The Texans showed a flair for the dramatic with fourth quarter comeback wins over playoff teams #18 Midwestern State, #9 Abilene Christian and #13 Texas A&M-Kingsville (in a classic first round playoff game). West Texas A&M remains an unsolved puzzle, as they beat the Texans 49-35 in the final regular season game, the fifth straight win over TSU. Tarleton rose to the #7 ranking late in the regular season, advancing the NCAA playoffs for the third time, where they won their second playoff game ever, and first since 2001. Offensively, the Texans averaged 31 points (6th in LSC) and 386 yards (7th) per game, while the defense allowed 21 points and 323 yards (both 3rd) per contest.
Out with the old
The offense has some big holes to fill. Gritty Quarterback Scott Grantham, who chose not to return for his senior season, leaves as the career leader in TD passes (57) and second on the passing yards (7,860) list for the Texans. Roderick Smith leaves as number two rushing list with 3,183 yards. Fullback Keith Demby was a senior last year as well. Devin Guinn (70-1,019 8 TDs) and Jahmeel Hobson (57-1,046 7 TDs) leave a void at receiver. Guinn finished his career with a team record 2,613 yards and 26 TDs receiving. On the line, Dustin Washburn (a senior in 2010) was an honorable mention LSC South selection. Also missing from the roster are starter Jessie Green, and backups Brandon Slay and Jason Billings. Total damage for the offense- 1 first team LSC South, 3 second team, and 2 honorable mentions.
Hard to believe, but the defense might have lost even more. The line lost second team LSC South Alonzo Horton and Ben Taifane as well honorable mention Bryant Bray and starter Dre Jones. Those four combined for 169 tackles, with 31 for losses and 6.5 sacks. 2009 LSC South Linebacker of the Year, Marcus Philips, Bradley Bullitt and Emeri Spence (187 comined tackles, 20.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks, and 4 interceptions) will be missed. And the secondary also loses Jeremy Sifford, Vance Ibewuike and McNeal Uwajeh (124 tackles, 5 TFL, 4 interceptions combined). All in all, that is 8 of the top 12 on the team in tackles last year, 1 first team LSC South, 3 second team, and 1 honorable mention.
Not to be overlooked, but kicker Garrett Lindholm, punter Kyle Hopf and deep snapper Kyle Piercefield were all first team LSC South in 2009. Lindholm hit 43-45 PATs and 15-18 FGs, including the now famous 64 yarder against TAMK, and the 55 yarder against MSU. For his carreer, he was 94-99 on PATs and 32-44 on FGs. Hopf averaged 39.7 yards per punt over his three seasons.
Most of the experience on offense will be up front, where three starters will be back (Adrian Campbell, Josh Martin, and Bubba Wagner) as well as 2008 starter Mike Hernandez. Wagner was second team LSC South. They should help Evan Robertson (an HM LSC South selection, despite leading team in rushing with 894 yards) put up even bigger numbers. Receivers Devon Gray and Arthur Buckingham will be counted on to improve on their combined 30 receptions for 423 yds and no TDs. Hint for opposing teams - if you are protecting a small fourth quarter lead, on fourth down and long situations, double or triple team Buckingham. Buckingham caught two fourth down passes for 69 yards on the game tying drive against Midwestern State, and one for 35 yards against Texas A&M-Kingsville in last year's classic playoff game.
Secondary should be a strong point this season with first team LSC South Lonnie Buchanan and second team Brandon Johnson leading the returnees. Matt Knicky, an honorable mention LSC South selection, was the leading tackler for the Texans in 2009 with 98, including 9 for losses, 2 sacks, and 3 interceptions. The defensive line does return HM LSC South selection Jamaal Steamer, as well as Jacob Rowe.
In with the new
Nick Stephens (Tennessee) looks to fill the void at quarterback - he was one of the top quarterback recruits coming out of high school. In 10 games at Tennessee, he threw for 982 yards, with 4 TDs and 5 Ints, completing 50% of his passes. Running backs Andre Pierce and Damian Perkins should provide some relief for Evan Robertson. Pierce, a Baylor transfer, rushed for 2,300 yards and 24 TDs in his senior season at Rowlett. At Stephen F. Austin, Perkins rushed for 281 yards as a true freshman in 2005 and led the team in tackles as a linebacker in 2006, so defense is also a possibility for him. Several transfers look to replenish the receiving corps. Jeken Frye, transfers in from UTEP, where he caught three passes for 95 yards last year as a freshman. Bola Omisanya, comes to Tarleton via Blinn JC, where he caught 27 passes for 376 yards and 3 TDs in 2009. Saalim Hakim had 28 receptions for 379 yards and 6 TDs at Palomar College last season. According to the school website, he has been clocked at 4.33 in the 40. Up front, Shawn Wyatt (Blinn JC) and Teavis Durgin (Coffeyville JC) should be ready to contribute right away.
Bolstering the defensive line will be Anthony Gonzales, Logan Johnson, Brian Ford, Armando Villa and Michael Washington. Gonzales (1st team NJCAA All-American) had signed with Baylor after the season, but wound up in Stephenville. He, Johnson and Ford were all members of the national champion Blinn Buccaneers. Villa comes to Tarleton from Fullerton CC. Washington was a 2nd team all-conference selection offensive lineman last year at Trinity Valley, but is slotted to play defensive tackle. Devin McDowell (Iowa State), Terrance Henry, and Cassius Bradley (both Blinn JC) are expected to contend for starting spots in the secondary.
All Conference Candidates
QB - Nick Stephens
RB - Evan Robertson
WR - Bola Omisanya
OL - Bubba Wagner, Shawn Wyatt
DL - Anthony Gonzales, Jamaal Steamer
LB - Matt Knicky
DB - Brandon Johnson, Lonnie Buchanan
All American Candidates
9/25 - ACU - After three relatively easy games, the intensity (and importance) picks up.....a lot
10/9 - WT - can they get the monkey off their back
10/23 - TAMK - usually a slugfest
10/30 - MSU - may be a do or die game for both teams
Best Case Scenario
10-1 Unlike several other LSC South contenders, the Texans don't face nationally ranked teams early on. They should be able to blend their newcomers in with Northeastern State, Central Oklahoma and Northwestern State (FCS, but winless in 2009). This should allow the offense to work out timing kinks and give the defense time to gel as well. Momentum (and confidence) from a strong start could vault them into an even stronger season than last year, and possibly hosting a playoff game.
Worst Case Scenario
6-5 Even with a strong start, no team is guaranteed a playoff spot or a winning LSC South record. If the passing game on offense does not materialize as expected and the defense is down from the past few years, the Texans could find themselves coming up short in some tough battles.