Tarleton State Football announces coaching staff changes for 2024


STEPHENVILLE – Tarleton State Football made some coaching staff additions and changes ahead of the spring football season, which they announced on Friday.

The Texans have promoted Adam Austin to offensive coordinator, Scott Carey to co-offensive coordinator, hired Devante Sims as an assistant coach leading the cornerbacks, hired Stephen Lee as an assistant coach to lead the tight ends, hired PJ Hall as a defensive assistant, assigned assistant coach Michael Walton to lead the safeties, and promoted Dylan Wagner as the new director of recruiting and player development.

“These are all quality men who are great coaches and leaders, and I’m thrilled to give some of our deserving coaches a promotion and bring in more high-character people,” head coach Todd Whitten said. “Adam Austin and Scott Carey have been a huge part of what we’ve put together here. Our offensive scheme hasn’t changed over the years and won’t change in the future, we’ll still run our offense with the same values that these two men have been instrumental in forming. Coach Austin will be the play caller and Coach Carey will have a big influence in everything we do offensively next season.”

Austin has been elevated to offensive coordinator and will be the Texans’ offensive play caller in 2024. He has served as the quarterbacks coach, a role he will maintain, the last three seasons. This past season with Austin’s guidance, the Texans averaged 33.3 points per game, the second best average in the United Athletic Conference, 13th most in all of FCS. They also averaged 430.5 yards per game (second in the UAC, 14th in the FCS) with 6.4 yards per play (most in the UAC, 11th in the FCS). Over the past three seasons, Austin’s quarterbacks have consistently put up elite performances. Victor Gabalis ranked first in yards per completion in the conference, as well as fourth in overall passing efficiency last season. His best game was in Tarleton’s 59-17 romping of Stephen F. Austin, where he threw for 389 yards and four touchdowns on 15-of-19 passing. In Austin’s first two seasons at Tarleton, his quarterbacks produced seven 300-plus yard performances, including the most in the Western Athletic Conference in 2022 with five. Also that season, the Texans finished third in the WAC with 24 passing touchdowns, throwing for 2,883 yards across 11 games, averaging 262.1 passing yards per contest.

“I am incredibly thrilled and honored to have been elevated to Offensive Coordinator for THE Tarleton State University,” Austin said. “This opportunity represents the culmination of years of hard work and dedication by our staff and I am eager to contribute to our team’s continued success in this new role.

“I want to extend my sincere thank you to Coach Whitten for this incredible opportunity,” Austin added. “I am excited to collaborate with him, Coach Carey and the rest of the coaching staff to achieve our goals. I am determined to lead Tarleton State’s offense with integrity, passion, and a relentless pursuit of excellence.”

Carey was also promoted to co-offensive coordinator, in charge of the run game. Carey has been on the Tarleton coaching staff the past six seasons, leading the offensive line, a role he will maintain. The offensive line has powered a run game that has been a staple with Carey at the helm, posting the best rushing offense in the conference last season with 201.7 rushing yards per game (12th in the FCS) and 25 rushing touchdowns (16th in the FCS). Carey’s OL played a part in the Texans’ best year of total offense at the D1 level in 2022 as the Texans averaged 436.8 yards per game and 6.1 yards per play, with both marks being tops in the Western Athletic Conference. Over the past six seasons, the Texans have had eight First Team All-Conference offensive linemen, five on Second Team All-Conference, and five honorable mentions.

“I’m blessed to receive this honor and I’m so appreciative of everything surrounding this program and university,” Carey said. “Tarleton State and Stephenville – this is home for me and my family and will always be home. There is no better place, and I can’t wait to further aid this program as we continue our Division I success.”

Sims spent last season as Pittsburg State’s defensive pass game coordinator and cornerbacks coach. He helped the Gorillas reach the second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs after winning the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association conference with an 11-2 record.

His defense had a knack for frustrating quarterbacks. The unit held their opponents to 180.7 passing yards per game in 2023, and they led all of NCAA Division II teams in interceptions with 22.

Prior to coaching the Gorillas, Sims was the defensive backs coach at Angelo State for two seasons. In 2022, ASU’s defense was one of the top units in Division II, ranking top five nationally in total defense (No. 1), interceptions (No. 1), defensive passing efficiency (No. 2), scoring defense (No. 4) and passing yards allowed (No. 4). He helped the Rams win the Lone Star Conference Championship with a 12-1 record, and they advanced to the second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs.

Sims also spent time at Eastern New Mexico State from 2019-2021 as the defensive backs coach and recruiting coordinator. Sims began his collegiate coaching career as a cornerbacks coach at Thiel College in 2016 and at Angelo State in 2017. He now returns to that position at Tarleton State, marking his first opportunity as an NCAA Division I coach. The Florida native played defensive back at Lake Erie College from 2011-2014. He was a three-year starter, compiling 114 career tackles and has the third most pass breakups in school history.

“I’m excited to be a part of the Texan family and help serve these young men and continue the winnings ways that Coach Whitten has established for this program while having the ability to continue to learn and develop under the proven leader that Coach [Tyrone] Nix is on the defensive side of the football,” Sims said. “My family is excited to get to Stephenville.”

Lee joins the Texans as the new tight ends coach. He has spent 28 years coaching, most recently serving as the head coach of the Cisco College Wranglers. Lee has had several stops some including Abilene Christian and University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. At UMHB Lee helped the Crusaders to a 76-2 record as the offensive coordinator.

In 2018, UMHB led the nation in scoring offense with 53.4 points per game, and Lee was named as a finalist for the FootballScoop Coach of the Year for the second time. Previous to UMHB Lee spent five years as an assistant coach at West Texas A&M, four years as the Buffs offensive coordinator after serving as the school’s quarterbacks coach in 2011. Lee guided a West Texas A&M offense that set an D2 record for passing yardage in 2013 and led the nation in passing yardage and passing touchdowns. The Buffs won a Lone Star Conference Championship and earned a pair of NCAA postseason berths during his tenure on the coaching staff.

Lee also had a  five-year stint as an assistant coach at Howard Payne from 2000-2005, serving as the program’s recruiting coordinator and splitting his time between the defensive ends, defensive tackles, tight ends and running backs. Lee’s first collegiate coaching stop came as offensive line coach at Western New Mexico University from 1999-2000. He has made high school coaching stops at Brenham High School (2005-2011) and head coach at Irion County High School (1996-99). Lee was an assistant under Glen West at Brenham and helped lead the Cubs to five district championships and a 66-13 record during his tenure.

Lee was born and raised in Bronte, Texas, and was a standout athlete in multiple sports at Bronte High school. Lee is a 1993 graduate of Angelo State and played four years as a quarterback and fullback for the Rams.

“I’m excited to get back to the D1 ranks and join this terrific program at Tarleton State,” Lee said. “I’ve been part of some elite programs in this state and I know I can bring some wisdom from those stops to further elevate what’s already in place here. Thank you to Coach Whitten for bringing me on.”

Hall joins the Texans as a defensive assistant. He spent the last three seasons as a graduate assistant at Baylor, specifically working with safeties. He also served as a graduate assistant at UAB from February-May 2021.

Hall played four years of college football as a safety for Tulane from 2016-2019. In his career, he recorded 102 tackles, three interceptions, 20 pass deflections, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and one touchdown.

“I’m very thankful and excited about the opportunity to be a part of this program and the vision Coach Whitten has for it,” Hall said. “Stephenville is a great place to be and I can’t wait to begin serving the players, coaches, and the community.”

Wagner has been with the Texan program for two years from 2022-23, serving as a graduate assistant last season and a student assistant in 2022.

In his two years at Tarleton State, Wagner has served as the main liaison between the offensive and defensive staffs, helping the offensive staff with in-depth opponent scouting reports, has had major input on recruiting, plus much more.

Originally from Lubbock, Texas, Wagner earned his undergrad in sport management from Tarleton State in 2023 and will receive his master’s in sport administration in May.

“I want to thank Coach Whitten for this great opportunity, it has been a blessing to be a part of this program and I am ready to attack this new position,” Wagner said. “We are truly building something special here at Tarleton. I’m excited to keep building and to bring the best of the best here to Stephenville.”

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