By Todd Coley—
Normally, losing 12 players to injuries would hurt any team, but for the Texan football team it has actually helped.
Head Coach Cary Fowler said the experience the younger players have been getting as a result is encouraging.
”Our development of our young players has been tremendous and we’ve seen major strides teaching them the fundamentals of the game,” he said. “And they’re able to get our attention where, if those guys were there, the [younger players] would be getting a lot of second and third team reps.”
That kind of practice for the young players helps build depth for the team, and that was an area where Fowler felt they had weaknesses last year going down the last stretch of the season. The team also got some extra practice due to the cancellation of the Heart of Texas Bowl last year because they were already training for the game.
“We got basically a spring practice from our last game all the way up to the first week of December,” Fowler said. “Now they’re coming back and they’re basically getting two spring practices so we’ve seen major improvements.”
Looking to the fall, the Texans hope to use their newly-developed talent as well as bring back some of the upperclassmen from injury to help the cause. The Texans have experience as a team in close games and against the toughest competition. Tarleton had the strongest schedule last year playing teams such as North Alabama and Delta State. They grew considerably with big wins over ranked teams while starting the season 5-0. The team mentality improved from the close games because they never felt they were out of a game.
“We’ve got to learn from our mistakes in the end,” Fowler said. “Some of them were self-inflicted and some of them were injuries. We weren’t playing as well late in the year. We were operating in our system better but we weren’t as athletic and fast.”
Fowler said once the schedule for next season is released, people will see the team has an incredibly tough schedule ahead, but it is a task they are up to.
The last season ended on a bitter note for the Texans as they were left out of the national playoffs. They tied Eastern New Mexico for the LSC Championship but Fowler feels a 33-14 victory over the Greyhounds in their stadium sets them apart as the true conference champions. The exclusion from the playoffs did not sit well with the team and the coach and the team enters the fall with a chip on their shoulder.
“From pop warner to Super Bowl, we’re the only team in the country that won a conference championship and didn’t make the national playoffs,” Fowler said. “That ticks me off. These kids know where I’m coming from and it upsets them.”
The team’s recruiting this spring was a phenomenal one coming in seventh in the state even among D1 schools like University of Texas and Texas A&M. The recruiting class was rated higher than some mid major Division I programs and Tarleton is also one of the only Division II schools that scouts almost exclusively high school players in an effort to make the molding process easier. Normally Fowler likes to take Division I players as transfers because the student has already graduated from an institution but comes to Tarleton for a master’s degree. As always, there will be sleepers and the talent will rise to the top as practices continue.
“The competition in the fall will be tremendous in practice,” Fowler said. “The competition of making the bus will be tough and the competition to get playing time will be tougher.”