Second-year Texas College head football coach George Cumby compared this year’s Steers and last year’s team in terms of night-and-day.
After a nightmarish 0-11 season, Cumby considers the current version a ray of hope.
The Steers start the 2012 season on Saturday at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium against fourth-ranked St. Francis (Ind.).
Last week’s scrimmage, a 6-0 win over Houston Southeast Prep, injected confidence into the Steers. The program’s numbers doubled to near 100 for fall camp, the playmakers on offense increased, and the defensive depth improved.
Now the Steers want to put their improvement on display. In 11 losses last year, opponents outscored the Steers 456-60.
“Last year we were horrible with no (true) quarterback and we had to move defensive linemen to offense just to have a line,” Cumby said. “This year we’re already two deep on the offensive line. Plus we have three really good quarterbacks.”
The Steers sputtered without efficient quarterback play last year. The Steers now run a triple-option when it comes to the quarterback position.
Vincent McNeil, a former standout at Tyler Junior College, brings a dual-threat to the equation. Cumby witnessed McNeil’s exploits up close while an assistant at TJC, and wants to see the same player who earned second-team all-conference honors behind Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who went on to win the Heisman Trophy the next year at Auburn.
McNeil (6-3, 190, Jr., Dallas) accounted for more than 2,000 yards of offense and 24 touchdowns in his sophomore season at TJC.
“I want Vincent to be Vincent. I don’t want him to feel he has to stay in the pocket,” Cumby said. “There will be some times we’ll let him stand in the pocket, but we want him to take the flow of the game.”
McNeil expects to get running and passing lanes setting up behind the likes of Kevin Kelly, Scott McPherson and Brandon Wilson. Milton Harper and Cortez Griffin also figure into the mix at quarterback for the Steers.
The Steers return their four leading rushers from last year, in order: Charles Jackson (5-8, 185, Sr., Kilgore), Marquez Thompson ((5-8, 180, Sr., Tulsa, Okla.), Edward Burns (5-9, 205, Jr., Pemberton, N.J.) and Devin Lee (6-0, 190, Jr., Lufkin).
Johnny Thomas (6-4, 190, Sr., New Orleans) paces the wideouts. Thomas received a medical redshirt after an injury ended his season in the first game last year. The long-ball threat caught five TDs as a junior.
The Steers line up in multiple formations under the direction of offensive coordinator Phillip Pratt, with the ability to get into the shotgun and two-back sets.
“If we need to throw the ball we should be able to,” said Cumby, who has also coached at T.K. Gorman. “I want to establish the run and I believe our offense is capable.”
Any hopes of success likely hinges on an offense that averaged 5.5 points last year.
“We’re excited about what we believe our offense is going to do,” Cumby said. “Offense normally takes a little more time to gel. But I’m confident in what they’re going to accomplish. We should run the ball well and be a total team.”
Three all-conference players highlight the side of the ball slated to lead the Steers to greener pastures this fall.
The line boasts possibly the most depth, led by Henry Tapps (6-2, 210, Jr. Ed Waterpark, N.J). Tapps earned all-conference second-team honors last year after notching five sacks.
A pair of all-conference linebackers shore up the middle for the Steers: Dontay Livingston (6-1, 215, Sr., Dallas) and Richard Lee (6-1, 240, Sr., Oakland, Calif.). Livingston reaped all-conference honors for the third time last year (second team) while Lee made the first team as an offensive lineman before losing weight and switching sides of the ball.
The secondary contains key returnees in Devonte Morris (5-9, 170, So., Arlington) and Geoffrey Gilchrist (6-3, 180, Sr., Houston), along with promising newcomer Vincent Brown at safety.
The Steers base out of the 4-2-5 under the guidance of defensive coordinator Stephen Tomlinson, who rejoined the coaching staff after two previous stints. Tomlinson served on TC’s staff in 2003 when the Steers resurrected the football program after a 40-year absence.
“Coach Tomlinson is the key of the whole thing,” said Cumby, who enjoyed a lengthy NFL career playing linebacker with the Green Bay Packers. “He’s putting it together and plus he’s getting players to fit in that package.”
Tomlinson’s ball-hawking unit preys on takeaways, forcing three in a four-play span versus Southeast Prep.
“The mindset of the defense has changed and they’re real aggressive,” Cumby said. “We just want to get our offense time enough on the field. I’m excited about watching the defense this year.”
Houston Creighton (5-7, 160, Jr., Dickerson) comes back to handle the kicking duties after hitting on six of nine field goals last year while averaging 27.7 points per game.
The Steers get an early gauge of how far they came during the offseason, starting with highly-ranked St. Francis. The Steers take on a pair of Division IIs and two more Division IIIs in addition to Central States Football League action.
The new-look CSFL comprises TC with Oklahoma schools Bacone, Langston and Oklahoma Panhandle State, along with Southwestern Assemblies of God and Wayland Baptist.
“I think we are ready for this season,” Cumby said. “We’ve been waiting ever since the spring just to get to this point. Once we get everybody through the system as far as eligibility we’re going to be good. By far we’re much better than last year.”
As a benchmark, Cumby set a goal, something the Steers last achieved in 2004.
“Everybody wants to go undefeated, like we do,” Cumby said. “We want to at least have seven wins under our belt.”
Texas College 2012 Football Schedule
Date Opponent Time Series ‘11Record ‘11Result
Aug. 25 St. Francis (Ind.) Noon 0-0 9-3 DNP
Sept. 1 #at Incarnate Word 7 p.m. 0-0 2-8 DNP
Sept. 8 #Southern Arkansas TBA 0-0 3-7 DNP
Sept. 15 $at Hardin-Simmons 1 p.m. 0-0 6-4 DNP
Sept. 29 *Wayland Baptist 2 p.m. 0-0 DNP DNP
Oct. 6 *Okla. Panhandle State 2 p.m. 1-4 3-7 0-30
Oct. 13 *at Langston 2 p.m. 15-23-1 7-3 14-29
Oct. 20 *Bacone 2 p.m. 3-6 5-6 0-45
Oct. 27 Concordia (Ala.) 2 p.m. 3-3 6-4 3-33
Nov. 3 $at McMurry 2 p.m. 0-1 9-3 DNP
Nov. 11 *at SW Assemblies 2 p.m. 4-2 4-6 20-31
#-NCAA Division II
$-NCAA Division III
*-Central States Football League game