback think and open up gaps (for us).”

As Obiazor continues to master the new defense, he’s also taken up more of a leadership role in the linebacker room. Obiazor was also a key reserve during the 13-2 season in 2022 and started two games while playing in all 15.

His experience has been extremely valuable to the younger players in the room and Obiazor has already found one young linebacker he can mentor.

“Max (Carroll) that’s a dog right there,” Obiazor said. “He just has to learn mental part of the game a little more, but I think the physical is there. He might have a couple more years, but he’ll be a dog.”

Obiazor is finding a way to make an impact on and off the field for the Horned Frogs which is an encouraging sign. Another player Obiazor has continued to form good chemistry with is Kaleb Elarms-Orr, the Cal transfer that was an All-Pac 12 linebacker a season ago.

With similar builds and athleticism, the two look to be the two likely starters at linebackers for Avalos and both have shown the ability to be the center pieces of the blitz heavy scheme. With players like Obiazor having more faith in the scheme around them TCU’s defense is primed to make a big jump in the fall.