When he was hired as the 20th head coach in the history of the Stephen F. Austin football program last December, Colby Carthel was only the ‘new kid on the block’ in terms of being new to Nacogdoches and its university.
He definitely wasn’t new to a rebuilding situation such as SFA was going through.
Faced with the task of taking over a program that had gone through two head coaches in the previous six months, he saw similarities to his past coaching position at Texas A&M-Commerce. And, because of that he knew he had two choices: Create a quick fix or build a foundation that, when completed, would likely lead to a sustainable, yet successful, future.
He chose the latter.
“This was a program that needed a breath of fresh air,” Carthel said during during training camp. “We get great support from the town and university and I think we’ve got the right pieces in place from an administrative standpoint. It’s going to be a tough rebuild, just like it was in Commerce, but we’ll take it one day at a time and one step at a time.”
Evidently that’s not such a bad road to take since he stayed at Texas A&M-Commerce for six seasons, posting an overall record of 59-18 (.766) and a Lone Star Conference mark of 36-8 (.818), including three straight league titles, four straight NCAA playoff berths, finishing up his tenure with the NCAA Division II National Championship in 2017.
And, after taking the SFA job, he and his coaching staff constructed the third-best recruiting class in FCS this past spring.
“You can either go for the quick fix, or the long haul championship route,” Carthel said. “You can only sign 30 kids a year and we could have gone out and signed 30 college transfers and been as talented as anyone in the country next year.
“But the way we went, there will be a lot more freshmen on the field — which usually equals a few more checks in the loss column — but we’ll be solid and sustainable in the long-term future.”
Carthel will be the first to admit the wins could be very far between this season, and a severe off-season injury to returning starting quarterback senior Jake Blumrick (Sr./Pearland), and training camp season-ending injuries to All-American senior safety Alize Ward (Sr./Desoto (Calif.)) and talented freshman running back Jaquarion Turner (South Garland), will make the 2019 season even longer and make the rebuild a little rougher.
“I don’t have a number of how many games we’ll win, and we might not win a single game, but I think we are going to find and have success this season, and I think that’s going to be defined by putting a product on the field that represents this university, town and region that they’re proud of and work hard.”
Here’s a breakdown of the 2019 Lumberjacks:
At quarterback, with returning starting quarterback Jeff Blumrick having multiple back operations in the off-season and being ruled out for the upcoming season, Carthel will field a starting quarterback this fall that has yet to take a snap in a regular season game for the team.
“Trae Self (Jr. transfer/Butler C.C. and Richland Hill HS) had a great camp and is the front runner in that regard,” the coach said. “He’s very athletic and can move well in the pocket. And the offensive line is in a rebuild so it’s helpful to have a quarterback who is mobile.”
Carthel said Cam Arnold (RS-Fr./Cy-Fair) and Preston Weeks (RS-Fr./Rowlett and transfer from Baylor) have also looked well. He said the ‘Jacks will use multiple quarterbacks during the season and all will likely see action.
Returning leading rusher Josh McGowan (Jr./McAllen), who ran for 372 yards and a TD last season, has been injured in training camp but is expected to return. Turner was predicted to be a big contributor before his season-ending knee injury, but look for returner Jamall Shaw (Sr./Broken Bow (Okla.)) will see time along with other young runners on the roster.
Look for Tamrick Pace (Sr./Brownsboro) to lead the talented group of receivers and help open up the offense. Carthel calls Pace a “bonifide NFL prospect” and is an incredible leader. He pulled in 42 passes for 623 yards and seven touchdowns last season and is a Preseason Southland Conference Second-Team Offense player and is the ‘Jacks’ leading threat.
Also look for Remi Simmons (Jr./Chicago, Ill.) to pile up the numbers after pulling in 59 passes for 568 yards and a score in 2018.
“Calvin Clater (So./transfer from Bowling Green) is having a great fall camp,” the coach said. “He was a transfer last year and is coming into his own now in the outside (receiver) position.”
Carthel said Josh Weeks (Grad. student/UTEP) has been performing well in camp, along with Allen Arclies III (Jr./ Abbeville) are the two leaders at tight end.
A big question mark this year is the SFA O-line, but five returning lettermen will give it solidity to build the nucleus around.
Chett Munden (Sr./Marshall/transfer from North Texas), a 6-5, 305 lbs., returns at left tackle, along with left guard A.J. Brown (Sr./Arlington Martin), at 6-2, 316, Collin LaGarde (Sr./Iowa C.C.), who stands 6-3, 317 lbs. at right guard, right tackle Jeff Rose (RS-Fr./Cypress Ranch) who is. 6-4, 287) and center Hayden Young (So./6-4, 297) from Klein Oak gives SFA a place to start as they build that area of the team.
Ward injured his knee in a non-contact accident early on in training camp and is lost for the year. That will leave the defensive leadership in the hands of the likes of linebacker Quin Jones this season in the defense that will be based out of the 4-2-5, with some odd-front formations.
“I think our inside linebackers are players that handle the defense the way it should be,” Carthel said. “When you draw up what you want for a middle linebacker you get a guy like Quin Jones. That is the strongest aspect of our defense.”
Obviously the loss of Ward will be tough to overcome in the defensive backfield, but Carthel said the team has a number athletic young players that will come in look to improve as the season goes on.
True feshman Carl Williams of Lufkin will be expected to step in and get a lot of snaps on the defensive line. He’ll be joined by Amad Muerray (RS-Fr./Huntsville) at defensive end, Daniel Brewer (Sr./Arkansas Baptist) at defensive end, along with tackles Rayshad Nichols (Jr./Higgins), Taaj Bakari (Sr./Oklahoma State), Larron Cox (Jr./Everman) and Gary Sampson (Sr./Northlake Christian).
“That’s another position we feel good about the depth we have,” Carthel stated. “But getting production out of those guys will maybe take some of the pressure off the back end, where we’re a little younger.”
A Preseason First-Team All-Southland Conference player, Storm Ruiz (senior/Clear Springs) will give a chance for the Lumberjacks to score points this fall after hitting 9-of-12 field goals a year ago and all 22 extra point attempts.
2018 Southland Conference Final Standings
1. Nicholls — 7-2 (9-4)
1. Incarnate Word — 6-2 (6-5)
3. Lamar — 6-3 (7-5)
4. Abilene Christian — 5-4 (6-5)
4. Central Arkansas — 5-4 (6-5)
4. McNeese — 5-4 (6-5)
4. Sam Houston State — 5-4 (6-5)
8. Northwestern State — 4-5 (5-6)
8. Southeastern La. — 4-5 (4-7)
10. Stephen F. Austin — 2-7 (2-8)
11. Houston Baptist — 0-9 (1-10)
John Krueger’s 2019 Predicted finish
2. Central Arkansas
3. Sam Houston State
4. Incarnate Word
6. Southeastern La.
8. Stephen F. Austin
9. Abilene Christian
10. Northwestern State
11. Houston Baptist
2019 STEPHEN F. AUSTIN SCHEDULE
Aug. 31 Baylor Away 6 p.m. Waco, Texas / McClane Stadium
Sept. 7 Tarleton State Home 6 p.m. Nacogdoches / Homer Bryce Stadium
Sept. 14 Southern Utah Away TBA Cedar City, Utah / Eccles Coliseum
Sept. 21 Nicholls Home 6 p.m. Nacogdoches / Homer Bryce Stadium
Sept. 28 Lamar Away 6 p.m. Beaumont / Provost Umphrey Stadium
Oct. 5 Sam Houston State& Away 3 p.m. Houston / NRG Stadium
Oct. 19 Abilene Christian Away 3 p.m. Abilene, Texas / Wildcat Stadium
Oct. 12 BYE WEEK
Oct. 26 McNeese# Home 3 p.m. Nacogdoches / Homer Bryce Stadium
Nov. 2 Southeastern La. Away 3 p.m. Hammond, La. / Strawberry Stadium
Nov. 9 Incarnate Word Home 3 p.m. Nacogdoches / Homer Bryce Stadium
Nov. 16 Central Arkansas Away 3 p.m. Conway, Ark. / Estes Stadium
Nov. 21 Northwestern State Away 6 p.m. Natchitoches, La. / Turrpin Stadium
— Southland Conference game
# — Homecoming
& — 94th Battle of the Piney Woods