By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (July 16, 2015) — Cary Fowler has lost a lot of sleep through the years worrying about football.
Since being promoted to his first head coaching job at Tarleton State in 2010, much of that sleep loss comes while concerned about offensive and defensive lines.
This offseason, however, he’s slept like a baby.
“If you got trouble up front you can’t sleep right cause you know that’s where games are won and lost,” said Fowler, who is gearing up for his sixth season leading the Texans. “I’ve been sleeping great lately.”
That’s because the five projected starters along the offensive line have already proven themselves in Lone Star Conference battles. So much so that they have more than 100 starts between them.
“Every single one of those guys has beaten every team in our league at home and and away at some point during their careers,” said Fowler. “If you add it up guy by guy, there’s like 110 or 115 starts up there.”
Guard Nic Perez is a preseason All-America whose name comes up in 2016 NFL Draft talks, and like Kody Travis at tackle beside him, is a product of Stephenville High School.
“You’d have to go back to high school to figure out how many games those two have played together,” Fowler said. “They move like one out there, it’s just what you want. They have a cohesiveness that you can’t coach.”
The familiar names continue as you move across the projected starting line. Robert Hinton is back at center, and while not from Stephenville, he does have local family ties. The other guard is Latham Johnson from Aledo, and the other tackle is Spencer Harvey, who has filled in at various spots throughout the years, most effectively for Lucas Love when the All-American tackle was injured.
“These guys have played a lot, and more importantly they’ve played a lot together,” says Fowler. “I can’t think of anything I’d rather have back than five guys who have played together up front because they make everyone else around them more successful.”
And there is plenty around them with nine starters – four linemen and five skill players – returning to an offense that averaged 522.8 yards and 43.7 points per game. In just 10 games, Tarleton amassed 5,228 total yards of offense, third most in a single season in school history, and 437 points, second most by any Tarleton team.
“We don’t just have guys back up front, we have guys back with experience playing in one of the best offenses in school history,” said Fowler. “We have guys back all over the place, but it’s those guys up front that make me feel like we could be even better on that side of the ball.”
That’s good, because for all of its offensive success, Tarleton was just 5-5 last season, finishing third in the inaugural LSC playoff. Tarleton is picked fifth in the LSC this year by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Magazine. The league’s official preseason poll will be released during a virtual media day on July 28.
“I’m not worried about where we are in any of those polls, and I don’t think any of our players are, either,” said Fowler. “I don’t think anybody has really looked hard at everything we have coming back. We’ll be young in some areas, but we’ll be very experienced in a lot of areas, too.”
Especially on the offensive line.
“That’s where it’s at. There are a lot of reasons to be excited about our football team, but that’s the biggest one,” he said. “Like I told you, I can sleep pretty well knowing we have those guys back together.”