By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (September 13, 2017) — Tarleton State head coach Todd Whitten says he won’t base any long term personnel decisions on just one good half of football.
“I didn’t feel like we really answered anything affirmatively,” said Whitten, after the Texans finished on a 41-6 run in a 48-20 win over Oklahoma Panhandle State. “We had 13 penalties, we turned the ball over and Panhandle got after us offensively, especially in the first half. I don’t have any notion that anything is figured out.”
Whitten did say Zed Woerner will get his first start of the season at quarterback when Tarleton (1-1) opens Lone Star Conference play at Angelo State (2-0) Saturday. Kickoff at San Angelo Stadium is set for 6 p.m.
“Zed played well, he got us into the end zone when he was in there, and he’s going to start Saturday, but I still believe we have two good quarterbacks,” said Whitten. “I think we are getting better there and better as a team. I think we got better from week one to week two and I think we are getting better this week, which is what we have to continue to do.”
Woerner was 7-9 for 143 yards and three touchdowns. He was the only quarterback to take a significant snap in the second half after alternating series with Derek Kiser in the first half. Kiser started the game and tossed an interception while going 2-4 passing for negative 6 yards.
Woerner quarterbacked seven total possessions resulting in five touchdowns, a punt and a kneel down to end the first half. Kiser’s first half possessions resulted in two turnovers – a fumble and an interception – and two punts.
Running back Adam Berryman lost a fumble early on, but bounced back to average 13 yards per carry. He scored on runs of 15 and 44 yards, rushing 11 times for 143. Daniel McCants (7-46) and Xavier Turner (3-8) are the other primary options out of the backfield.
“Right now we feel like we need to roll with all three of them to reach our goals, then when it comes down to crunch time ,that’s when we’ll be sure to give it to whoever has the hot hand,” Whitten explained. “After week four or five, when we have a good bit of data to go by, at that point we may let one of those guys see noticeably more action than the others.”
The Texans have done some personnel shuffling on the defensive side, too.
Sophomore Taylor Massey spent his true freshman season as one of the team’s leading return specialists, and also contributed at wide receiver after Jeff Thomas suffered a knee injury.
But last week, Massey moved to defense and made three tackles in his first start at free safety.
“He’s a really good athlete, one of our great young players,” Whitten said. “We have two seniors and a junior starting at wide out, so we asked him to move over to defense because we’re just trying to find spots to get all our best athletes involved.”
Del’Michael High is one of those athletes. The leading returning receiver in the LSC entering this season, High had his duties expanded last week and averaged 21 yards on three punt returns. He took one across midfield before scoring on a 46-yard play-action pass from Woerner in the second quarter, and returned one to the Tarleton 41 before Berryman rushed for 15 yards and 44 for a two-play scoring drive in the third.
With High handling punt return duties, McCants, who lost a muffed punt to set up a Delta State TD the week prior, focused on returning kickoffs. The move payed big dividends when McCants raced by everyone for a 89-yard TD that finished off a dominant second half by the Texans.
Dominant against Panhandle, yes.
But enough to make Whitten feel good about his team? Not so fast, he says.
“We have a lot of new parts, and we’ve still got to get everybody in the right positions, so we’re still rolling with all that” Whitten said. “A lot of guys are going to play, and as far as having anything really set long term, we’re still a ways off yet.”