Thursday, August 17, 2017

Texas A&M-Kingsville 2017 Outlook

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2016 Recap
The season opened well with a road win at FCS Incarnate Word and a 68-7 blowout over Simon Fraser.  The next three weeks sank their playoff hopes as the Javelinas lost to Midwestern State, Texas A&M Commerce and Angelo State by a combined 5 points.  Each loss was a different kind of heartache - MSU marched 74 yards to score the winning TD with 12 seconds to play, at TAMC, the Hogs could not convert a 2 pt PAT w/1:26 to tie the game, then had a game winning 55 yd FG blocked as time expired, while Angelo State recovered their own fumble in the end zone with about 3.5 minutes to play in the game to take the lead.  TAMK would win the final 7 games of the season, including a 24-17 Live United Bowl victory over Southern Arkansas.

Statistically, the Javelinas outscored their opponents 38.3-23.0 and out gained them 414-336.  The running game was third in the LSC with 181 yards per game and they threw for 233 (and an LSC leading 162.4 QB efficiency rating).  The trio of Greg Pitre, Luis Lopez and Nick Pelrean combined for 1,876 yards and 20 TDs rushing and 43 receptions for 382 yards.  Myles Carr set a team record with 31 TD passes to go along with 2,702 yards and a 163.6 QB rating.  Five players had 20 or more receptions, with Anthony Autry leading the group with 44 for 756 yards and 9 TDs.  First LSC honors went to Stuart Sanchez and Bo Villarreal on the OL, TE Stehley Reden, WR Autry, and FB Torrey Thomas.  Carr was the offensive player of the year and OL Aundra Long, RB Lopez and WR Jordan Thomas were all honorable mention choices.

The defense led the LSC in yards allowed, rushing yards allowed and sacks and was second in points allowed.  On the line, Brandon Jones, Quentin Parks and Alex Kuyinu combined for 127 tackes, 34.5 TFL, 21.5 sacks and 19 QBH.  Braedon, Trevor Moses, ZeMarcus Green, Tre Oliver, Caleb Valentine and DeMarcus Spurlock led a deep group of LBs with 280 tackles, 37.5 TFL, 13.5 sacks, and 14 QBH.  Forrest Jones, Jarrod Sanders, Justin Guillory, Emond Hobbs and Devonte Williams were busy in the secondary with 191 tackles, 9 interceptions and 22 passes broken up.    Robinson and Jones were 1st team all conference (with Jones garnering LSC Defensive player of the year, defenensive lineman of the year and All-American honors as well).  ZeMarcus Green, Jarrod Sanders and Devonte Williams were second team selections and Kuyinu and Spurlock getting honorable mention recognition.

2017 Outlook - Offense
A quick look at what's missing.  First and foremost, Myles Carr who threw for 4,995 yards and 52 TDs and   Anthony Autry, a deep threat with 87 catches for 1,587 yards and 16 TDs in 2 seasons.  At running back, Greg Pitre graduated and Luis Lopez is not listed on the teams roster at this time and OL Bo Villarreal and Audra Long were seniors.

The cupboard is far from bare.  Nick Pelrean (568 yds, 9 TDs) and transfer Keith Whitely (1,215 yds in 2014 and 2015 at UNLV) should keep the running game in the upper half of the LSC and Jordan Thomas, Kyle Plum, Stehley Reden and Torrey Thomas (96-1,417-16 TD) will give the QB plenty of targets.  QB?  Who will be the QB?  The returning player with the most playing time last year one.  Conner Smith, Cade Dyal, and Casey Rosellini all red-shirted last year, while Beau Reilly was on the U of Hawaii roster, but did not play.  Who emerges, and how well they play is the key factor for the Javelinas this year.  Stuart Sanchez, Ralph Rubalcaba and Jake Wallace return for the OL, but its not clear who will join them in the starting lineup.  This is key #2 (or 1A) for the 2017 season.

***** Record Watch ***** He won't set any team career records, but Jordan Thomas could quietly move into the top 5 on the Javelina receiving charts in several categories.  He needs 36 receptions, 788 yards and 8 TDs to crack the top 5 in those categories.

2017 Outlook - Defense
The defense looks much more settled.  The line will once again feature Brandon Jones, just a junior.  Newcomer Teke Cheetham-West will help Carlos Cuellar clog up the middle.  At linebacker, they are very deep - Braedon Robinson, Trevor Moses, DeMarcus Spurlock, Tre Oliver, Caleb Valentine and Peyton Tilley combined for 262 tackles, 31.5 TFL, and 15 sacks.  Robinson  is the stats leader with 32.5 career TFL and 153 tackles and twice given All-LSC honors.  Not to be outdone, the secondary has 5 guys back that had 25+ tackles. Jarrod Sanders, Justin Guillory, Emond Hobbs, Devonte Williams and Kuziah Ferebee had 166 tackles, 8 interceptions and 21 passes broken up.  There are a couple of Southland -school transfers that could figure into the mix as well - Jalen Campbell a highly recruited player out high school a couple of years ago and Junior Henderson, who had 64 tackles as a true freshman at ACU in 2015.

2017 Outlook - Special Teams
Julio De la Garza was 11-14 on FGs with a long of 55 and 53-55 on PATs.  His kickoffs averaged 58.5 yards and he had 11 kicks for touchbacks and was named 1st-LSC.  They'll have a new punter, either De La Garza, Trent Sisco (All-Houston kicker by the Houston Chronicle) or Sam Godinez.  Sean Landez averaged 9.3 yards on 21 punt returns, while Nick Pelrean had 8 kick returns for 171 yards (21.4 avg.)

2017 Outlook - Non-Conference Schedule
Central Washington pays a visit to Kingsville in the season opener.  The Wildcats were 7-3 last, dropping games to FCS Portland State and two to Azusa Pacific.  They held a 34-21 scoring edge and 433-340 yardage advantage.  Jonathan Hillel looks to be the starting QB.  As a backup, he threw for 384 yards and 5 TDs backing up Justin Lane.  Running backs Austin Pernell and Jordan Tufaga (425 combined yards) and wide outs Justin Peterson and Christian Gasca (38-684, 6 TDs).  The strength of the defense will be at LB and the secondary, with five of the teams top six tacklers back.

In week 2, TAMK heads up to Canada to face Simon Fraser.  The Clan were winless in 2016, with their closest games against Western Oregon, losing 7-33 in week 6 and 13-40 in the season finale.  They were outscored 51-8 and outgained 441-203.  Let's see if we can find some highlights.... Miles Richardson is back at QB.  He threw for 1,600 yards, but had a 4-18 TD-Int ratio.  Jalen Jana is the leading rusher, with 464 yards and all of the teams 3 rushing TDs.  Also back are the top three in receptions, WR Justin Buren, WR Gavin Cobb, and Jana - they had a combined 109 receptions, 1,092 yards and 2 TDs.  The defense lost their top two players, so its hard to see much improvement here.

In the regular season finale, William Jewell fills the hole in the schedule left by OPSU's departure to NAIA.  The Cardinals won the seaon finale against Lincoln (Mo) to avoid going winless.  They were outscored by a 36-22 margin and outgained 428-347 weekly.  Brad Strauss and Jared Hobby return at QB, the duo combined for 2,234 yards and 12 TDs, but 14 interceptions.  Strauss is also the leading returning rusher, with 268 yards.  Bulla Graft caught 44 catches for 658 yards and 5 TDs, but not much help returns in the receiving corps.  The defense should be better, with the top 6 in tackles back this year.

Best Case Scenario
11 - 0,  The defense was good last year, and should be even better this year.  The offense had some losses, but could reload and be very good once again.  As last season progressed, the Javelinas showed the ability to win some close games that slipped away in the past.  The first two games will give the offense a chance to find its legs and the defense to fine-tune and get ready for Midwestern State and Texas A&M-Commerce in back to back games.

Worst Case Scenario
7-4, If the OL/QB situation does not gel and other LSC step up their game an improved Javelina squad could fare a bit worse in terms of W/L record.

9-2, NCAA Playoff/Bowl Game serious contender
Right in between.  The LSC is arguably tougher and deeper at the top with 4 or maybe 5 teams battling it out.  It's going to be difficult for any team to go through unscathed.

No LSC team has shown the same improvement as the Javelinas over the last two seasons.  On the flip side, few programs ventured into the same depths as TAMK.  In year one under Coach Wilkinson, TAMK improved their scoring margin by 20.1 and yardage margin by 77.6.  In year two it was 19.8 on scoring and 133 on yardage.  The two year totals of 39.9 points and 210.6 yards are eerily similar to the improve Texas A&M-Commerce saw in Colby Carthel's first two years, 42.4 points and 189.5 yards.

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