Just like that, the entire landscape of the Lone Star Conference 2021 Fall football season took a dramatic turn.
Texas A&M-Commerce confirmed starting quarterback Miklo Smalls suffered a knee injury during spring practice and may be able to return to the field later in the season depending on a successful rehab.
The Lions open the 2021 season on Thursday with a road game against regional powerhouse Colorado State-Pueblo.
This news is a tough blow for the Lions who are the favorites to win the Lone Star Conference and have expectations of another deep playoff run with hopes of another appearance in the national title game in McKinney in December.
The Lions chose to not play in either the fall or spring in 2020 with a focus on the 2021 season. Texas A&M-Commerce conducted multiple spring practices but their spring game was canceled due to CoVID-19 protocols.
Smalls, a redshirt junior from Plano, Texas, was a key member of the Lions 2019 team that finished 11-3 overall and advanced to the NCAA Division II regional final. The dual-threat quarterback completed 65 percent of his passes for 3,010 yards and 23 touchdowns while adding 488 yards and three touchdowns in his only season with the Lions.
The Lions will likely turn to redshirt sophomore Jai’ave Magalei to lead the offense in 2021. Magalei transferred to Commerce from Louisiana, where he played for the Ragin’ Cajuns in 2019.
Another dual-threat signal-caller, Magalei missed the 2018 season due to injury and saw limited playing time in 2019 and 2020.
The 6-foot-3, 234-pound quarterback completed 63.6 percent of his passes while leading Mt. San Antonio College to a 9-2 overall record in 2017.
Magalei is in a battle with freshman Eric Rodriguez from Fort Bend Travis High School for the starting nod.
Regardless of who starts at quarterback for TAMUC, coach David Bailiff is confident in his offense.
"We have enough talent around the quarterback, so all we need from the quarterback is to just manage the game, take care of the ball,” Bailiff told lionathletics.com. He doesn't need to win the game for us, just use the talent around him.”
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