The Blitz: Which small college team is ready for a breakout season?

Courtesy of ACU, Texas Southern and HPU

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The teams at the top of the small college ranks typically receive most of the press. So it’s only natural that teams such as Mary Hardin-Baylor, Stephen F. Austin, Hardin-Simmons, and Angelo State receive the most attention during the preseason. 

But is there a team that could match the rise of Howard Payne? The Yellow Jackets were a combined 3-37 from 2015 through 2018. However, HPU began to turn around under Braxton Harris, who led the Yellow Jackets to a 5-5 record in 2019, the first season at or above .500 since 2006.

HPU continued to rise in 2021, with coach Jason Bachtel leading the team to a 7-3 record and its first winning season since 2005. 

Texas Southern is the team primed to make a giant leap this year. The Tigers were a combined 4-29 from 2017 through 2019. However, the rebuilding effort under coach Clarence McKinney saw TSU post a 3-8 record in 2021.

Why do I believe TSU is the team that could post its first winning season since 2010? The answer is sophomore quarterback Andrew Body. Body had a tremendous freshman campaign throwing for 2,017 yards with 11 touchdowns while completing over 58 percent of his pass attempts.

Add in the Corpus Christi Miller product’s ability to run, he led the Tigers in rushing with 642 yards and five touchdowns on 98 attempts last year and an entire offseason of workouts, and you have the recipe for success. 

This season, TSU may not be ready to challenge for the SWAC title, but six wins are not out of the question despite a tough non-conference schedule that includes trips to North Texas and UTSA.

Western Athletic Conference

  • SFA continues to be regarded as a threat for the national title in 2022, with naming the Lumberjacks as a team that could win its first national title this year.

  • Two Texas teams are ranked in the Athlon Sports’ Preseason FCS Top 25, with SFA beginning the season ranked No. 10 and UIW is No. 16.

  • The ‘Jacks continued to build its defensive line with the addition of Texas transfer Jordon Thomas.

  • Abilene Christian has rebuilt its roster this offseason and added OL Trent Pullen, who is transferring from Oklahoma State.

Southwestern Athletic Conference

American Southwest Conference

  • McMurry announced the signing of San Antonio Central Catholic DL Ethan Alvey, Krane OL Karson Thompson, Floresville OL Patrick Silva, San Antonio Antonian Prep QB Cooper Marshall, Dallas Skyline DB Lawson Key, and Justin Northwest DB Jackson Steormann to the War Hawks recruiting class.

  • Sweeny QB Trace Holmes announced his commitment to Mary Hardin-Baylor, where he told that he believes he will play slot receiver.

  • UMHB also added Shelbyville ATH Jakory Standley to its recruiting class.

Sooner Athletic Conference

  • Wayland Baptist named volleyball head coach Jim Giacomazzi its director of athletics. Giacomazzi will have dual roles and continue as volleyball head coach, a position he’s held for seven years.

  • San Angelo Central DB Kente Nichols signed to play for WBU.

Southwestern Junior College Football Conference

  • TCU DB Donavann Collins is transferring to Navarro.

  • Navarro OL Phillip Houston announced his commitment to Florida International University.

  • Trinity Valley TE Nathan Jones announced his commitment to Louisiana Tech.

  • Another Cardinal TE, Tyler Hatcher, committed to play at Louisiana-Lafayette.

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