2010 Was a surprising year for the Lions. After storming thru the LSC North in 2009, things looked like they were turning around for A&M-Commerce. After a convincing 33-10 season opener against Upper Iowa, the Lions got blown out 33-10 in the Cotton Bowl game against Angelo State and an alarming trend began. The Lions passing offense collapsed and never looked back. By the end of the season, the A&M-Commerce passing game turned in a TOTAL of 5 passing TD’s on the year, against 20 turnovers. They would finish the season at 3-8, with 3 of their losses coming by a combined 7 points. In what seemed like the perfect metaphor for their 2010 season, the Lions lost their homecoming game to Southwestern Oklahoma 24-10 roughly 30 hours after it started due to weather and delays.
The Lion offense would end up averaging 19 points and 292 yards per game (both 13th). While their rushing offense would average 119 yards per game (9th), the passing offense only averaged 179 yards (13th), a dismal 88.4 passing efficiency (13th), and did their part in contributing to the worst turnover ratio in the Lone Star Conference last season (-0.91). There were a couple of bright spots though, as Marcus Graham had another stellar season, putting himself a mere 400 yards away from reaching Texas A&M-Commerce’s top 10 all-time rushing list. WR Kenzee Jackson burst onto the scene and was voted 1st Team LSC North as a freshman.
The Lions took a huge hit in the third play of the season, when they lost pre-season All-American Linebacker Cory Whitfield to an injury. With Whitfield gone and a struggling offense, the young Lions defense was thrown into the fire early on. Even though they were on the field way too much, they ended up showing some fight, only giving up 27 points per game (5th), 397 yards (8th), and 4th in the LSC in red zone defense. A new leader stepped up for A&M-Commerce in Sophomore Danny Mason, who finished the season with 99 tackles and a 1st Team LSC North award. By the end of the season, the well rounded defense would end up with 11 players with 30 or more tackles.
One of the youngest teams in the LSC, the Lions will return 42 letter winners from the 2010 season, including 8 starters on offense and 9 starters on defense. Oddly enough, last year’s biggest weakness may be one of A&M-Commerce’s biggest strengths this season. At Quarterback, one of the more interesting battles of the LSC preseason has been taking place between JJ Harp and Yogi Gallegos. When the Lions brought in JJ Harp last season, it was one of the bigger conference transfers in recent memory. Harp was coming off a 2009 season in which he was a Harlon Hill Finalist and led the nation in passing yards at Eastern New Mexico. However the Lions followed that up by bringing in TCU transfer Yogi Gallegos, who raced onto the scene and has made the quarterback battle in Commerce a heated race. Regardless of which one comes out on top, A&M-Commerce has significantly upgraded their most glaring weakness from 2010.
Whoever ends up winning the QB battle will have some playmakers to work with on the Lions offense. RB Marcus Graham returns for his senior season hoping to make his mark on the A&M-Commerce record books. He is less than 500 rushing yards away from reaching the A&M-Commerce Top 10 rushers of all time, and looks for his third consecutive season of all-conference accolades. WR Kenzee Jackson looks to build on a very impressive freshman season, along with a lot of young players returning on the Lions offensive line, including Connor Wise and David Sudderth.
On defense, the A&M-Commerce linebacker corps appears to be one of the best in the LSC on paper. 2010 preseason All American Cory Whitfield returns after missing the season due to an injury, after winning LSC North Linebacker of the Year accolades. In his absence last year, Danny Mason stepped up and became the player everyone thought Whitfield would be for the Lions, finishing with 99 tackles his sophomore season. In his freshman season, DL Tevin Moore also stepped up earning LSC North Honorable Mention, and the secondary will be bolstered by the return of CB Israel Hughes, who was 1st Team LSC North in 2009 before missing last season. Fourteen of the top fifteen tacklers from last season will be back in 2011 for the Lions.
Out With The Old
QB Adam Farkes - 1,960 passing yds, 5 TD / 16INT
OL John Marshall
RB London Hamilton - 412 rushing yds, 4 TD
WR Jillian Hayes - 439 receiving yds, 3 TD
WR Blake Patton - 172 receiving yds
CB AJ Billings - 43 tackles, 3 INT
K Ahmed Abo-Mahmood - 7-11 FG’s
S Todd Patton - 19 tackles
RB Marcus Graham - 2nd team LSC North, 815 rushing yds, 7 TD
WR Kenzee Jackson - 1st team LSC North, 49 catches, 451 yds, 1 TD,
WR Taylor Fore - 28 catches, 351 yds
OL Connor Wise
OL David Sudderth
LB Danny Mason - 1st team LSC North, 99 tackles, 8 TFL, 2 sacks
LB Cory Whitfield - Missed 2010 due to injury. 2010 pre-season All America, 2009 1st Team LSC North, 2009 LSC North Linebacker of the Year, 111 tackles
LB Matt Abram - 53 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 sack
LB JT Bates - 45 tackles, 2.5 TFL
LB Matt Claggett - 44 tackles
CB Marlin Terrell - 43 tackles, 1.5 TFL
S Chez Thomas - 42 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack, 2 INT, 1 TD
DL Jake Williams - 41 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2 sacks
S Courtney Craig - 39 tackles
CB Michael Cleveland - 37 tackles
DL Tremaine Williams - 37 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 TD
S Joel Wren - 28 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 1 TD
DL Tevin Moore - HM LSC North, 23 tackles, 6 TFL, 1 sack, 1 INT, 1 TD
DL Jacoby Veals - 23 tackles, 3 TFL, 2.5 sacks
In with the new
QB JJ Harp - Redshirt in 2010. 2009 - Harlon Hill finalist, led nation at Division 2 in total offense, 4,373 passing yards
QB Yogi Gallegos - Transfer from TCU, 3-time All-State, State Champion at Arlington Grace Prep
WR Tyler Rawlings - Transfer from Snow JC, 2010, 1st team all region and all conference, 2 time all state selection
RB Kaylon Alexander - 2,700 yards and 35 TD’s at Denton Ryan, 2-time All-Area team, THSCAA All Star, District MVP in 2010
DB Anthony White - District MVP at Hillcrest (Dallas), recorded school record 10 INT’s in 2010, All Area 1st Team
LB Logan Sligar - Transfer from TCU, 2009 Scout Team Player of the Year, 327 career tackles in high school, All County selection
WR James Driskell - Holds McKinney Boyd All-Time records for receiving yards in a game, career and season: 127 catches for 2,102 yards, 10 TD’s. HM All-State
WR Nathan James - Caught 66 for 1,177 yds and 16 TD’s in 2010 at Sherman High, District MVP, All Area and All-Texomaland
WR Kevin Thomas - 61 catches for 1,330 yds, 15 TD’s in 2010 at Waco Midway, 1st team all district, Super Centex team
K Jacob O’Neill - Finished Top 20 in the Under Armor All-American Kicking Challenge
All Conference Candidates
RB Marcus Graham
LB Danny Mason
LB Cory Whitfield
QB Yogi Gallegos
WR Kenzee Jackson
Week 3 - Midwestern State @ Cowboys Stadium. If the Lions can pull off a win over MSU in front of the rest of the LSC early in the season, it could get a lot of momentum going for them early on. The Lions also benefit from a bye week before this game.
Week 8 - Angelo State in Commerce. A homecoming game against Angelo State sets up an important time in the Lions schedule. A surprising win here could signal a nice step for a Lions program looking to get back in the mix with the better teams in the LSC.
Best Case Scenario - 7-3. While it’s tough to imagine the Lions pulling off a win against any of the big three (ACU,WT or TAMK), none of their other games seem to be completely out of reach. The young offensive line will have to come together to give the improved quarterback position time to work for this to happen.
Worst Case Scenario - 3-7. Commerce will probably have one of the wider spectrums of possibility this season because of the situation at quarterback. If for some reason neither of the quarterbacks can turn things around or the offensive line struggles too much, they could easily end up with another 3 win season in the always difficult LSC.