2015 is a season of transition for Lone Star Conference football. With Texas-Permian Basin starting football, the addition of RMAC member Western New Mexico and football independent Oklahoma Panhandle State, and McMurry’s transition from Division III to Division II ending with the War Hawks returning to D3, the LSC will look different from its current seven team setup next season, including the elimination of the two week “playoff” brackets which haven't exactly been popular with some of the conference’s most die-hard fans. It speaks volumes to the competitive level of LSC football that six of its seven teams are ranked in the BennettRank preseason top 30. Take a look, and don't forget that home-field advantage plays into record projections:
|BR||TEAM||LSC Coaches Poll (Points/1st Place Votes)||BR Predicted Record (Predicted Conf. Record)|
|13||Angelo State||1 (142/17)||8-1 (5-1)|
|17||Texas A&M Commerce||2 (111/4)||8-1 (6-0)|
|20||Eastern NM||6 (57)||7-2 (4-2)|
|27||Tarleton State||4 (85)||4-4 (2-4)|
|28||Midwestern St||3 (89)||5-4 (3-3)|
|29||West Texas A&M||5 (82)||2-6 (1-5)|
|108||TX A&M Kingsville||7 (22)||1-9 (0-6)|
2015 LONE STAR CONFERENCE FOOTBALL PREVIEW
2014 Record: 2-9, 0-7 LSC Projected 2015 LSC Finish: 7th Head Coach: Daren Wilkinson (1st season) Projected Returning Offensive Starters: 6 Projected Returning Defensive Starters: 7 After back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 2006-2007, Texas A&M-Kingsville replaced their head coach, bringing in Colorado State-Pueblo offensive coordinator Daren Wilkinson as the program’s 11th head coach. As one can expect, a new head coach brought forth a lot of changes. “We’re bringing quite a few new guys in who weren’t around in the spring that we need to get them going really quickly,” Wilkinson said. “We were very pleased with the guys we inherited when we got on campus in January. We signed some great freshmen that we’re excited about during the signing period, and from February through now, we’re still working, bringing in transfers to plug in some holes where we’re deficient.” The veteran players appear to have bought into Wilkinson’s new system. “Everyone’s adapted really well to what they have to offer for us,” said junior running back Greg Pitre. “Attitudes have changed a lot. I’ve seen a lot of changes in a lot of guys. It’s really going in an upward direction.” Despite the returning talent, including veteran starters, the starting lineups on both offense and defense remain a work in progress. “There hasn’t been a single person that’s been told that they’re a starter” yet, Wilkinson said. “People migrated toward the top as we were going through spring ball. We’re still not to the point where any position we’re saying as a coaching staff ‘we’re ready there.’” In addition to Pitre (70 carries, 287 yards, 1 TD), the Javelinas’ rushing attack also features experienced runners in seniors Shawn Vasquez (117 carries, 585 yards, 5 TDs) and Joe T’eo (56 carries, 270 yards, 4 TDs). Defensively, the linebacker corps is expected to play a bigger role in improving a defense which allowed 42 points and 463 yards per game. “We have a great group of cornerbacks coming back for the defense,” said sophomore linebacker DeMarcus Spurlock. “We’re very excited about the leadership on the defensive side of the ball.” Along with Spurlock, junior cornerback Kelechi Amushie (9 pass breakups, 1 INT) and sophomore linebacker Trevor Moses (81 tackles, 4.5 TFLs) are expected to lead the Javelinas’ defense. While Wilkinson didn’t offer a prediction on win totals, he did assure Javelina Nation that his players would put forth more effort this season. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from people who are disappointed in the second half effort,” Wilkinson said. “That’s something we really want to work on. We’re going to grind and hit people; if we can do that, we’re going to shock some people.” [divider]
2014 Record: 7-4, 3-4 LSC Projected 2015 LSC Finish: 6th Head Coach: Josh Lynn (4th season, 17-14) Projected Returning Offensive Starters: 7 Projected Returning Defensive Starters: 3 Most D2 football teams would love to have a 7-4 record to finish the season; that’s not the case at Blackwater Draw, especially after winning the LSC regular season championship in 2013. “We had an okay season last year,” said head coach Josh Lynn. “It’s definitely not what we want to accomplish, though.” The players seem to agree with that assessment. “A couple seasons ago, we were satisfied with a 7-3 season,” said senior quarterback Jeremy Buurma. Now? Not so much. “Our overall mentality has changed,” Buurma added. Buurma, who threw for 18 touchdowns last season, will have to hope that junior D’Maujeric Tucker (69 carries, 259 yards, 3 TDs) can fill the void left by the graduation of E’lon Spight and his 1,611 rushing yards. Junior Aaron Johnson (16 catches, 394 yards, 6 TDs) is expected to be among Buurma’s top receiving targets this season. There are a lot of gaps to fill on defense with the graduation of eight starters from last year’s squad. The Greyhounds’ three leading tacklers – linebackers Seth Bailey, Ben Langford and Julian Yearwood – accounted for nine of the Greyhounds’ 10 interceptions and combined for 23 TFLs last season. With Bailey, Langford and Yearwood gone, it’s up to seniors such as defensive back Ibrahim Maiga (22 tackles) and defensive lineman Joshua Bounds (6.5 TFLs) to carry the defense this season. Senior defensive back Tim Foley is also expected to return after missing the final eight games of last season with an injury. [divider]
BR-29 West Texas A&M Buffalos
2014 Record: 6-5, 4-3* LSC Projected 2015 LSC Finish: 5th Head Coach: Mike Nesbitt (3rd season, 17-8) Projected Returning Offensive Starters: 7 Projected Returning Defensive Starters: 9 * West Texas A&M nullified three wins due to use of an ineligible player; LSC record adjusted to 1-6 A precipitous decline marked a rough 2014 season for West Texas. The Buffs followed up a 2013 season which saw them advance to the Super Region 4 title game with a nightmarish 6-5 season and the nullification of five games due to the use to an ineligible player. With most of the Buffs’ starters returning this season, that does give a glimmer of hope in Canyon even with the cloud of an ongoing NCAA investigation hovering over the program. The Buffs bring back most of their offense, led by senior quarterback Preston Rabb (63.9 percent completion, 2,912 passing yards, 19 TDs, 10 INTs). Head coach Mike Nesbitt also expects big things from the rest of his offense. “We’ve got a good stable of tailbacks coming back with Geremy Aldridge (246 carries, 1,342 yards, 21 TDs) coming back and he feels real confident in himself,” Nesbitt said. Nesbitt is also looking for “some new receivers [to] step up” including senior Dimitri Donald. He hopes that [Donald] will “move out of the special teams only role” and make an impact on the offense, along with fellow seniors Word Hudson (31 catches, 242 yards, 2 TDs) and Jarrian Rhone (27 catches, 362 yards, 2 TDs). Almost as many defensive starters (nine) are slated to return for West Texas. “We had a lot of guys who were getting their first reps and their first time in game situations,” Nesbitt said. “Now you’re getting some guys who have actually seen some time out on the field and played with gone through some of those battles that they’ve got to go through.” A maturing defensive line is led by senior Alex Tucci (6 TFLs) and junior LePear Willrich (8 TFLs, 1.5 sacks), while junior Patric Youngman (5 TFLs, 2 sacks) and sophomore Carter James (11.5 TFLs, 3 sacks) anchor the Buffs linebacker corps. The secondary is led by senior defensive back Ethan Morriss and sophomore Hunter Streuling, who recorded three interceptions as a redshirt freshman. For the Buffalos to return to the NCAA playoffs, they will have to endure a tough non-conference schedule, starting with Azusa Pacific and defending national champions Colorado State-Pueblo. “By the time we get the first half of the season, we’re going to have a good idea who the Buffalos really are,” Nesbitt said. [divider]
BR-27 Tarleton State Texans
2014 Record: 5-5, 4-3 LSC Projected 2015 LSC Finish: 4th Head Coach: Cary Fowler (6th season, 25-21) Projected Returning Offensive Starters: 9 Projected Returning Defensive Starters: 5 Major changes with the coaching staff will make for some interesting transitions for the Texans. While head coach Cary Fowler is still around, four of his assistants departed during the off-season, including offensive coordinator Justin Carrigan (now the head coach at Texas-Permian Basin), and defensive coordinator Henry Cofer (now the head football coach and athletic director at Dallas Kimball High School). “I lost four coaches to better situations,” Fowler said. “I’m excited for those guys.” While Mason Miller now takes over as offensive coordinator, Fowler will assume the defensive playcalling duties, where he promised some big changes in the coming season. “You’ll see more of an attacking front,” Fowler said. “We’ll blitz a lot, we’ll disguise a lot of things, but on the surface of it, we’re really very simple.” Fowler will also have several holes to fill on defense, with the most notable being defensive back Charles Moore. “It’s going to be very strange, as he’s usually calling the D,” said Charles’ brother Brandon Moore, a senior defensive back. “It’s going to be a transition period” with Charles Moore (5 INTs) and others, such as linebacker Marc Martinez and defensive back Devin Figures also gone). “That’s going to allow a lot of the younger guys to step up and take leadership roles,” Brandon Moore said. In addition to Brandon Moore, junior defensive lineman Cantrell Gaines (transfer from Trinity Valley Community College) and junior linebacker Basil Jackson (returning from an ACL injury) are among the newcomers expected to make an impact. Returning players who could see significant time this season include senior linebacker Cody Marley and sophomore defensive end Chase Varnado. Tarleton’s quarterback platooning will be a thing of the past as Fowler has committed to junior Zed Woerner. “Warner is our quarterback, but I think (sophomores) Derek Kaiser and Alex Craig will push him in camp,” Fowler said. “We’ll always get the backups in a couple series to keep them moving. But, our kids have embraced that, and that’s the key.” While Woerner will be the focus of the offense, it’s the supporting cast who Fowler thinks will be the key to the Texans’ success. “If the quarterback has great players to get the ball to and he can be protected, he’s going to be pretty good,” Fowler said. And that starts with the offensive line. “We have over 100 starts on o-line coming back, Fowler said. “We’ve got good depth in O-line; some of the young players going to push our starters who’ve been here a long time.” With over 4,000 combined career receiving yards returning in senior Le’Nard Myers and junior Bubba Tandy, plus nearly 3,000 combined career rushing yards from senior Zach Henshaw and sophomore Jabari Anderson, the Texans’ offense has explosive potential. “This might be the highest offense we’ve had,” said senior offensive lineman Nick Perez. “There’s talent and ability everywhere you look on this offensive front. We have a lot of seniors and leadership on this group.” [divider]
2014 Record: 5-5, 4-3 LSC Projected 2015 LSC Finish: 3rd Head Coach: Bill Maskill (14th season, 101-41; 16th season overall, 114-49) Projected Returning Offensive Starters: 8 Projected Returning Defensive Starters: 4 Midwestern State head coach Bill Maskill will be the first to admit that roster turnover between the last game of the previous season can be an issue. “I think D2 rosters change a great deal from the end of the season to spring practice to the end of spring to the beginning of fall,” Maskill said. Two key offensive losses for the Mustangs are quarterback Jake Glover and running back Chauncey Harris. The quarterback competition is expected to come down to two returnees – junior Quade Coward and sophomore Hagen Hutchinson. “Both of our young quarterbacks are very athletic, very talented,” Maskill said. “It’s going to be interesting to see the competition because they’re both competitive, winners, savvy guys.” Maskill’s “good nucleus” of offensive returnees includes junior wideout Statron Jones (26 catches, 492 yards, 6 TDs), senior receiver Levy Wilson (25 catches, 379 yards, 3 TDs) and junior running back Dante Taylor (106 carries, 677 yards, 6 TDs). Maskill said the big difference from last season’s team will be on defense, with just four starters returning. “We’ve had to work really hard in the spring to develop those guys who haven’t played” (much last season, Maskill said. “They’re kind of an unknown; when you’re an unknown, that’s going to make you a little hungrier.” Senior Herb Whitehurst (3.5 TFLs, 2.5 sacks) is expected to play more of a “rover” (hybrid defensive back/linebacker) this season. Senior linebacker Dan Laudermilk (3.5 sacks, 1.5 TFLs) and supplements the defensive middle, while seniors Marqui Christian (81 tackles, 3.5 TFLs, 2 INTs) and Dominique Williams are expected to play big roles in the secondary. The element of the unknown can certainly apply for Midwestern State’s defense this season. “Every year, we never know how it’s going to look until the end of the season,” Christian said. “Once we get rolling, I think we’ll have a tough defense like we did a couple years ago.” [divider]
BR-17 Texas A&M Commerce Lions
2014 Record: 9-3, 6-1 LSC (LSC regular season champions; won Heart of Texas Bowl) Projected 2015 LSC Finish: 1st Head Coach: Colby Carthel (3rd season, 16-8) Projected Returning Offensive Starters: 2 Projected Returning Defensive Starters: 7 In his two years in Commerce, head coach Colby Carthel oversaw in a high powered offense that would have made Chip Kelly’s gimmicky offense at Oregon look like the triple option. The Lions scored at least 90 points in a game twice last season (albeit against Division III competition – East Texas Baptist and McMurry). With a much tougher schedule on the horizon, which includes Gulf South Conference perennial power Delta State and FCS Sam Houston State, and the loss of several key starters, including seven who signed free agent deals with NFL teams after the draft, don’t expect the “video game stats” from last season to be repeated. “I don’t know that you necessarily replace those guys,” Carthel said. “You just try and give another opportunity to one of the guys coming up in the program or recruit somebody new.” One of those players is senior quarterback Harrison Stewart, who redshirted last season after starting six games in his junior season after two years of junior college ball. “It humbled me a little bit,” Stewart said of his redshirt season. “It gave me a different perspective on the game, it allowed me to see how things operate off the field and how the coaches conduct themselves. It gave me a newer understanding of the game.” Don’t be surprised to see some of the more than 40 recruits who committed to Commerce over the summer work their way into significant playing time. “Some of those high school guys … may not quite be ready for that,” Carthel said. “But we feel that’s important for the growth of our program.” Key offensive returnees a pair of running backs – junior Richard Cooper (131 carries, 736 yards, 6 TDs) and senior Theo Wofford (37 carries, 306 yards, 5 TDs) – along with junior Darby Smith, the Lions’ leading returning receiver (8 catches, 136 yards; 7th on the team last season). Senior left tackle Elwood Clement is the lone regular starter from last season’s offensive line who is returning this season. The Commerce defense fares a little better depth-wise, as seven starters are set to return. Leading the Lions’ defense is senior defensive end Toni Pulu, the LSC’s preseason defensive player of the year who recorded 19.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks last year. Senior linebacker Charles Woods (120 tackles, 14 TFLs) couldn’t be happier that Pulu is on his team. “He allows us to be able to move more freely because he can take up two blocks instead of one,” Woods said. “He’s a player you love to play behind because you know he’s going to get the job done and allow you to play like you want to, fast and smart.” Woods headlines an experienced linebacker corps which includes seniors Cole Pitts (13 TFLs), Davarus Shores (6 TFLs) and Tyree Barton (5 TFLs, 3 sacks). Junior cornerback Traven Johnson (7 pass break-ups) and sophomore Steven Baker (5 pass break-ups, 2 TFLs) anchor the Lions secondary. WIth high turnover on offense, Carthel’s Lions, despite winning the LSC regular season title, will have their work cut out for them if they want to repeat as conference champions and qualify for the NCAA playoffs. “Angelo State had a great team last year and they return everybody,” Carthel said “We had a great team last year and we lost everybody. There’s a lot that goes into the season; it’s going to be a very balanced league.” [divider]
BR-13 Angelo State Rams
2014 Record: 9-3, 5-2 LSC (LSC playoff champions; lost 2nd round of NCAA playoffs to Colorado State-Pueblo) Projected 2015 LSC Finish: 2nd Head Coach: Will Wagner (5th season, 24-21) Projected Returning Offensive Starters: 7 Projected Returning Defensive Starters: 7 With a majority of players from last season’s squad expected to return, Angelo State enters training camp as the top-ranked team in the LSC at BR-13. The only reason BennettRank doesn't predict they will capture the regular season crown that eluded them last season (thanks to a loss against Commerce), is that they have to travel to play the BR-17 Lions on October 10. Like last season, that game should be too close to call. The Rams did get the last laugh last year as they snapped a streak of three straight 5-6 seasons with a revenge win over Commerce in the LSC playoff championship game. It ensured they would be the lone LSC rep in the NCAA playoffs. “We set our goals high,” said senior quarterback Kyle Washington, the LSC’s preseason offensive player of the year. “Winning the regular season conference title is one of our goals.” Washington’s dual-threat capabilities (63.6 percent completion, 3,236 passing yards, 34 TD, 10 INT; 164 carries, 911 rushing yards, 9 rushing TD) puts him in the preseason discussion for the Harlon Hill Trophy as he leads an offense with several experienced skill players to work with, including senior running back Ryan Byrd (141 carries, 830 yards, 6 TD) and senior wideout Talon Smith (44 catches, 756 yards, 9 TD). The Rams have a big hole to replace on defense with the graduation of linebacker Rush Seaver. “There’s not another player like Rush Seaver,” said senior defensive end Clayton Callicutt. “He was the heart and soul of our defense for the last three years.” Junior linebacker Willie Brown (23 tackles) is expected to play a bigger role this season as one of the defense’s leading returnees. I’m anxious to see what they can do during fall camp. Callicutt, who has 41 career TFLs and 20 career sacks, anchors the Rams’ defensive line, while senior cornerback Ryan Clapsaddle (97 tackles, 2 INTs) and senior safety Dominique McCoy (4.5 TFLs) headline Angelo State’s secondary. The motivation towards a return to the NCAA playoffs began when the Rams lost to eventual national champions Colorado State-Pueblo. “There was a lot of disappointment after the loss to Pueblo,” said head coach Will Wagner. “But to see the determination and the excitement in our kids’ eyes, knowing what kind of level we can reach has made this a fun offseason.” The players seem to have gotten the message. “We’re more hungry than ever,” Washington said. “We have an opportunity to do something that Angelo State hasn’t done in a long time. I’m excited to see where our hunger level takes us.” [divider]
2015 LONE STAR CONFERENCE COMPOSITE SCHEDULE
All Times Listed Central Time
Sept. 3 Adams State (RMAC) at Texas A&M Commerce, 7:00 p.m. Azusa Pacific at West Texas A&M, 7:00 p.m. Oklahoma Panhandle State (IND) at Angelo State, 7:00 p.m. New Mexico Highlands (RMAC) at Eastern New Mexico, 8:00 p.m. Sept. 5 Texas A&M Kingsville at Incarnate Word (1-AA), 7:00 p.m. Truman State (GLVC) at Midwestern State, 7:00 p.m. OPEN DATE: Tarleton State
Sept. 12 Angelo State at Western State (Col.) (RMAC), 2:00 p.m. Colorado State-Pueblo at West Texas A&M, 5:00 p.m. Delta State (GSC) at Texas A&M Commerce, 7:00 p.m. Eastern New Mexico at Adams State (RMAC), 7:00 p.m. Findlay (GLIAC) at Tarleton State, 7:00 p.m. Missouri S&T (GLVC) at Texas A&M Kingsville, 7:00 p.m. Midwestern State at Colorado Mesa (RMAC), 8:00 p.m.
Sept. 19 2015 Lone Star Conference Football Festival Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas Eastern New Mexico vs. Midwestern State, 11:30 a.m. Tarleton State vs. West Texas A&M, 3:30 p.m. Bacone (NAIA) vs. Angelo State, 7:30 p.m. Texas A&M Commerce at Texas A&M Kingsville, 7:00 p.m.
Sept. 26 Angelo State at West Texas A&M, 5:00 p.m. (Homecoming) Eastern New Mexico at Texas A&M Commerce, 7:00 p.m. Tarleton State at Midwestern State, 7:00 p.m. West Alabama (GSC) at Texas A&M Kingsville, 7:00 p.m.
Oct. 3 Texas A&M Kingsville at Eastern New Mexico, 5:00 p.m. (Homecoming) Midwestern State at Angelo State, 7:00 p.m. Texas A&M Commerce at Tarleton State, 7:00 p.m. West Texas A&M: OPEN
Oct. 10 Eastern New Mexico at Bacone (NAIA), 2:00 p.m. Angelo State at Texas A&M Commerce, 7:00 p.m. Tarleton State at Texas A&M Kingsville, 7:00 p.m. West Texas A&M at Midwestern State, 7:00 p.m.
Oct. 17 Eastern New Mexico at Tarleton State, 6:00 p.m. (Homecoming) Humboldt State (GNAC) at Midwestern State, 8:00 p.m. Texas A&M Kingsville at Angelo State, 7:00 p.m. (Homecoming) Texas A&M Commerce at West Texas A&M, 5:00 p.m.
Oct. 24 Angelo State at Eastern New Mexico, 2:00 p.m. Midwestern State at Texas A&M Commerce, 4:00 p.m. (Homecoming) Oklahoma Panhandle (IND) at Tarleton State, 7:00 p.m. West Texas A&M at Texas A&M Kingsville, 7:00 p.m. (Homecoming)
Oct. 31 Eastern New Mexico at West Texas A&M, 12:00 p.m. (Wagon Wheel Game) Tarleton State at Angelo State, 7:00 p.m. Texas A&M Kingsville at Midwestern State, 7:00 p.m. (Homecoming) Texas A&M Commerce at Sam Houston State (1-AA), TBA
Nov. 7 LSC Playoffs (Times TBA) Game 1: #4 at #1 Game 2: #3 at #2 Game 3: #7 at #6 Game 4: #5 at Oklahoma Panhandle
Nov. 14 LSC Playoffs (Times TBA) CHAMPIONSHIP GAME Game 1 Winner vs. Game 2 Winner (Higher Seed) THIRD PLACE GAME Game 1 Loser vs. Game 2 Loser (Higher Seed) FIFTH PLACE GAME Game 3 Winner vs. Game 4 Winner (Higher Seed) SEVENTH PLACE GAME Oklahoma Panhandle (IND) at Game 3 Loser If you have any comments, questions, or corrections, email me directly at [email protected].