The Lone Star 50: Nos. 20-11
The countdown of Texas college football's most important players continues.
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.
20) Duke DeLancellotti, QB, Texas State
The transfer from Santa Ana Community College in California spent his first year at Texas State largely on the bench, throwing just one pass – a 13-yard completion – in 2012, though he dud run for a touchdown.
He Should Be Higher Because… If he is who he says he is, he’s a game-changer for the Bobcats. Aside from being a member of the all-name team, DeLancellotti came to San Marcos with great expectations as he was one of the very best dual-threat QBs in the 2011 JUCO class. If he’s able to live up to his promise, all reports are that he’s got the goods to be a star for the Bobcats.
He Should Be Lower Because… He hasn’t even won the starting job yet. In fact, you could consider Tyler Arndt the favorite to be the Bobs’ starting QB – he was the backup to Rutherford last year, completing 22 of 56 passes for a touchdown and 3 INTs. And DeLancellotti is largely unproven – again, just one pass thrown last season – and hasn’t taken meaningful snaps in two years. His promise is great, but predicated on him winning the job.
19) Freddie Warner, CB, North Texas
The Dallas Pinkston product missed the entirety of 2012, tearing his ACL during spring practice, then tearing his ACL again while rehabbing it. Hopes were high after a pretty strong 2011 season, in which he finished with 18 tackles and a pass break-up in seven games (three starts).
He Should Be Higher Because… He’s the biggest X-factor for the North Texas secondary, which is the section of the defense in most needing improvement. The UNT secondary allowed a 63.3% completion percentage (98th best) and picked off just 11 passes on 420 attempts. Warner was a big-time recruit coming out of Dallas ISD a few years ago, and when healthy, he’s the kind of guy who can be a No. 1 cornerback.
He Should Be Lower Because… Well, his career may be over. While UNT coaches are optimistic that he can get back to playing form, there is no guarantee that he will ever see the field again. Beyond the injury, there’s also the matter of Warner’s arrest in December on theft charges, when he and RB Antoinne Jimmerson were allegedly caught putting clothing into backpacks and leaving without paying. Lots of moving parts for the Pinkston product.
18) Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor
The reason you didn’t see the former Midlothian star much last year is because he was backing up 4,300-yard passer Nick Florence for the Bears, though he did get into six games, going 7-for-10 for 97 yards and a score.
He Should Be Higher Because… He’ll be Baylor’s quarterback, and Art Briles is still the coach. I mean, have you seen what Baylor’s QBs have done in the last few years? Nick Florence was third in the nation in passing in 2012; Robert Griffin III won the Heisman in 2011; RGIII finished 6th in the nation in total offense in 2010. The precedent for greatness from the quarterback spot at Baylor is set.
He Should Be Lower Because… Well, we don’t know a whole lot about Bryce Petty. He’s thrown all of 10 passes in his college career (Florence, remember, had some experience from when Griffin went down in 2009), and while he was great at Midlothian, we just don’t know. Plus, with Lache Seastrunk in the backfield, he doesn’t necessarily have to be the star of the show for Baylor to succeed.
17) Cedric Ogbuhei, OT, Texas A&M
The Allen graduate was part of one of college football’s best offensive lines, holding down the right guard spot that helped A&M finish third in the nation in total offense.
He Should Be Higher Because… Does anyone have bigger shoes to fill than Ogbuhei? If the A&M offensive line shakes out like we think it will – right tackle Jake Matthews moving to left tackle to replace the early NFL Draft entry casualty Luke Joeckel, and Ogbuhei moving from right guard to right tackle – he’ll have a huge role to fill. The Aggies had the best tackles in the nation last year, and they’re a big reason why Johnny Manziel won the Heisman.
He Should Be Lower Because… While Ogbuhei will have a huge role, there are a lot of moving parts on the A&M front. From Matthews’ move across the line, to the new right guard (likely Kimo TIpoti), to the new center (likely Mike Matthews), four of the five spots on the offensive line will have a different player starting there in 2013. Ogbuhei’s a huge part of that, but hardly the only part of it.
16) Marcus Mallett, LB, TCU
One of the few Horned Frogs to stay relatively healthy in 2012, the sophomore from Cleveland, Texas racked up 18 tackles and 5 TFL from the linebacker spot.
He Should Be Higher Because… He’s the biggest X-factor player at the biggest X-factor unit of the Horned Frogs defense. The linebacker spot is a total mystery for the Horned Frogs, and the two spots will be (probably) filled with some combination of Mallet, Deryck Gildon, Paul Dawson and AJ Hilliard. If Mallet can win one of the spots outright, that bodes very well for the Frogs.
He Should Be Lower Because… It’s not about Mallet, but rather the entire position. It’s true that the TCU linebacker spot is the biggest mystery on the defense, but it may not be Mallet who takes one of the spots. Deryck Gildon and AJ Hilliard have excellent claims to them as well.
15) Triston Wade, S, UTSA
One of the stars of the Roadrunners’ defense, Wade – a John Tyler grad – finished third on the team with 65 tackles, co-led the team with 3 INTs and forced four fumbles en route to All-WAC honors.
He Should Be Higher Because… He’s the heartbeat of the UTSA defense, and the defense is the heartbeat of the team. Last year, plain and simple: when the defense played well, UTSA won. In their 6 wins, they allowed just 377.5 yards per game, compared to 479 yards per game in their four losses. Wade is the ballhawking, playmaking, gamebreaking defender in the Roadrunners’ secondary, and as he goes, so goes the team.
He Should Be Lower Because… If UTSA really wants to take the next step, it’ll have to come from somewhere other than its safeties. Last year, Wade and Nic Johnston combined to make 132 tackles, ranking third and second on the team. What’s that mean? It means that there were a lot of opportunities to make tackles for the safeties, meaning the front seven just wasn’t all that good. Improvement up front is more important than improvement from Wade. Besides, the offense should be there to bail out the defense, should it struggle.
14) Charles Sims, RB, Houston
The homegrown hero – a Houston Westbury product – had a strong junior season, leading the Coogs in rushing with 846 yards and 11 touchdowns, adding 37 catches for 373 yards and 3 scores despite playing just nine games due to injury.
He Should Be Higher Because… He is Houston’s best offensive weapon. And, really, it’s not even close. Sims is the bread and butter of the Houston offense, and in a state without an overflow of proven talent coming back at the running back spot, he’s one of the best in Texas. He doesn’t have the name recognition or the flash, but sort of like old DCTF favorite Zach Line at SMU, he just produces, period.
He Should Be Lower Because… This is still a pass-first offense. The last five years, here are Houston’s national ranks as far as pass attempts per game (from 2012 to 2008): 3rd, 2nd, 10th, 1st, 2nd. Sims is never going to get a ton of touches, even though he’s the best offensive player the Coogs have, and as a result, he may not get too many chances to break the game open.
13) Taylor McHargue, QB, Rice
An up-and-down year for the junior from Cedar Park ended on a high note as he helped to guide the Owls from 2-6 to a win in the Armed Forces Bowl, finishing the year with 2,209 yards and 12 TDs passing against 5 INTs.
He Should Be Higher Because… On a team that is lacking an offensive superstar, McHargue has a chance to be one. He wasn’t always great, but when he was on, he was darn good, and it changed the entire image of the Rice offense. In fact: in the 7 wins he started, he averaged 7.7 yards per attempt, and just 5.9 yards per attempt in the five losses. The quarterback spot is a make-or-break position for the Owls in 2013.
He Should Be Lower Because… Is McHargue even going to start? Maybe it’s recency bias, but Driphus Jackson looked awful good for the Owls in relief of McHargue when he went down with injury in the Armed Forces Bowl against Air Force, and with the added ability to run as well as throw, expect a dogfight for the starting role under center.
12) Michael Brewer, QB, Texas Tech
As the primary backup to Seth Doege, Brewer saw limited time but made the most of it, completing 34 of 48 passes for 375 yards and 4 TDs, an impressive start to the college career for the freshman out of Lake Travis.
He Should Be Higher Because… He’s Kliff Kingsbury’s quarterback. As if Texas Tech wasn’t enough of a passer’s paradise, now that the original Air Raider is back and running the show, expect even more of an emphasis on the quarterback. Brewer’s got the pedigree from Lake Travis to step in immediately and be a star, and with Kingsbury by his side, it’s not just a possibility.
He Should Be Lower Because… Offense isn’t the problem in Lubbock. The offense has lived up to its end of the bargain more often than not, but the defense has to step up and give Brewer games that are close enough to win. Beyond that, with a group of wide receivers that range from experienced (Eric Ward) to brand new (Dee Paul, perhaps), it’s not all on Brewer to make or break the Red Raiders.
11) Eddie Lackey, LB, Baylor
The transfer from Riverside CC in California immediately made his presence felt, playing in all 13 games and finishing second on the team with 104 tackles (10.5 TFL), sacking the QB twice, picking off four passes (including two returned for touchdowns), and forcing a fumble.
He Should Be Higher Because… He’s probably the most important player at the most important position for the Bears. Not only is he productive, but he’s part of a suddenly experienced linebacker corps of he and Bryce Hager. The defense was atrocious last year, and if it’s going to improve, it’ll start with Lackey, both from a production and leadership standpoint.
He Should Be Lower Because… Look, when you finish 123rd in the nation in total defense, giving up more than 500 yards per game, it’s hard to put it on one player to improve. The Baylor defense is ultimately going to tell the tale of the 2013 Bears, and it’ll be a team effort, not just the play of their best player in Lackey.
Greg Tepper is the associate editor of Dave Campbell's Texas Football and TexasFootball.com.