Today we continue our 2016 season preview of Texas A&M University-Commerce football. Our guest is KETR’s Lions color commentator Brock Callaway.
Mark Haslett: We’ve already taken a look at the offense – you can find that program on KETR.org. Today, we’re previewing the defense and taking a look around this year’s Lone Star Conference. The Lions are a pretty good bet to score a lot of points. The success of this year’s team will depend in large part on how well the defense can come up with stops in key game situations.
Brock Callaway: On the defensive side, the Lions do graduate quite a bit of talent there on the defensive line. Toni Pulu had an exceptional career, here in Commerce. He is gone. The Lions have a lot of talent. They brought in a transfer from Wyoming named Tavita Faaiu, who if you were at the spring game, you saw that guy. He was incredible. I believe he had six sacks. I know it’s just a spring game, and you can’t take a whole lot out of that. Of all the spring games that I’ve seen in Commerce over the last few years, I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen anybody look more ready to take over a position than Tavita did. He was just incredible. In the defensive backfield, you’ve got Steven Baker back there at safety, who’s been starting since his freshman year, just an incredible athlete there. At linebacker though, you look at Brucks Saathoff. Brucks Saathoff is a guy that came in his very first game as a true freshman, led the team in tackling against Delta State, so he just jumped off the paper from the get go and had an awesome freshman season. You match him up with another freshman name Chris Smith, who plays corner, and the Lions have a lot of depth back there, a lot of young guys that got some time last year that are going to be playing some big roles this season.
Haslett: The Lone Star Conference is one of the toughest – arguably the toughest – NCAA Division II football conferences in the country. A&M-Commerce has won back-to-back titles in the Lone Star. A “three-peat” in a circuit this strong would be quite an accomplishment. Callaway says that the main obstacle for the Lions in conference play will be a certain familiar foe from Wichita Falls.
Callaway: The only team that really is going to put a scare into them is Midwestern State. And that’s a school that we’ve seen, over the years, Bill Maskill just does an incredible job there of reloading year after year. They do the same thing. They run the ball really well, they have a huge offensive line and they play good defense. And that’s one of those programs that just for the last decade has been up there at the top. If you look at somebody that’s going to make a run at Commerce and put a scare into them, Midwestern State is going to be the team to keep an eye. But Commerce does play Midwestern at home this year, so that’s going to be a big game. You look at some of those other teams there at the top. Eastern New Mexico returns an incredible running back in Kamal Cass, he led almost every rushing category there was in the LSC last year, and he was only a sophomore. They do have some big questions at quarterback though, they lost Jeremy Buurma. The Lions do play them week three, so they’re going to play them early on in the season before they have a chance to really get things rolling. Angelo State will obviously still be kind of in the mix there. They do lose Kyle Washington at quarterback. Kyle’s one of the best quarterbacks that’s come through this conference in probably a decade, so those are going to be some really big shoes to fill there at Angelo State. A&M-Kingsville, they’ve been down over the years, but they have been very resurgent. They’ve got a new head coach there that one a national championship a couple years ago at CSU-Pueblo, so they’ve got some raw talent there that’s going to take a little while to get rolling, but they’re going to be a little bit of a threat there. West Texas A&M, three years ago they were 11-3 and dominating the Lone Star Conference, they’ve slid back quite a bit. They’ve only won six games in the last two years, and there’s a lot of question marks going on there at West Texas. You back a program like that up against a wall and force them to play their best, and you never know what’s going to happen.
Haslett: KETR’s Brock Callaway previewing the A&M-Commerce Lions and the 2016 Lone Star Conference football season. For KETR News, this is Mark Haslett.