By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (August 22, 2015) — Tarleton State’s all-time leading receiver says a former teammate of his is the best wide receiver he’s seen in Division II football.
Bubba Tandy, a junior and former Kentucky High School Player of the Year, backed up the claim by Clifton Rhodes III during an intersquad scrimmage the Texans held Saturday evening at Memorial Stadium.
Tandy separated from a defender with nifty footwork while cutting into a flag route before hauling in an over-the-shoulder touchdown catch on the opening drive by the first-team offense, and when they got the ball back junior quarterback Zed Woerner found him again, this time straight up the seam over the right hashmark for a second score.
Rhodes, who completed his esteemed career last season and returned to campus Saturday to check out his old team, had high praise for Tandy and also for the combination of Tandy and Le’Nard Meyers, two of five Tarleton players named to the USA Football Preseason All-America Team.
“It’s not how many Division II cornerbacks can cover him on an island, it’s how many cornerbacks anywhere can cover him on an island,” said Rhodes of Tandy, who he played alongside last season – Tandy’s first at Tarleton as a transfer from Kentucky – when the Texans finished third in the Lone Star Conference. “He’s got the size and the speed, and just the way he gets in and out of routes, he separates with the best of them, and he can catch anything you throw around him.”
Tandy, actually a preseason All-American as a return specialist, downplayed his own performance following the scrimmage, talking instead about the offense as a whole, especially the entire receiving core.
“It starts with the offensive line, and those guys are the backbone of our offense. Then we have good running backs and a quarterback who knows how to deliver the ball,” said Tandy, one of nine starters returning to an offense that in 2014 was fourth nationally with 522.8 yards per game and eighth nationally at 43.7 points per contest. “Then, it’s not just us (pointing to Meyers), but our receivers as a whole. You have to account for all of us.”
Indeed. Stephenville product Alex Sanchez and Cason Fornes lined up across the field from Tandy and Meyers in four receiver sets, and also must be respected. Cooper Cole scored on a long catch-and-run from Derek Kiser for the No. 2 offense.
“We have great receivers all the way to our third team,” Tandy said.
Meyers, a senior from Gatesville, knows from three years of playing with Rhodes what it’s like to share the turf with another dangerous wide out. He’s glad his final season at Tarleton will be spent alongside Tandy.
“We know that defenses have to have a strategy for us, but we also know they better account for everyone because we have great players everywhere,” said Meyers. “Playing with Bubba means one of us is going to get a lot of action in any game, or some of the other receivers are going to get a lot of chances.”
Growing up in Kentucky, Cary Fowler was friends with Tandy’s father. Fowler, 27-25 over his first five seasons as head coach at Tarleton, says he has waited a long time to see the star receiver healthy.
“This was the first offseason and this has been the first preseason for Bubba to be healthy,” said Fowlwer. “You can’t watch him play and tell me he’s not going to be a star in this league. And he might be a better punt returner than he is a receiver.”
Joseph Sadler from Devine, a transfer from Division I-FCS Incarnate Word, broke loose and rushed for a long score, but other than that and the two big plays to Tandy, the first-team defense stood its ground.
“I thought we looked really good defensively. We couldn’t stop Bubba Tandy, but I don’t think anybody is going to shut down that guy,” said Fowler, who assumed defensive coordinator duties himself following the resignation of Henry Cofer, now the head coach at Dallas Kimball High School. “But you take him away and our defense was strong. And we still have a lot of packages to put in, and guys who are getting healthy. We had five starters that I held out tonight.”
That includes linebacker Cody Marley, who transferred to Tarleton last year from Kansas State only to suffer a season-ending knee injury in the first quarter of the second game. He was suited out Saturday but did not play.
“Marley is good to go. It just wasn’t worth risking him out here in a scrimmage,” Fowler said. “We’ll get him some reps and get him going again next week.”
Redshirt freshman E.J. Speed is a player Fowler has praised since recruiting him as an athlete. Now a defensive end, Speed, 6-4, 225, is close to returning after having surgery in the spring to repair a fracture of the outside bone of his left foot.
Speed says he could return in as little as a week, but Fowler warns it could take longer.
“I am expecting him to play against WT (West Texas A&M on Sept. 19), but he could maybe get back sooner,” Fowler said.
Jamarquis Durst had an interception for the second-team defense, and linebacker Basil Jackson laid the biggest hit on the final play of the scrimmage, taking the helmet off a receiver and drawing a rowdy ovation from approximately 300 fans on hand.
“I think we’re looking good,” said Meyers. “We’re getting better every day, and I think we’ll have a great season.”
“We have a lot of work to do, but I think we are really coming together as a team and we know we can be great,” Tandy said. “I believe we can push all the way into December.”
TheFlashToday.com photos by RUSSELL HUFFMAN