By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (October 6, 2016) — Coaches look for production and fans remember entertaining circus catches, particularly those that count for touchdowns.
Del’Michael High has provided both in his brief time at Tarleton State.
A 6-2, 205-pound junior receiver who transferred from Navarro College, High has spent his first five games with the Texans hauling in 19 receptions for 356 yards and four touchdowns, led by his best performance of six catches for 188 yards and two scores in a 48-20 win over Texas-Permian Basin on family weekend at Memorial Stadium last Saturday.
Tarleton (2-3, 2-1) and High expect a tougher test this Saturday when Western New Mexico (2-3, 2-2) visits for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
High hasn’t just provided numbers, he’s wowed the eye with a leaping catch over a defender for a touchdown in the home opener against Southwest Baptist, and with a stretching catch that included tapping one toe down in-bounds in the end zone at West Texas A&M two weeks ago.
“I think the one at WT was the best,” said High, who as usual, was smiling as he recalled each catch. I think that one was better because I also had to have body control to stay in bounds, and I did get one foot down. Not two, but I did get one. The earlier one (against Southwest Baptist), I just had to go up and get it.”
Whether it’s stretching out and staying inside the chalk on the sideline or out-leaping a defensive back to haul in a big catch, High is confident he can deliver against any man coverage.
“If I’m one-on-one I like my chances,” he said. “I’m always confident, I always believe I can make the big play.”
Like when he split the safeties then adjusted his rout for the first of two TD catches against UTPB.
“When I split the safeties, I could see the one coming over so I knew I had to get deeper and not keep running across,” said High, who held up one hand calling for the deep ball as he broke open on the opening possession of the game last Saturday. “He found me and it worked.”
He is Zed Woerner, who won the starting job at quarterback after alternating snaps throughout preseason camp and through the season opener at Division I FCS McNeese State (La.).
Woerner is coming off a career-best four touchdown passes against UTPB, and for the season has completed 62.4 percent for 1,078 yards and 12 scores with just one interception.
“I think he’s more confident back there each week because that’s another week we’ve all done it as a group,” said High of Woerner and the receivers. “We tell him after every play make sure we are on the same page, and he’s getting more relaxed and trusting us more. You can see that he knows where to throw it and that we’ll be able to get beck there to catch it.”
High is actually the second-leading target for Woerner, with senior Bubba Tandy having caught 22 passes for 381 yards and five TDs. Jeff Thomas is tied with High with 19 receptions, and has 245 yards and a score.
“Bubba is always going to open it up for everybody because they know about him from previous years. If they want to double me they have to worry about the other two or three so that isn’t really an option,” High said. “It’s hard to cover all of us.”
While High took notice of some of the surprise results in the LSC last weekend – Angelo State tripped up Texas A&M-Kingsville, 22-21, and Eastern New Mexico stunned West Texas A&M, 39-30 – he said nothing shocks him any more.
“That’s just college football. Some teams come in and people never thought they would be good and they turn out to be one of the best teams,” he said. “It’s about who wants it the most and plays the hardest.”
Tarleton is trying to prove it is just such a team after being picked seventh in the Lone Star Conference preseason poll. While powers Midwestern State and Texas A&M-Commerce still stand at the end of the schedule, the Texans have an opportunity the next four weeks – following WNMU they visit Eastern New Mexico, welcome Texas A&M-Kingsville for homecoming then travel to Oklahoma Panhandle State – to, at the very least, prove they are right back in the top half of the LSC in their first season since the return of head coach Todd Whitten.
“We just have to keep working as a team and building every week,” High said. “If we do that everything will fall into place.”