By Bailey Rae Poer—
The first Wednesday in February is one of the biggest days of the year for football coaches across the nation. Described as nerve wracking and exciting, signing day has the possibility to set a team up for the upcoming season and seasons to come. Signing day for the Tarleton Texan football team included adding 30 new faces to the lineup. Several local players signed, as well as players from as far away as California and Illinois.
Coming off an outstanding season as Lone Star Conference Champions helps set the standard for the Texans moving forward in Head Football Coach Todd Whitten’s mind.
“Our expectations are that we have a very good football team on a yearly basis with a group of good kids that go to school and graduate and play good for us on Saturdays,” Whitten said.
Two Stephenville residents, quarterback Easton Jones and offensive lineman Lane York, will feel right at home next year as they were two of the 30 signed to the Texans.
Jones, who is the son of Tarleton’s associate athletic director Troy Jones, is delighted with the chance to play for the Texans.
“I’ve grown up bleeding purple and it has always been a dream of mine to play in purple. I look forward to getting to be a quarterback for one of the best quarterback coaches in the nation in my opinion,” said Jones.
The quarterback position is one that will be left vacant, as Ben Holmes was a senior last season.
Signing day produced three junior college quarterbacks along with Jones.
“We didn’t have any quarterbacks on campus that had any age on them, so we were happy to get all of those guys” stated Whitten.
Devin Williams, from Zephyr, also signed with the Texans. Williams will play 11-man football for the first time for the Texans, as Zephyr plays six-man. Williams stood out at camp last summer according to Whitten.
“we had 200 kids out there and he was one of the top five or six,” Whitten said.
The offensive line took the biggest hit, after graduating four out of the five starters from last season. Whitten addressed this by striving to sign five to seven offensive linemen along with signing several junior college guys, such as Jimmie Banks out of Navarro College. The coaching staff also plans to follow players who have signed with Division I schools, and for whatever reason, might fall back into the Division II signing pool.
At midterm, Carlos Frank, a running back out of Kilgore College who averaged 31.1 yards per game, signed with the Texans and is one Whitten is excited to get out on the turf this spring.
The receiver position wasn’t one that the Texan coaching staff tried to fill as all of the team’s receivers will be returning for another season in Memorial Stadium. Whitten plans to address that need in the next recruiting year but feels this recruiting class filled many of the needs the team had.
“I think we addressed a lot of our needs from the skill standpoint on offense,” he said.
Whitten expects to have one of the top secondaries in the country next year, as the Texans are returning the entire secondary, three of which were All-Conference. New to the Texan defense are standouts Corey Dalton and Benjie Franklin. Franklin, from Navarro College, averaged 6.2 tackles a game. Dalton, hailing from the College of the Desert, was named as Defensive Most Valuable Player for the American Division-Mountain Conference with 10 interceptions.
Whitten strives to meet all of the team’s needs and leave no stone unturned in the recruiting process.
“We go all kinds of different routes. If we can find a really good kid that is a good student and a good player, we will recruit them.”
Whitten credits much of the success of signing day to his coaching staff who have spent a lot of time on the road and many nights away from home tracking down these athletes.
“We recruit year around. Really the only time we stop recruiting is when August camp starts. As far as I’m concerned, you make a big mistake if you stop looking for guys because they can come from all different directions,” said Whitten. The Texans are currently in offseason training and will transition into spring training March 20, the Wednesday after spring break. The opener for the Texans will be September 7 at Homer Bryce Stadium.