One word can easily sum up the 2010 season for Tarleton State: Injuries. At one point in the season, the Texans were play with an unbelievable 18 starters out due to injury. Not only did they have to deal with the injury factor, but also with heavy hearts. During spring practices on a routine play, red shirt freshman Zach Shaver passed away from a head injury. It was a huge blow to the Texans family, and to first year head coach Cary Fowler. But Tarleton fought through the pain and of losing a member of their family and the multiple injuries and ended the season with a 3-8 record. The year seemed to go bad from the start, losing their first two games to Northeastern State and Central Oklahoma, two teams most people in the preseason would have never dreamed Tarleton would lose to. In week four, the Texans took it on the chin in a 65-3 loss to Abilene Christian. The following week they showed a lot of fight and courage though, beating Angelo State 37-34 with a last minute field goal to win the game set aside to remember their fallen teammate Shaver. They would also win a televised game against Texas A&M-Commerce on a last minute drive as well, before reaching their last win against Incarnate Word in Stephenville. Coming into the season, most people had their eyes on QB Nick Stephens as a major breakout player waiting to happen. The Tennessee Volunteer transfer never seemed to get going though, suffering from a slow start before being injured and missing a few games in the middle of the season. RB Evan Robertson proved that he was one of the best RB’s in the LSC, putting up 844 rushing yards and 6 TD’s , on his way to becoming the only Texan put onto the LSC South 1st team. Lonnie Buchanan and Jamaal Steamer also ended their successful careers as Texans.
The injured Texan offense just never seemed to get off the ground in 2010. None of their statistics in any of the main offensive categories ranked any higher than 9th, as they struggled to get much going. The Texas offense averaged 21.5 point per game (11th) and 324 yards per game (10th). While Evan Robertson was outstanding running the ball, the Texans as a team still only ran for 112 yards per game (10th), and their 212 passing yards per game (9th) were a shock after getting Stephens in from Tennessee. The team’s Passing Efficiency was also a surprising 108 (11th). The Texans also seemed pretty undisciplined, averaged 88 penalty yards per game (13th).
As much as the Offense struggled last season, the Tarleton Defense wasn’t far behind, with all of the main defensive statistics falling well below years past, mostly due to injuries. The Texans allowed 33 points per game (10th) but were actually pretty good in keeping the other team from moving the ball much, giving up only 384 yards per game (5th). The Texan front seven struggled a bit as well, giving up 143 rushing yards per game (9th) and only gathered 17 sacks (9th), while the secondary gave up 240 passing yards per game (8th), and only came away with 8 interceptions (12th). The struggles at quarterback and at taking the ball away left Tarleton with a -0.45 turnover margin (11th), and had trouble keeping the other team out of the end zone once they got into the red zone, giving up a 90% red zone defense (13th).
One thing that is fairly certain coming into 2011 is that the Tarleton Texans will be much improved. Before you even look into the team itself, it’s pretty obvious that they are not going to go through another season with 18 starters out with injuries. They will, however, have to fill some holes on defense that may be hard to fill. The experience that was lost because of the losses of LB Damian Perkins, DE Jamaal Steamer and S Lonnie Buchanan won’t be easy to fill. They also lose 2 starters on the offensive line in Mike Hernandez and Bubba Wagner (which, by the way, is a GREAT offensive lineman’s name), as well as one of their best playmakers in WR Jeken Frye. The first half of their schedule is VERY tough, facing Abilene Christian, D1 Texas State, West Texas A&M and Midwestern State, before facing a tough second half road schedule that includes Texas A&M-Kingsville and Angelo State. They do have a couple of out of conference games they should win in Millsaps College and West Alabama. The key to their season will be to separate themselves from the teams they shared similar records with in 2010 - Texas A&M-Commerce, Eastern New Mexico and Incarnate Word. If the Texans want to get back to the level they have been in previous years, they have to start by beating all three of those teams and push themselves back into the upper tier in the LSC.
I think it’s safe to say that QB Nick Stephens won’t struggle nearly as much as he did last year, with 9 TD’s and 12 Interceptions. One thing we’ve noticed in the last few years, is that some of the D1 transfers who appear to have the talent to take over the league don’t seem to make quite as much of a splash as you would have thought. (Justin Johnson at ACU, Jorrie Adams at Angelo State, Terry Mayo at A&M-Commerce, etc) I wouldn’t put Stephens in that category just yet. The incredible amount of injuries sustained last season almost makes 2010 one of those year’s it’s better to just forget even happened…it’s not a fair read on the team. Obviously with Evan Robertson coming back, the Tarleton running game will be fine. The key to this season is how long will it take for the players to catch on to the new Lee Hayes passing game. Look for Stephens’ numbers to go up dramatically and for things to be looking much better towards the end of the year once things start clicking.
Defensively, the Texans are going to have their hands full replacing some of the faces they lost that had been there for quite awhile. DE Jamaal Steamer and S Lonnie Buchanan are names that LSC fans have known for quite some time. Their experience and leadership will be tough to replace. Also lost are LB Jamaal Steamer, DE Jacob Rowe, CB Brandon Johnson, DB Cassius Bradley and DE Jacob Rowe. Those 7 players alone accounted for 421 tackles, 43.5 Tackles for Loss and 12.5 sacks. That’s a lot of experience and stats that disappear before the season starts. The Texans are hoping Terrence Henry (68 tackles, 2 INT), FS Blair Johnson (47 tackles) and CB Dashaun Phillips (44 tackles, 3 INT) returning in the secondary will help improve the pass defense. Also look for transfer CB Gaston Benson to help at corner. Up front, Mike Washington (28 tackles, 3 sacks) and DE Jogan Johnson (26 tackles, 5 TFL, 2 sacks) will be joined by newcomer DE Rufus Johnson.
Out With The Old
LB Damian Perkins - HM LSC South, 99 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 INT
DE Jamaal Steamer - 2nd LSC South, 39 tackles, 11.5 TFL, 6.5 sacks
DE Jacob Rowe - HM LSC South, 47 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 3 sacks
CB Brandon Johnson - HM LSC South, 86 tackles, 3.5 TFL
S Lonnie Buchanan - HM LSC South, 39 tackles, 1 TFL
C Mike Hernandez - HM LSC South
OG Bubba Wagner - HM LSC South
WR Jeken Frye - 44 catches, 704 yards, 6 TD’s
WR Saalim Hakim - 18 catches for 28 yards, 2 TD’s
DB Cassius Bradley - 64 tackles, 5.5 TFL
DE Jacob Rowe - 47 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 3 Sacks
DB Sam Cole - 33 Tackles
LB Corey White - 33 tackles, 1.5 TFL
RB Evan Robertson - 1st LSC South, 844 rushing yds, 6 TD’s
QB Nick Stephens - HM LSC South, 1,774 passing yards, 9 TD’s / 12 INT’s
RS Brandon Lowery - HM LSC South, averaged 31.4 yards per KO return
RB Jerome Regal - 333 rushing yards, 7 TD’s
QB Aaron Doyle - 482 passing yds, 3 TD/2 INT
WR Devon Gray - 32 catches for 298 yds, 2 TD’s
WR Jamal Mays - 15 catches for 239 yards, 3 TD’s
DB Terrence Henry - 68 tackles, 2 TFL, 2 INT
FS Blair Johnson - 47 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1 INT
CB Dashaun Phillips - 44 Tackles, 3 INT DL
Mike Washington - 28 tackles, 7 TFL, 3 Sacks
DE Logan Johnson - 26 tackles, 5 TFL, 2 Sacks
In With The New
RG Mike Di Dominico - Saddleback CC
CB Gaston Benson - Santa Rosa JC, All-California Community College Team
DE Rufus Johnson - Kilgore JC, 27 Tackles, 3 TFL, 2 Sacks
LB Marc Martinez - Waco Midway HS, 1st Team All District, Academic All-State, All Cen-Tex
All Conference Candidates
RB Evan Robertson
QB Nick Stephens
RS Brandon Lowery
CB Gaston Benson
CB DaShaun Phillips
Week 1 - Abilene Christian - This one if big for a couple of reasons. First off, the Texans are not going to forget about last season's 65-3 drubbing at the hands of the Wildcats, and will want to prove that this season isn't going to go the same way for them that 2010 did. A good showing in week 1 against ACU could go a long way in getting the Texans' confidence back. Another reason this game is big is that it's a home game against the best team in the LSC, during the first week of the season. That combination has given us quite a few surprises in the past...keep an eye on this one.
Week 5 - West Texas A&M - A mid-year clash against West Texas could prove to be a big game for Tarleton. By this time in the season, the new Texans' offense should start clicking just in time for Family Weekend at Tarleton. West Texas comes to town, and might be looking ahead to the next 2 weeks against Angelo State and the big clash against ACU. Trap game?
Best Case Scenario - 8-3
If the Texans can turn things around and be the team many people thought they would be last year, they could easily find themselves in the upper echelon of LSC teams once again. They HAVE to have a better season out of Nick Stephens and hope the Lee Hayes offense clicks with the team and quick. If they can get their offense going and plug the defensive holes, they could end up surprising some people. If things click the way Texan fans hope they will, it wouldn't be surprising to see them knock off one of the playoff teams this season in the LSC.
Worst Case Scenario - 3-8
The Texans face a tough start to their schedule. Four of their first six games include Abilene Christian, D1 Texas State, West Texas A&M and Midwestern State. If the Texans get off to a slow start, it’s going to be tough to keep the spirits high, coming off a tough 3-8 2010 season. Later in the year they also have to play away games against Texas A&M-Kingsville and Angelo State. That’s a tough schedule. If Stephens continues to struggle and the Texans move on to the future in Doyle, it’s going to be tough to make much of the season at that point. Might be too far gone to help much.