McKINNEY — Texas A&M University-Commerce is still one of the teams to beat in the Lone Star Conference football race.
The Lions, who’ve finished first or second in the last five LSC races, have been picked to finish third in the 2019 standings according to a preseason poll of the conference’s head coaches, sports information directors and members of the media. The Lions scored 169 points in the poll, including one first-place vote.
Tarleton State, the 2018 champion, finished first in the voting with 217 points after garnering 19 of the first-place votes on 25 ballots. Midwestern State, third last year, outpointed the Lions for second place with 169 points.
Following the Lions were Eastern New Mexico (130), Angelo State (122), West Texas A&M (119), Texas A&M-Kingsville (88), UT Permian Basin (67) and Western New Mexico (28).
The Lions finished second in the LSC standings in 2018 and 2017, the year they won the NCAA Division II national championship, and then were first in 2016, 2015 and 2014.
“I think every coach’s goal, you know, is to win a ring yearly,” said the Lions’ new head coach David Bailiff in the LSC’s press conference. “That’s the beauty of this sport. Every year regardless of what happened the last season there’s power in success. There’s power in failure and fortunately right now we’ve had a lot of success around there. It’s my job and I think very seriously that we have to meet those expectations. And I think we will.”
Bailiff, a former head coach at Rice and Texas State, is taking over the reins of the Lions from Colby Carthel, who is now the head coach at Stephen F. Austin.
“I’ve known Colby for a number of years and his dad (Don),” said Bailiff. “And, you know, just knowing Colby, the culture there’s great. He left a very talented football team. We have to figure out a way to keep the momentum going.”
Tarleton State’s head coach Todd Whitten said the expectations of the defending champions are high.
“A year ago we were picked fifth,” he said. “I think we’ve been part of every one of these (picks) one through nine. We play in what I would say is the best Division II conference in the country. There’s just so many good players.”
Midwestern State’s finished in the top three teams in each of the past five seasons.
“We’ve been a target and we enjoy a target,” said the Mustangs’ head coach Bill Maskill. “We get every team’s best game every week. We expect every year to be good. This is a tough conference and every game is going to be a dogfight.”
Midwestern State wide receiver Juwan Johnson was named the LSC’s preseason offensive player of the year after catching 67 passes last season for a school-record 1,215 yards.
Eastern New Mexico coach Kelley Lee said he’s “excited about the leadership of this football team.”
“I think we’ve got a good culture” he said. “We’ve got good kids in the program.”
The Greyhounds tied with West Texas A&M and Angelo State for third place last season.
Angelo State coach Jeff Girsch said the Rams talk about “consistency.”
“We’ve got a lot of players returning,” said Girsch. “We played young (in 2018). We’re ready to get this thing going.”
West Texas head coach Hunter Hughes said he’s excited about the Buffaloes’ new stadium and with the program.
“I’m excited about where we’re going,” he said. “The direction we’re going.”
Texas A&M-Kingsville coach Daren Wilkinson said there’s “not an opponent you can look past,” in the LSC.
UT Permian Basin linebacker Chris Hoad, who ranked third last year in NCAA Division II with 133 tackles, was named the LSC’s preseason defensive player of the year.
“I’m more worried about the results than all the accolades,” said Hoad, who is a senior from Leander.
Chris Mineo, the Falcons’ associate head coach, said “the biggest thing is doing what we can control.”
Western New Mexico coach Frank Tristan said the Mustangs are “going into the season a lot more confident than we did last year.”
The Mustangs went 0-10 last year.
“Our goal is to be in the ball game in the fourth quarter,” he said.