Monday, August 29, 2011

2011 West Texas A&M Preview

2010 Review
To any long time Buffalo fan, an 8-4 season with a playoff berth would seem to be a good year.  But recent success has raised expectations, leaving West Texas A&M wanting (and expecting) more.  Don Carthel has compiled a 59-16 record in 6 seasons at WT, with 3 LSC titles and 5 playoff appearances.

The season started off with a bang as WT traveled to Allendale to face the #2 Grand Valley Lakers.  The Buffs led 24-16 after three quarters, but a long Laker TD pass and two WT turnovers allowed GV to hold on for a 34-31 victory.  Later in the season, WT would also hold fourth quarter leads in Kingsville and at home against ACU, only to see those games slip away by the narrowest of margins.  Once the dust settled,  WT's 3 regular season losses were by a combined 14 points.

The rest of the LSC proved to be no problem, as WT won the other 8 games by a 48-20 average.  Taylor Harris threw for 4,800 yards and 38 TDs, with Tyson Williams, Stephen Burton and Brittan Golden combining for 219 receptions for 3,235 yards and 30 TDs.  As a team, WT led the LSC in yards gained and were second in scoring offense.  The defense was sturdy most of the season (3rd in yds allowed, 4th in scoring defense), but in their four losses gave up almost 40 points on average.

2011 Preview
Every couple of years, WT graduates an LSC-leading passer.  In the Don Carthel-era, they have seen Dalton Bell, followed by Keith Null, who in turn was followed by Taylor Harris.  This year's starter has not been declared, so early on Tanner Marsh and Dustin Vaughn will likely both see playing time until there is separation between the two.

They will have plenty of talented receivers to throw to, as usual.  Brittan Golden is the lone returnee of last year's three-headed WR monster, but several youngsters were baptized by fire as injuries forced them into action last year.  Keep an eye out for these names - Torrence Allen, Nathan Slaughter, Trevor Hammargren, Lance Ratliff, Aarhon Flores, Sidney Parker and Jeremy Watson - young players ready to contribute.  Also late transfers Alfonse Coleman and Luke Russell might help out as well.

The running back position is thin, with just two players listed currently on the WT roster.  While WT doesn't run the ball a great deal, the backs play a big role catching the ball out of the backfield.

Up front, just two starters from last year are back - Hector Rodriguez and Aaron Mullane - but, Craig Watts, Emory Atterberry, Marc Waller and Terrance Harris all got game experience in 2010.  Transfers Casey O'Connor, Dante Pinchback and Jake Paylor could help out once they are comfortable with the system.

For the defense, the secondary is the most experienced spot.  Caleb Randolph, Curtis Jefferson, Jordan Smith and Maurice Caldwell combined for 34 starts.  Reserves Kendrick Geyen, John McSeffery, Dwight Morrison and Tarrin Lee all played in at least 10 games last year.  Look for Wisconsin transfer Mario Goins to have a major impact as well.
Up front, Dishon Robertson, Rashad Sanders, Simi Kuli and Aaron Wampler had 24 starts between them, and Drew Jones and DJ Ross also played alot.  But WT added Texas A&M signee LaMarc Strahan, University of Texas transfer Tyrell Higgins, and Juco transfer Paul Dancy to the mix.  There should be fresh bodies on the D-Line for WT at all times.

Even the linebacking corps is experienced - Kyle Voss, Zane Farris, Drew Graham, and Taylor McCuller had 29 combined starts, while reserve Kevin McCluskey also saw extensive playing time.  Anthony Scott is also back after sitting out 2010 with an injury - he led WT with 106 tackles in 2009.  Navarro College transfer James Jackson could force his way into the rotation.

The kicking game is in good hands with PK Sergio Castillo (83 points) and P Kevin VanVoris back.

Out With The Old
QB - Taylor Harris - 9,799 career passing yards (2nd in LSC history) with 71 TD passes (4th)
RB - Kelvin Thompson - 1st LSC South, 1,056 All-Purpose Yards
WR - Tyson Williams - 1st LSC South, 162 receptions for 2,168 yds and 13 TDs in 2009-2010
WR - Stephen Burton - 1st LSC South, 132 receptions for 1,909 yds and 13 TDs in 2009-2010
 OL - Dan Sherwood - 1st LSC South
OL - Isaiah Lewis - HM LSC South
DL - Kyle Thomas - 1st LSC South, 8.5 tackles for loss, and 5.5 sacks
DL - Bryan Braman - 1st LSC South in 2009
LB - Shad Baichtal - 1st LSC South, 73 tackles, with 22 for losses and 10 sacks
DB - Tae Evans - 1st LSC South, led WT with 85 tackles, 4 Ints and 16 passes broken up

Welcome Back
RB - Tommy Hampton - 1,013 All-Purpose yards, 8 total TDs
WR - Brittan Golden - in three seasons, 110 receptions, 1,931 yds and 21 TDs
WRs - Nathan Slaughter, Trevor Hammargren, Lance Ratliff, Aarrhon Flores, Torrence Allen - combined 79 catches, 985 yds and 4 TDs
OL - Hector Rodriguez (2nd LSC South) and Aaron Mullane
DL - Dishon Robertson (2nd LSC South), Rashad Sanders (HM LSC South), Simi Kuli, Aaron Wampler - 105 tackles, 17 TFL, 3.5 sacks combined
 LB - Kyle Voss (2nd LSC South), Zane Farris, Drew Graham, Taylor McCuller - 214 tackles combined
LB - Anthony Scott (HM LSC South in 2009) - 106 tackles, 10 TFL in 2009
DB - Curtis Jefferson (1st LSC South), Caleb Randolph (1st LSC South), Jordan Smith (2nd LSC South) - combined for 141 tackles, 7 Ints, and 21 passes broken up
P/K - Sergio Castillo (1st LSC South) 9-13 FGs, 56-57 PATs,  Kevin Van Voris (38.7 punt avg.)

In With The New
RB - Khiry Robinson (Blinn)
WR - Alfonse Coleman, Luke Russell
OL - Casey O'Connor, Dante Pinchback, Jake Paylor
DL - LaMarc Strahan (Blinn, A&M Signee), Tyrell Higgins (Univ. of Texas), Paul Dancy (Mt. San Antonio)
LB - James Jackson (Navarro JC), Albertson Alexandre (Toledo)
DB - Mario Goins (Wisconsin)

All Conference Candidates
RS - Tommy Hampton
WR - Brittan Golden (All-American candidate)
OL - Hector Rodriguez
DL - LaMarc Strahan, Tyrell Higgins, Simi Kuli, Dishon Robertson, Paul Dancy
LB - Kyle Voss
DB - Curtis Jefferson, Caleb Randolph, Jordan Smith, Mario Goins
K - Sergio Castillo

Big Games
Game 2 - Texas A&M-Kingsville (Cowboy Stadium in Arlington) - The matchups between the LSC preseason top three have the makings of being classics.  The Javelinas come into this game, possibly with an advantage of playing a tough season opener on the road, and a home game against a lesser (presumably) opponent, allowing them to work out any kinks in their offense.  On the other hand, WT will have played just one game, with an off week in between.

Game 6 - Abilene Christian -  Will this be the defacto LSC Championship game?  or will one of these teams be in a must-win situation?  One thing that you can bank on is that is should be a great ball game.

Best Case Scenario - 10-1 - If the QB situation gels (like it typically does), the RBs can stay healthy, the OL protects the QB and the defense comes close to its potential, the Buffs could roll.  An undefeated season would still be hard to come by.
Worst Case Scenario - 7-4   If the offense is not up to normal WT-standards and the defense is merely good, the Buffs could find themselves in a battle for a berth in the Kanza Bowl. 

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