TCU Football: Seven standouts from spring training camp

With seven practices in the books, TCU football is at the midway point of spring camp and there have been a number of standouts emerging.

Andy Avalos’ new defense has been a breath of fresh air as both veterans and newcomers alike have excelled at learning the scheme. Meanwhile the offense has had to deal with a staggering amount of injuries including a back injury to starting quarterback Josh Hoover.

However, with so many players outm it’s opened the door for a handful of skill players to take advantage of the surplus of available reps. With seven more practices before the spring game on April 27 here are seven early standouts from TCU’s spring practices:

Safety Abe Camara

Breakdown: Camara is no stranger to making plays with 10 starts in the last two seasons, but Camara looks to have elevated himself from a reserve safety to a key part of Avalos’ defense. The hard-hitting safety moved to the nickel position, which is a hybrid linebacker-safety position in Avalos’ scheme.

It has allowed Camara to do what he does best, cause havoc at the line of scrimmage with his excellent quickness and reaction time. Whether it’s blowing up quick screens or pressuring the quarterback, nobody has made more plays than Camara in spring camp.

Wide receiver Eric McAlister

Breakdown: Injuries and load management have kept many of TCU’s top receivers out, which has allowed the Boise State transfer to make his case as the Horned Frogs’ other starting outside receiver with Savion Williams. McAlister was terrific during TCU’s seventh practice, which featured a scrimmage and other game-like scenarios.

The 6-foot-3 receiver showed his versatility on Friday with a 20-plus yard gain on a crossing route on one drive, followed by an impressive jump ball a few drives later. McAlister finished the scrimmage day with a back shoulder reception for nearly 15 yards and also drew a defensive pass interference that helped set up a touchdown for the offense. McAlister has made a strong impression on the offensive staff with his play.

Linebacker Kaleb Elarms-Orr

Breakdown: Elarms-Orr has a case as being TCU’s most significant portal addition after being an all-conference selection at California. Elarms-Orr’s familiarity with Avalos’ defense has allowed him to get off to a quick start as one of TCU’s two starting linebackers. He’s showcased his physicality plus an ability to drop in coverage and cover the field sideline to sideline.

Avalos hasn’t been afraid to send the talented linebacker on blitzes and as a result Elarms-Orr has lived in TCU’s backfield at times. On Friday, Elarms-Orr had multiple sacks and another tackle for loss. It was just another day at the office for him as he’s been the most impressive in the linebacker room so far. Avalos’ defense puts a lot on the starting linebackers and Elarms-Orr has already shown that he can handle the load.

Wide receiver Jack Bech

Breakdown: Like most of the transfer receivers brought in last season, Bech was banged up most of the season, but now he’s one of the few healthy bodies at receiver and is also making the most of it. Bech was right behind McAlister with his performance during the scrimmage on Friday. With the offense facing a fourth down deep in the defense’s territory, Bech took a quick slant, shed a tackle and waltzed into the end zone for a touchdown.

He set up another score when he took a quick screen and broke a would-be tackle by Bud Clark before getting all the way to the 2-yard line. Sonny Dykes mentioned Bech as a player that’s caught his attention with how hard he’s practiced. Bech has been sure-handed and physical after the catch all during the camp.

Safety Cameron Smith

Breakdown: Behind Camara, the Memphis transfer has made the most plays at safety. On Friday, Smith was the defensive MVP as he caused turnover after turnover. With the offense driving, Smith delivered a hard hit to force a fumble and stop a potential scoring drive. Smith wasn’t done making plays as he had a tackle for loss and delivered another hard hit while running with the second unit.

Later in the practice, the offense had finally picked up a first down with a lengthy gain, but Smith snuck up behind receiver Parker Clark and ripped the ball away from behind. Finally Smith also picked off Hauss Hejny to cap off his impressive performance. It was the third straight practice Smith was able to make plays against the pass and run and his recent streak should bode well for his chances of competing for a starting spot on defense.

Running back Cam Cook

Breakdown: If there’s one word to describe Cook in camp so far it’s steady. The sophomore has clearly been the most consistent running back even if there haven’t been as many flash plays. With good vision and a hard-running style Cook has always found a way to gain positive yards even if the offensive line has struggled to generate a push.

On Friday Cook had multiple drives where he helped spark the offense picking up four to six yards at a time. Cook has also shown off his skill as a receiver and offensive coordinator Kendal Briles has featured him a lot in the screen game. Cook has the look of being the go-to running back in the fall.

Linebacker Marcel Brooks

Breakdown: Could this finally be the breakout season for the former five-star recruit? Brooks didn’t naturally fit in Joe Gillespie’s 3-3-5, but it’s a different story under Avalos. The STAR position fits perfectly for Brooks as the edge rushing position allows him to do what he does best, pressure the quarterback.

Brooks had two sacks during Friday’s scrimmage and made another extremely athletic play where he jumped high into the air to deflect a short pass back behind the line of scrimmage. Brooks may be the best pure pass rusher on the team and even if it’s just bringing him in on obvious passing situations it looks like Brooks will have a much bigger role on defense this season.