No. 13 Lions open Bailiff era with the first-ever international game
COMMERCE – The No. 13 Texas A&M University-Commerce football team opens the 2019 season on Saturday evening, hosting Selección Nuevo León for International Day and Student Appreciation Day.
WHO: Selección Nuevo León at Texas A&M University-Commerce
WHERE: Commerce | Ernest Hawkins Field at Memorial Stadium
WHEN: 6 p.m. on Saturday, September 7
RECORDS: Both teams are playing their first game of the season.
RANKINGS: Texas A&M-Commerce is ranked No. 13 in the AFCA Coaches’ Poll and the D2Football.com Media Poll.
LIVE AUDIO: Lion Sports Network — KETR 88.9 FM, Commerce (http://www.ketr.org)
LIVE VIDEO: Lone Star Conference Digital Network – http://www.lonestarconferencenetwork.com/commerce/
• Lion Football head coach David Bailiff was hired in December 2018 as the 20th head football coach at A&M-Commerce.
• Since East Texas joined the Lone Star Conference as charter members in 1931, Bailiff is the 13th head coach of the Lions.
• Bailiff was the head coach at Texas State University from 2004-06 and at Rice University from 2007-17. The Lions’ 2019 season will be Bailiff’s 15th season as a collegiate head coach.
• As a collegiate head coach, Bailiff has led a team to the NCAA Division I National Semifinals and has made five total postseason appearances with a 5-2 postseason record.
• The 2005 Texas State Bobcats were Division I National Semifinalists, and Bailiff led the Rice Owls to four bowls with a 3-1 record in those games.
• Bailiff has led teams to 10-win seasons in three seasons (one at Texas State, two at Rice). Under his watch, the Owls had the most wins in school history over a two (18), three (25), and four (30) year periods. Rice’s 18-9 mark from 2013-14 was the second-best of any FBS program in Texas.
LION COACHES IN THEIR FIRST SEASON
|1951||M.A. “Catfish” Smith||9-2||5-0|
|1946||Bob Berry 2nd Stint||5-2-2||3-1-1|
|1942||Dennis Vinzant Only Season||4-3-1||2-0-1|
|1935||Bob Berry 1st Stint||6-2-1||3-1|
WE’RE GOING STREAKING!
• By qualifying for their fourth straight NCAA Division II Playoff berth in 2018, the Lions have the third-longest active playoff streak in the nation.
• Only Northwest Missouri State (15 straight) and Ferris State (five straight) have longer active playoff streaks than A&M-Commerce.
• In Lone Star Conference history, only A&M-Kingsville (1992-98, 7 straight) has a streak of more than four appearances.
• The Lions have also advanced to the regional semifinal round for three consecutive seasons. National runner-up Ferris State has reached the regional semifinal four times in a row.
LIONS CONTINUE RANKINGS RUN
• The Lions are ranked No. 13 nationally in the preseason 2019 American Football Coaches Association Division II Coaches’ Poll released last week.
• A&M-Commerce has been ranked in 53 consecutive AFCA polls, dating back to the 2015 preseason poll.
• This is A&M-Commerce’s 59th all-time appearance in the AFCA poll since its inception in 2000.
• In the polls recognized by Division II as the top rating system, the Lions have been known as a nationally ranked team 108 times since joining Division II in 1981.
SENIORS SUCCEED OVER CAREER SPAN
• The 2018 senior class now claimed sole possession of the school record for wins in four years with 43.
• The 2019 senior class is already on pace to challenge that record, with a history of 38-6 in the previous three years.
LION SUPPORT FANTASTIC ONCE AGAIN
• In six home dates, A&M-Commerce drew 45,296 total fans in 2018. That total attendance ranked second in Division II.
• In terms of average attendance, the Lion faithful turned out at a rate of 7,549 per game. That ranked eighth nationally.
• Over the last five years (available in the NCAA rankings database), the Lions have nearly doubled their average turnout since the 2013 season. The next closest season since 2009 was over 2,400 fans per game fewer.
LIONS TO PLAY THEIR FIRST INTERNATIONAL GAME
• The first game of the David Bailiff era will be played on Ernest Hawkins Field at Memorial Stadium this Saturday when the Lions host Selección Nuevo León for A&M-Commerce’s first-ever international football game.
• Selección Nuevo León represents the Asociación Estatal de Futbol Americano de Nuevo León (AEFANL) – the state organizing committee for the state of Nuevo León. This is El Selección’s third season of competing while associated with the Autonomous University of Nuevo León (UANL).
• El Selección is the top-level team in the state, made up of players who had successful careers at some of the top preparatory programs in Mexico, including Auténticos Tigres of UANL and Monterey Tech’s Borregos Salvajes.
SHILLOW SHINES ON NATIONAL STAGE
• Redshirt junior defensive back Alex Shillow was announced as the National Chair of the NCAA Division II Student-Athlete Advisory Committee in January.
• Shillow has represented the Lions at the national level as the Lone Star Conference representative to the Division II National SAAC since 2018.
• He is the president of the A&M-Commerce SAAC, which has won the LSC SAAC Cup in three of the last four years, including 2017 and 2018, when Shillow in leadership roles on the A&M-Commerce SAAC executive board.
• He has also been announced as one of 137 nominees for the 2019 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team®, one of the most prestigious off-the-field honors in college football.
• Shillow is one of 59 scholar-athletes from the Combined Divisions (FCS, Division II, Division III, and NAIA) vying for 11 spots on the Good Works Team.
• A second-team all-LSC selection in 2018, Shillow is a recipient of the 2018 Hunt County African American Leadership Conference – MLK Social Justice Award and a three-time LSC Commissioner’s Honor Roll honoree.
• He has also been an exemplary student, earning Lone Star Conference Commissioner’s Honor Roll distinction and appearing on either the President’s List or Dean’s List in every semester since he has been enrolled at A&M-Commerce.
• He interned with IMG/Learfield during the summer and graduated with honors in August.
• He will continue at A&M-Commerce in his postgraduate studies as one of eight winners nationwide of the John McLendon Minority Postgraduate Scholarship Award.
ALL-AMERICAN RETURNER … RETURNS
• Redshirt junior safety and return man Dominique Ramsey is the lone All-American returning to the Lions’ roster from the 2018 season.
• He was named the Associated Press’ First Team All-American as an all-purpose player in 2018 as a redshirt sophomore. He was also named First Team All-Lone Star Conference and D2CCA Second Team All-Super Region Four.
• He led the LSC in punt return average, punt return yards, and punt return touchdowns with two.
• Ramsey also led the LSC with two interception returns for touchdowns and had three total interceptions, including a 99-yard return for a touchdown against Angelo State.
• He returned an interception for an 84-yard touchdown against West Texas A&M.
• Additionally, he returned a punt for a touchdown against both Colorado St.-Pueblo and the regional quarterfinal road win at Minnesota Duluth.
• His 226 interception return yards led the nation in 2018.
• He has six career interceptions with two years of eligibility remaining.
SIMON STARS TO ANCHOR OFFENSIVE LINE
• Redshirt junior tackle Amon Simon was noted as one of the top offensive linemen in the region and the LSC in his first full-time season for the Lions in 2018, and his excellence is expected to continue
• Simon was a First Team All-LSC lineman and D2CCA Second Team All-Super Region Four, honoree.
• He is the conference’s only first-team all-league lineman to return, as the other four honorees were all seniors. Three second-team all-LSC honorees return to their respective rosters in 2019.
•Redshirt junior guard Christian Hernandez earned honorable mention to the all-LSC list and will also return in 2019.
DEFENSIVE LINE DOMINATED BY SENIOR STANDOUTS
• In terms of returning all-conference players, the Lions’ contingent is primarily comprised of defensive linemen.
• Senior defensive tackle Pierre Leonard earned honorable mention to the all-LSC list in 2018 with 53 tackles, including 10 tackles for loss, four sacks, and a forced fumble.
• The charismatic man in the middle has 86 career stops with 14.5 tackles for loss in his career.
• Redshirt senior defensive tackle Peyton Searcy returns to the lineup after injury truncated his 2018 season. He earned honorable mention to the All-LSC list in 2017 on the way to the National Championship.
• He carries 82 total tackles and 14 tackles for loss into his final season in the blue and gold.
LIONS CONVERT TO VICIS ZERO1 HELMETS
• In July, A&M-Commerce announced it will equip its entire varsity full roster with the VICIS ZERO1 helmet for the upcoming 2019 football season.
• The ZERO1 has received the highest rating in the National Football League (NFL) and National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) helmet performance testing three years in a row.
• The ZERO1 is also top-rated in VIRGINIA TECH® Helmet RatingsTM for the collegiate and high school play.
MORTROAR BOARDS: THE ALUM-NOTE
• Eight Lions are continuing their football careers after earning a degree. Here are the eight graduates and the school they earned their degree from:
• Neema Behbahani – A&M-Commerce
• Terrell Collins – Arkansas
• L.A. Dawson – West Texas A&M
• Tyler Guice – A&M-Commerce
• Deion Malone – Arkansas
• Alex Shillow – A&M-Commerce
• Darent White – A&M-Commerce
• Preston Wheeler – A&M-Commerce
NEW STAFF LEADS LIONS
• New leadership will coach the Lions in 2019 under head coach David Bailiff.
• Xavier Adibi is the Lions’ defensive coordinator. He was a defensive analyst at Arkansas in the 2018 season and previously worked as a scout and analyst on Bailiff’s staff at Rice.
• Adibi was a college standout at Virginia Tech, earning first-team AFCA All-American and first-team All-ACC honors in 2007, after earning second-team All-ACC honors in 2006.
• He was drafted by the Houston Texans in the fourth round of the 2008 NFL Draft and had a five-year NFL career, playing for Houston, Minnesota, Chicago, and Tennessee.
• Joining Adibi on the defensive staff are defensive line coach Casey Walker, cornerbacks coach Kyle Williams, and safeties coach Jaylon Finner.
• Billy Riebock is the Lions’ offensive coordinator. Riebock was the offensive coordinator at Bridgewater (Va.) College in 2018. The Eagles ranked fifth nationally in Division III in red zone offense and had three offensive all-ODAC picks and two offensive all-state selections.
• Riebock coached for Bailiff at Rice in 2017 after spending the previous three seasons as the wide receivers coach at Elon.
• Joining Riebock on the offensive staff is offensive line coach Famika Anae, running backs coach and special teams coordinator and long-time high school coach Jack Welch, and tight ends and receivers coach Mitch Ferrick.
• Joey Caldwell is the new senior director of sports performance.
• Prior to A&M-Commerce, Caldwell was the co-lead assistant strength and conditioning coach at Rice University.
• Caldwell was a middle linebacker at Auburn and has worked with numerous strength & conditioning legends.
OFFENSIVE PRODUCTION IS BACK
• Two running backs with a track record of production are back for the blue and gold, along with a top receiver.
• Redshirt junior Carandal Hale of Greenville earned honorable mention to the All-LSC list in 2017 and is back for his third year.
• He has averaged 4.8 yards per carrying in his Lion career and has 1,385 career rushing yards with 10 touchdowns, along with 401 receiving yards.
• Junior E.J. Thompson had his season cut short in 2018 but earned LSC Offensive Player of the Week honors with 150 yards against MSU Texas.
• He has averaged nearly five yards per carrying in his career and 775 career yards.
• On the edge, senior wide receiver Ryan Stokes comes back after earning honorable mention to the All-LSC list in 2018.
• He finished seventh in the LSC with 703 receiving yards on 40 catches, with five touchdowns. He averaged 17.6 yards per catch, providing many highlight moments in 2018.
DEFENSIVE BACKFIELD SET TO SHINE
• In addition to Ramsey, the defensive backfield has numerous all-star candidates returning who can make an impact for the Lions.
• Cornerback Kader Kohou was a Second Team All-LSC selection as a redshirt sophomore in 2018. He led the league with three forced fumbles and was second in the conference in passes defended with 18.
• He had 45 tackles with 16 pass breakups and two interceptions and enters his third season with 60 stops.
• Cornerback L.A. Dawson earned honorable mention to the All-LSC list with 33 tackles, two tackles for loss, and an interception in his first season after transferring to TAMUC.
LINEBACKERS SET TO STEP UP
• After two all-star linebackers in Brucks Saathoff and Garrett Blubaugh graduated, a pair of up-and-comers are poised to fill their shoes.
• On the inside, Neema Behbahani enters his final season as the Lions’ leading tackler. He had 59 tackles as a redshirt junior in 2018.
• The 2017 honorable mention All-LSC pick has at least 50 tackles in every season of his collegiate career and has notched 178 career tackles.
• Terrell Collins has established himself in his starting role during fall preseason camp after transferring in from Arkansas.
• While primarily a special teams player for the Razorbacks, the senior had 24 tackles in a season at Iowa Western CC and was a state player of the year in Missouri.
NEW STARTER AT THE CONTROLS
• A new starting quarterback will see the primary action for the Lions in 2019.
• Miklo Smalls completed 57 percent of his passes, had three rushing touchdowns and passing touchdowns with 931 total yards of offense as a freshman at Rice in 2017 under head coach David Bailiff. The Plano East graduate had 227 passing yards and 99 rushing yards against UAB. He redshirted at Independence CC in 2018.
• Returner Preston Wheeler completed 72-of-131 passes for 735 yards with five touchdowns and four interceptions in the 2018 season, including leading the great comeback against A&M-Kingsville in the season opener.
ON THIS DAY IN LION FOOTBALL (3-0)
• 1991 – In the season opener for Eddie Vowell’s sixth season, the Lions won the Chennault Cup over Livingston University (now West Alabama) on the road.
• 1996 – The Lions host Harding in the season opener and roll to a 43-28 victory.
• 2013 – The Colby Carthel era begins with a 51-6 home victory over Sul Ross State. Tyrik Rollison threw for 346 yards and four touchdowns.