College football is back in Northeast Texas – and the A&M-Commerce Lions will be kicking off the 2013 season Saturday at 6 p.m. with a home game against Sul Ross State University.
Haslett: This year’s Lions have a new head coach, former West Texas A&M defensive coordinator Colby Carthel. The Lions will have a pretty different roster, as well, and not just due to graduation. When coach Carthel got the job in January, there was a weeding out process. Last year’s team went one and nine, as did the previous year’s squad, and there was talk around the program that the Lions were just a bit too mellow in their approach to training. Carthel banished all traces of a country-club environment with an intensive conditioning regime that saw some players leave the team. Senior defensive back Marcus Fore says he wasn’t tempted to leave. He liked what he saw of the new way of doing things from the beginning.
Fore: Well, first thing - talk about the boot camp. The month-long, very tough training we had. A lot more excitement, a lot more energy - you could feel it running in the weight room - everything. All the coaches were involved, everyone was on you. It was much different - I liked it a lot.
Haslett: Of course attitude is important, conditioning is important, but it takes more than those things to win. Carthel still has a tough task ahead. This year’s Lions are being built from the ground up, and it will take a few weeks into the season before anyone knows much about how this year’s team will perform on the field. During practice this week, Carthel admitted that there are some unknowns going into Saturdays game.
Carthel: Well, first of all, I hope we get 11 guys out there lined up correctly. They're looking better in practice, we've just got a lot of moving parts - 85 new kids, I think, somewhere thereabouts. A lot of pieces of the puzzle we're trying to get fit. If we get them all out there and lined up, we'll should see a few more balls in the air than maybe been seen in the past. Tyrick Rollison will make his first start here, after a stellar high school career out there at Sulphur Springs. He's found his way back home and done a great job.
Haslett: Tyrick Rollison helped win a state championship while at Sulphur Springs High School, but the 6-3, 220-pound junior has had a bumpy college career. Very highly recruited, Rollison first went to Auburn, but didn’t stick there. After a brief stint at Sam Houston state, Rollison got back on track last year at Tyler junior College. At Tyler, Rollison was a third team junior college All American. Carthel teams like to throw the ball, so expect Rollison to get plenty of snaps against Sul Ross. The Lobos also a passing team. In fact, Saturday’s game has all the makings of an air show. Sul Ross defensive coordinator Jarry Poth expects a festival of flying footballs at Memorial Stadium.
Poth: And a lot of snaps will be made on Saturday, I can guarantee you that. Both offenses play tremendously fast. There might be 100 snaps of offensive football in Saturday's game. It'll be basketball on grass, what I call it. It'll be a lot of fun to watch that.
Haslett: The Lobos will be traveling all the way from Alpine, out in the Big Bend Country of far west Texas. But Sul Ross is no stranger to Commerce. The Lobos were in the Lone Star Conference from 1950 to 1975. The Lions are 18-5-3 in the all-time series. A&M-Commerce fans hope that the Lions add one more to the win column tomorrow night. It might be a non-conference matchup, but it’s a big game for A&M-Commerce, as folks around the region will be paying attention to the new-look team. For KETR news, this is Mark Haslett.