STEPHENVILLE – One of the largest news publications that covers the FCS regularly took important note of the incoming 2023 Tarleton Texan football team, placing 12 on the United Athletic Conference Preseason All-Conference list with two dubbed FCS Preseason All-Americans.
Phil Steele announced the preseason all-conference honorees for every FCS conference and selected the best of the best among those conferences to form the All-American team.
Tarleton wide receivers Darius Cooper and Jaden Smith were both honored on the FCS Preseason All-American Teams, with Cooper making Third Team and Smith making Fourth Team.
Both Cooper and Smith were two of 12 total Texans honored on the UAC Preseason All-Conference list. Cooper and Smith made First Team, along with linebacker Qua’Shawn Washington and defensive back Jalen Carr. On the UAC Preseason All-Conference Second Team were running back Derrel Kelley III, running back Kayvon Britten and linebacker D.J. Harris. On the UAC Preseason All-Conference Third Team were offensive lineman Layton Ernst and defensive back Patrick Jones. Finally, on the UAC Preseason All-Conference Fourth Team were defensive lineman Josh Griffis, linebacker Kyle Taylor and defensive back Ely Doyle.
Cooper and Smith combined for 1,885 receiving yards on 102 receptions and 19 touchdowns last season. Cooper earned All-WAC First Team recognition (54 receptions, 1,063 yards, nine TD), finishing third in the Western Athletic Conference in receiving yards (ninth in FCS), third in receiving TD (tied-21st in FCS), and fourth in receptions. Smith made Second Team All-WAC, finishing with 48 receptions, 822 yards and 10 touchdowns. Across the conference, he had the second most receiving TD’s (tied-14th in FCS), the fourth most receiving yards and the fifth most receptions.
Washington made Second Team All-WAC last year after leading the team in total tackles with 75 (37 solo). He also had a team-high 13.5 tackles for loss, leading the WAC in average tackles per loss (1.5, tied-11th in FCS) and tackles per game (8.2). Carr played in nine games, recording seven pass breakups, 26 tackles (17 solo), two sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss.
Kelley made Second Team All-WAC after a breakout season, reaching the 1,000-yard milestone at 155 carries for 1,004 yards and eight touchdowns. Across the WAC, he had the tied-most rushing touchdowns and the second most rushing yards (25th in FCS), plus the most yards per rush at 6.5, the 17th best average in the country. Harris recorded 68 total tackles (35 solo), 5.5 TFL, a sack and two quarterback hurries, posting the second most tackles per game on the team (6.8) and the eighth most in the WAC. Britten is new to the Texans after earning First Team All-SWAC honors last year with Arkansas-Pine Bluff. He eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark, rushing for 1,063 yards on 199 carries (5.3 yards per rush, 96.6 yards per game) and 16 touchdowns in 11 games. Britten led the team in all major rushing categories, and had 16 of the team’s 22 rushing TD. His 16 TD led the SWAC.
Ernst was Second Team All-WAC last year, starting all 11 games. He helped the offense gain 436.8 yards per game, Tarleton’s best average since 2019, the most in the WAC and the 21st most across the FCS. Jones played linebacker last year and did a bit of everything, finishing Second Team All-WAC. He posted 65 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, two interceptions, a fumble recovery, a forced fumble, two pass breakups and four quarterback hurries. He led the team in sacks, had the tied-second most tackles for loss and the third most total tackles, plus had the tied-fourth most interceptions in the WAC.
Taylor played in all 11 games last year, finishing with 48 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, a fumble recovery and two quarterback hurries. He had the fourth most tackles on the team. Griffis is new in Stephenville, last playing at Jackson State, originally starting at Florida State. Doyle is also new to the Texans from Eastern Washington. He also spent time with Arizona State.
The Texans begin fall camp on Tuesday with their first practice. They’ll kick off the season at McNeese on Sept. 2 at 7 p.m. CT in Lake Charles, Louisiana.