Stephen F. Austin Football

Three things to look for in SFA's season opener

August 29, 2019

The 93rd season of SFA Football is peaking over the horizon. The Colby-Carthel led SFA Lumberjacks will open their highly anticipated 2019 campaign this weekend against the Baylor Bears.  

Carthel is entering his first season as the lead man for the SFA Football program. Carthel built his college football résumé by turning the Texas A&M Commerce Lions into a national powerhouse. During his six-year stint at A&M Commerce, Carthel posted a 59-18 overall record (.766 percent), 36-8 Lone Star Conference record (.818 percent) and helped the Lions secure their first-ever NCAA Division II Football National Championship during the 2017 season.  

The Lumberjacks survived their grueling 20-day training camp practice sessions in preparation for the upcoming season, now they’ll look to live up to the hype that’s been swirling around the program since Carthel was hired on Dec. 4, 2018. SFA posted a disappointing 2-8 overall record last season and the addition of Carthel and the new coaching staff hopes to lead the Jacks to higher heights this season.  

The Lumberjacks will face off against a Baylor team that’s looking to climb their way back into top contention in the Big 12 and in the nation. The Bears posted a 7-6 overall record and a 4-5 Big 12 record last season. Despite them barley being over the .500 mark, the Bears were invited to the Texas Bowl and defeated Vanderbilt 45-38.  

SFA is 0-4 in their all-time series against the Baylor Bears and have failed to score any points in all four previous meetings. This is the fourth consecutive season SFA has played an FBS opponent for their season opener. It’s unclear how the Lumberjacks will fair against the Baylor Bears since it’s the first game of the season, but here’s three major things to look for during SFA’s season opener.  

Young Player Development  

The SFA Lumberjacks did work during the recruitment period. They owned the third-best recruiting class among all FCS intuitions and the top recruiting class in the Southland Conference according to 247Sports. Additionally, SFA’s 2019 recruiting class ranked ahead of some FBS programs and numerous FCS powerhouse programs. As a result of their highly touted class, the Lumberjacks added 30 new players to the squad.  

SFA returned 41 total letter winners and 18 starters from last year’s team. However, this year’s team will be dominated by many of the new recruits that came in during the summer. Players like Trae Self, quarterback, Carl Williams, defensive tackle, Myles Brooks, cornerback, Zach Ingram, offensive lineman, Da’ Leon Ward, running back and many more players will have their chances to prove their worth during the season opener.  

The devastating and unfortunate back injury to Jake Blumrick, quarterback, opened the door for Self, Butler Community College transfer, to step in and take the helm as the starting quarterback. He displayed his talent and unique abilities all through training camp and since he’s had vast experience and success at the junior college level, he’s primed to help lead the SFA offense in the right direction. Also, the SFA defensive unit has a vast number of new players at every position and the top-ranked recruits like Williams, Brooks and others will be called upon to make plays at every turn. It takes time for young players to develop, especially when they’re thrusted into a situation they’ve been in before, but training camp helped the freshman and other new signees get fully introduced to the program and this game will be an early example to how far they’ve came in a short amount of time.  

SFA Coaching Staff Decisions  

Carthel and his new coaching staff are championship pedigree. Most of the coaches on the current SFA staff were with Carthel during his championship run at Texas A&M Commerce. The biggest hire besides Carthel was the addition of Matt Storm, offensive coordinator and Scott Power, defensive coordinator. Both of these coaches had a huge impact in the success at A&M Commerce and their undeniable football knowledge will be a great asset to this year’s team.  

During training camp, the coaching staff implemented and introduced new schemes, new sets and a new life to players on both sides of the ball. Coaching decisions have a grave impact on the outcome of any game, and for the Lumberjacks to be successful the coaching staff will have to make the right decisions at the right moment. Carthel has a support group around him that he’s used to and helped him win a national title and if the staff can build on what they taught the team throughout camp the Lumberjacks will see improvement on the field in a heartbeat.  

Veteran Player Leadership  

Along with their slew of young players the Lumberjacks have their fair share of veteran players who’ve been through the ringer. Tamrick Pace, wide receiver, Quin Jones, linebacker, Aretavious Hendrix, cornerback and other players have earned to the right to lead the team in every possible way. Veteran Leadership is vital to any team because it give the young players more confidence to know the older players have their back and they can depend on them to get them through any tough situation that may arise on the field.  

Throughout the Jacks’ season opener, it’ll be interesting to see how the older players mesh in with the younger players in live action and how they respond to each other if things don’t break their way. The veteran players on this team are well respected and built a rapport with the young guys during training camp.  

Overall, this game will be a learning experience for the Lumberjacks as they try and climb out of the dark hole they’ve been in the past couple of years. If they can play the game to the highest level and give their all for 60 minutes, the results will be something they can use to build on and improve as the season progresses.  

Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31, at McLane Stadium in Waco. The game will also be streamed live on ESPN+.  

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