The Lone Star 50: 50-41
The Lone Star 50 -- DCTF's countdown of the 50 most important college football players in Texas -- kicks off.
In the month of March, Dave Campbell’s Texas Football is introducing the Lone Star 50, a countdown of the 50 most important Texas college football players in 2013. Keep in mind: this is not necessarily a ranking of the top 50 best college football players in Texas, but rather the 50 players whose performance will most impact the college football scene in Texas in 2013.
Today: Nos. 50-41
March 15: Nos. 40-31
March 20: Nos. 30-21
March 22: Nos. 20-11
March 27: Nos. 10-6
March 29: Nos. 5-1
50) Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
The towering target from Galveston was the Aggies’ top receiver as a freshman, hauling in 82 catches for 1,105 yards and five touchdowns during a dazzling first season in College Station.
He Should Be Higher Because… You could argue that Evans is A&M’s only established receiving threat returning for 2013, with the departures of Ryan Swope, Uzoma Nwachukwu and Thomas Johnson. And he did rank 31st in the nation in receiving last year, so he’s proven that he can be a go-to guy.
He Should Be Lower Because… With Johnny Manziel back to trigger the offense, does it really matter who his wide receivers are? The coffers are full of talented and explosive (albeit largely green) wide receivers, and if Evans isn’t catching the ball, someone else almost certainly will be.
49) Stephon Sanders, LB, SMU
As a sophomore, Sanders – a Mesquite Horn product – established himself as a key cog in the Ponies’ defense, logging 48 tackles (5.5 TFL), a sack, 5 pass break-ups and an interception, which he returned for a touchdown, from his outside linebacker spot.
He Should Be Higher Because… With Taylor Reed and Ja’Gared Davis graduated, the middle of the Mustangs’ defense is suddenly largely dependent on Sanders. And for a team that did a very good job stopping the run, he’ll be critical in maintaining that part of the defense.
He Should Be Lower Because… SMU’s problems on defense weren’t in the front seven. The Ponies got torched to the tune of 278 passing yards per game, and while Sanders is important, it’s not like he can help the secondary a whole lot from the outside linebacker spot.
48) Craig Mager, CB, Texas State
The pride of Luling, Texas was the Bobcats’ best cornerback as a sophomore, leading the team in pass break-ups (8) and interceptions (4) while logging 48 tackles. He also returned the only punt he fielded 78 yards for a touchdown in the season finale against New Mexico State.
He Should Be Higher Because… Mager is the team’s best cornerback, and for a team that ranked 93rd in pass defense last season, the secondary is in need of major improvement. He’ll be locked up with the opponents’ best receiver every game, and with the move to the Sun Belt, that means there will be even more pressure.
He Should Be Lower Because… It’s not all on him. Cornerback Phillip Benning, safeties Xavier Daniels and Justin Iwuji and everyone else who makes up the Bobcats’ secondary have to improve as a unit to be more competitive this year. Mager’s important, but if he’s the only one making steps forward, it’ll hardly matter.
47) Germard Reed, DT, UTEP
The Lufkin Panther-turned-UTEP Miner has been a stalwart at the defensive tackle position, logging 39 tackles (7.5 TFL) and 2.5 sacks for the Miners last season.
He Should Be Higher Because… It’s not like the Miners’ defense was good at too much last year, but the rushing defense has got to make strides, giving up 4.85 yards per carry (99th in the nation). And with the graduation of Greg Watkins, the DL spot will need to be held down by Reed if they’re going to get better.
He Should Be Lower Because… It’s not like the defensive line was the only problem. There are holes all over the place to fix for new coach Sean Kugler if they’re going to climb out of their 93rd-ranked hole. An improvement from Reed would obviously help, but he’s not the only one who needs to step up.
46) Kerry Hyder, DE, Texas Tech
Plain and simple, Hyder was terrific for the Red Raiders in 2012. An All-Big 12 selection, the Austin LBJ product ranked fifth in the Big 12 with 14 TFL and seventh in the conference with 5.5 sacks.
He Should Be Higher Because… Texas Tech’s front has a chance to be pretty darn good, and Hyder’s a big part of that. The Red Raiders’ top four linemen as far as TFL are back, led by Hyder, and he’ll be expected to lead that group to the next level. If the defensive front is as good as advertised, Tech could surprise some folks.
He Should Be Lower Because… There are a lot of moving parts with regards to Tech. New coach, new quarterback, largely new secondary. What are the chances that the defensive front is the big difference? Beyond that…Kerry Hyder is more or less of a known commodity. He’s going to be pretty darn good; it’s up to the pieces around him to determine Tech’s fate.
45) Evans Okotcha, RB, UTSA
The dynamic athlete out of Coppell exploded for the Roadrunners in 2012, leading the team in receiving with 24 catches for 349 yards and 3 TDs while adding 364 yards and 6 TDs on the ground.
He Should Be Higher Because… Is there a bigger X-factor for the UTSA offense in 2013? Probably not. Okotcha’s speed and ability in the open field make him a threat to score every time he touches the ball, and that’s an exceptional asset for the young program.
He Should Be Lower Because… This isn’t his offense; it’s QB Eric Soza’s. Beyond that, the Roadrunners spread the ball around so much – 14 players ran the ball, and 18 players caught a pass in 2012 – that it’s hard to picture one guy like Okotcha taking over the offense.
44) Terrence Franks, RB, Texas State
Backing up starting RB Marcus Curry, Franks – an Angleton product – ran for 269 yards and 5 TDs, adding a receiving touchdown as well. He finished fourth on the team in rushing.
He Should Be Higher Because… Marcus Curry isn’t walking through that door. Curry was the bell cow for the Bobcats’ running game, and with his graduation, the torch falls to Franks. And with the QB situation in flux, Curry’s going to be pivotal for the Texas State offense.
He Should Be Lower Because… Will Franks be the full-time starter? Tim Gay was terrific as a freshman in spurts, and will challenge Franks for carries. Plus, none of this will matter if the Bobcats don’t find a viable quarterback – likely Tyler Arndt or Duke LeLancellotti.
43) Cody Bauer, DE, Rice
Pottsboro’s own was a menace off the edge for the Owls, earning All-Texas College honors from us after 51 tackles, 15 TFL, 5.5 sacks, a forced fumble and an interception despite playing injured.
He Should Be Higher Because… We don’t really know what to expect from Bauer. He was terrific in 2012, missed 2011 with an injury, and played pretty well while playing hurt in 2010. He’s rehabbing an injury and will miss the spring, but anyone who’s seen him knows what a terror off the edge he can be when healthy (and even when not). He’s an X-factor, and a big year from him could make Rice a lurking threat.
He Should Be Lower Because… The Rice defense is loaded with returning talent. The Owls’ top eight tacklers – and nine of their top 10 –are back, so even if Bauer isn’t healthy, it’s not the end of the world for Rice. They’d obviously prefer to have an explosive talent like him back on the edge, but it’s not imperative.
42) Trevon Stewart, DB, Houston
Our first out-of-state product on the list, the Louisiana native was thrust into the spotlight as a freshman and responded well at the safety spot, finishing second on the team in tackles with 126 while picking off a pass and breaking up seven passes. He earned FWAA Freshman All-America honors.
He Should Be Higher Because… The passing defense is the biggest problem plaguing the Coogs – they finished 118th in the nation, giving up 290 yards per game through the air – and Stewart will be key in fixing that. He’s young, talented and a potential game-changer at the safety spot for Tony Levine.
He Should Be Lower Because… While Stewart will probably be the leader of the group, he’s a relatively known commodity. Guys like CBs Zach McMillian and Thomas Bates have a lot more pressure on them to respond with a strong year. Besides, even if Stewart gets hurt or struggles, the Coogs are unusually deep at safety.
41) Zach Orr, LB, North Texas
One of the most productive defenders in North Texas history, DeSoto’s own Zach Orr has led the Mean Green in tackles for the past two seasons, with 74 in 2011 and 108 in 2012.
He Should Be Higher Because… There is absolutely no doubt that Orr is the leader of the North Texas defense. He calls the plays, he commands respect and he is one of only a handful of seniors for the Mean Green defensively in 2013.
He Should Be Lower Because… The defense ain’t the problem. Sure, it wasn’t great by any stretch – 61st in scoring defense, 76th in total defense – but as I chronicled last week, the bigger issues for the Mean Green was on the offensive side. Zach Orr’s going to do what he does (which is tackle a lot of people), but what the offense does will go a lot farther toward determining how good UNT is in 2013.
Greg Tepper is the associate editor of Dave Campbell's Texas Football and TexasFootball.com.