NACOGDOCHES, Texas (Press Release)– Over the past two seasons, Stephen F. Austin's defensive front has begun to gain a reputation as one of the top lines in the Southland Conference. The Lumberjacks ranked among the national leaders in sacks and tackles for loss in 2014 and return a number of key components from the success of that squad.
Yet for as deep and experienced as the SFA defensive ends are, the interior of the defensive line is a different story. The Lumberjacks lost three extremely experienced seniors in Donald Bryant, Shayvion Hatten and Lance Skyler following the 2015 season, leaving a number of positions up for grabs in 2016.
To help offset the loss of the senior leaders, head coach Clint Conque moved junior Mitchel Zimmerle and senior Darrell Vanerson from defensive end to defensive tackle in the offseason. Zimmerle is entering his third year in the program, registering 40 career tackles, eight tackles for loss and three sacks in 24 career games on the outside, while Vanerson appeared in nine games for SFA in his first season as a Lumberjack as the duo have begun to settle into their new position.
The 'Jacks also have a pair of sophomores that saw significant action in a backup role in 2015 in Lamont Alexander and Demetrion Amie. Alexander played in all 11 games last season with one start, racking up 16 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss, while Amie played in six games for the 'Jacks, finishing with 2.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. The two have grown more comfortable in their position with a fall and spring season under their belt and figure to be key contributors this fall.
As is the case with nearly every other position on the field, SFA also has a number of young players at the defensive tackle position, all of which will have a chance to state their case for playing time. Sophomore Braxton Kelly and redshirt freshman Paul Hill have shown an increased knowledge of the position this fall camp while true freshmen Larron Cox and Rayshad Nicholls have caught the attention of the coaches, both of which will have opportunities to suit up on Saturdays. Conque also added sophomore transfer Shaq Anderson from Tyler Junior College as Anderson will be paired up once again with high school teammate John Franklin in Nacogdoches.
As Thursday's afternoon practice began, it had a slightly different feel. Not in the weather, mind you, as temperatures were once again in the mid 90s with lots of humidity. But with the completion of Wednesday night's scrimmage, so too was the completion of the 'Jacks official fall camp schedule. The past two and a half weeks, the focus was on SFA and improving itself. Now the focus has shifted to Texas Tech.
SFA was finally able to get back on the grass practice fields after over a week's worth of rain forced practices down to the turf at Homer Bryce. While the beginning of practice followed a similar script, including special teams and two-minute situations, the 'Jacks then started to see a separation from those who are expected to play regularly throughout the season and those who will assist on the Lumberjack scout teams. Specific plays and situations started to dominate the practice script as SFA began its preparations in earnest for the 2016 season opener.
We are just nine days from kickoff as the Lumberjacks head to Lubbock to battle Big 12 foe Texas Tech next Saturday, September 3rd. Kickoff at AT&T Stadium is set for 7 p.m. as the game against the Red Raiders will air on Fox Sports Southwest. Tickets for that game, as well as season tickets for the 2016 home schedule, are available through the SFA Ticket Office at (936) 468-1013.
2016 STEPHEN F. AUSTIN FALL CAMP SCHEDULE