The start of football season is still a few weeks away for colleges, and Texas A&M-Commerce head football coach Colby Carthel is already very optimistic heading into his second year.
Even though the Lions haven't played a game. Carthel has high hopes for his team and he expressed his opinions during a recent visit to Sulphur Springs.
Carthel along with Texas A&M-Commerce athletic director Ryan Ivey and other staff members visited the downtown area near the Hopkins County courthouse Saturday evening as part of their "Safari Tour." The group has visited Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Fort Worth, Frisco, Tyler among other locations with stops to come at Greenville and Commerce later this month.
"We will be picked back in the pack. We know that. But we don't let it bother us," Carthel said of the upcoming media predictions for the Lone Star Conference. "We like surprising people like we did last year." the coach added with a wry grin.
"We were 7-4 overall last year, 7-5 with the bowl game," Carthel said. "We weren't pick to do that, but we kept getting better. We had some younger players step up and play well for us when some players went down to injury."
Sulphur Springs native son Tyrik Rollison had a great year going with almost 1,600 yards. throwing 12 touchdown passes before the 6-2 quarterback went down with a broken ankle against Texas A&M-Kingsville.
"Tyrik was on his way to shattering all of our records before he got hurt," Carthel said. "He took part in some spring drills and was able to throw. Now he is back on two good legs and ready to lead the senior class this season."
Rollison, who led the Sulphur Springs Wildcats to a State Class 4A football title in 2008, is no stranger to the spotlight and Carthel plans to take advantage of his leadership.
"He (Rollison) has been doing well in the classroom," Carthel said, "On the football field, he's a poised and confident leader. He has the 'it' factor and the big arm to make plays. He is one of the reasons we are feeling good about our offense this year."
Carthel, the former offensive coordinator at West Texas A&M, helped propel that team to heights as they averaged 39 points a game going 69-20 before he left the program to take over at Commerce.
Keying the other side of the ball - the Lions defense - is All-American noseguard Charles Tuaau, a Hawaiian import, who causes damage at the line with 6-5, 325-pound frame.
"He is very talented," Carthel said. "He is ranked right now by NFL scouts. He plugs up the middle and it the best friend to the linebackers the way he stops the run. He has a great surrounding cast on defense. We have some younger players who go time on the field last year, they should be improved, they know what to expect."
Carthel said he signed 54 players this season, many from the East Texas area. He would like to get more players from Sulphur Springs. Along with Rollison, Shane McQueen and Brandon Bryant have recently been a part of the program."
At this time, Rollison is the only former Sulphur Springs player on the Lions football roster.
"We are working hard to get the best players. We'd love to see them stay close to home, like in Commerce," Carthel said. "We have a very good relationship with Sulphur Springs head football coach Greg Owens. He does a fine job with his program."
Carthel said, "When I was at West Texas A&M, we had two Sulphur Springs players, Johnny McSheffery and Jace Jackson. They were fine players and we'd like to have more Sulphur Springs athletes come to play for us in the future."
The Texas A&M-Commerce University football team will hold a free football camp Wednesday at Memorial Stadium.
Registration for the camp will be at 9 a.m., the camp will be held 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
"We will be teaching fundamentals of the game, we are hoping for a great turnout," said Colby Carthel, head football coach. "We had a camp last year and had a great response. This is just a way of giving back to the community."
The camp is open to students entering the third through eighth grades.
Coaches and current players will be on hand to give instruction in football skills.
Carthel said, "It's a lot of fun and it's free.”
We are looking forward to having a big group."
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