Ministers of Defense
Late last week, Brant and I released the Bobcat’s all-time All-Southland Conference offensive team. It is now time, as Brant wrote, to “tackle” the defense. More than a coach or two has said, “You can’t lose if they don’t score.” With the way offensive football has evolved over the years, “three yards and a cloud of dust” and shutouts have gone the way of the dinosaur and leather helmets. However, history shows that the Bobcats have enjoyed their most collective success, during the Southland years, when the Bobcat defense has wreaked havoc on the opposing offenses. We all enjoy the points, but great defense has always been a key ingredient in “Light the star on Jackson Hall!”
Comparing players and defenses over the years isn’t exactly an apples-to-apples exercise. Sure, defense is always about assignments, alignments, and tackles. However, from 1994 through the earliest 2000’s, my initial years of following Bobcat football, the Southland was absolutely littered with premier running backs working out of the “I“, variety of two back, and option. Since the turn of the century, similar to football virtually everywhere, the SLC has added an up tempo component with multi-receiver sets, and expanded passing game. Remember 2009 when practically every team in the SLC had an elite passing quarterback? Heck, even Nicholls has scrapped the option-based in favor of the aerial…huh?
Regardless of the Southland team, points, passing yards, pass attempts, and completion % against have markedly climbed compared to ten years ago and prior (go to page 113). As always, coaches are looking for defensive players who can make plays to stifle the current attacks. The guys below would make plays on any day, in any era. Brant and I would stack up this Bobcat all-time All-Southland defense against any old, current, or future offensive system you concoct. As with the offense, here are our Maroon and Gold defenders going back to our entry into the Southland in 1987. Here, our friends in all things Bobcat, are your guardians of the Bobcat turf…
Note: Honoree (years lettered)
Travis Upshaw (’02 – ’05)
Clint Bendele (’96 – ’99)
Fred Evans (’04 – ’05)
Clenton Ballard (’98 – ’01)
Brant: Can’t go wrong with the two DT’s from ’05 can you? Fred and Travis were literally two big reasons why opponents averaged 3.3 yards a rush that season and just 122 yards/game (the TXST offense ran for an average 233 yards/game that year). “Double Nickels” was to the defense what Barrick was to the offense that season. Ballard is the only one of these players to be named as an All-American more than one season, and Bendele’s sack numbers are impressive. By the way, some great nicknames among this group…
Bill: Yes, clever monikers, but serious d-linemen. These hard hitters piled up the hardware. Now a Minnesota Viking, “Big Fred” was twice selected First Team All SLC and Defensive Player of the Year for the ‘Cats. He was the SLC Newcomer of the Year in 2004, SLC‘s Defensive Player of the Year in 2005, and named to three All American teams in 2005. “Biscuit”, aka Clenton Ballard, was a two-time First Team All SLC pick in '00 and '01, Bendele in ‘99, and Upshaw (page 131) in ‘05. Good luck running between the tackles on these guys and you may consider moving the pocket around for your QB.
Greg Pitts (‘99-’02)
Glen Mangold (‘86-’89)
Brad Fulks (’85-’88)
Honorable Mention: Jeremy Castillo (’03-’06), David Simmons ('03-’05), Chad Coleman ('89-’90)
Bill: Greg, simply made plays all over the field. Pitts was 1st Team All SLC in 2001, our all time leading tackler at 447, our two-time Defensive Player of the Year and is an obvious choice. A guy whose career includes 50 career QB hurries, 44 tackles for loss, and 18 sacks is playing defense for me. Speaking of tackles, Fulks, 1st Team in 1987, is right behind Greg in career tackles and has two of the top four single season tackle marks ever. Mangold, short for “Swiss Army Knife“, was a three-time 2nd Team All SLC pick at three different positions. You add Castillo and Simmons, a combined three 1st Team nods, and I’m thinking of a 3-4 defense package or two.
Brant: Remember what I said about the offense and that I was disappointed I didn’t see Claude Mathis play? Ditto for Pitts (page 16) who as you highlighted put up some gaudy numbers. A case can be made he’s the best defensive player ever to play at SWT/TXST (more on that in a moment). While neither of them played on a team that finished with a winning record, Mangold and Fulks sure gave Bobcat fans a reason to watch in the infant Southland years (late 80s). Not a bad 1-2 punch at linebacker rivaled only by Castillo and Simmons who were teammates from ’03 – ’05.
Walter Musgrove ('03-’06)
AJ Johnson (’85-’88)
Honorable Mention: Darrick Vaughn (page 142) ('96-’99)
Brant: Walter is one of my favorite players ever to play at Texas State. Great interview, hard worker, tremendous leader…just an infectious guy to be around. He certainly set the bar high for the position and I didn’t hesitate to put him up on this list. AJ is another player from those late ‘80s teams who could shutdown opposing WRs. Did you know that in the 1st three SLC years, the Bobcat defense posted two shutouts (just five since then) and held opponents to 14 points or less seven times?
Bill: For Walter, now an attorney/agent, I’ll let SLC voters, his coaches, and his teammates provide the testimony. Honored twice as 1st Team All SLC, in '05 and '06, and the ‘06 JC Kellam Award and Jim Wacker “Unbelievable” Award. He cracked the opposition and the books, witness four SLC All-Academic selections and the SLC’s Football Student Athlete of the Year in ‘06. I rest my case, your Honor. AJ is a great choice for the other side. He was a 2nd team All SLC DB in ‘87, but HM in ‘88. Why just HM? Well, he was busy earning 2nd team All SLC honors at wide receiver that season. He was also a top shelf kick returner…did he ever leave the field?!
CJ Carroll ('97-’00)
Cliffton Black ('95-’99)
Honorable Mention: Epsilon Williams ('03-’06)
Brant: Remember the blurb on Pitts about the case can be made that he’s the best defensive player ever for the Bobcats? Meet CJ Carroll who played with Pitts for two seasons (’99 & ’00). Bill will get you all of the numbers and accolades on CJ, but I can tell you that he was the best defensive player on the 2000 team that went 7-4 holding opponents to 13 points or less four times including a shutout of Nicholls in the Southland opener. Looking at CJ, you probably wouldn’t think he’d be the force that he was, but his name is one you continue to hear when talking about best Bobcat players ever. So CJ, Pitts and Cliffton Black all played together? How many career tackles did they have combined Bill, 6,792?
Bill: Nobody has discovered the number to represent the tackles and plays those guys made. Usually, you hope walk-ons can contribute at some point. By the time he was done, CJ was pound for pound the best defensive football player in SLC history (insert serious face emoticon here). He ran under, over, and around opponents for 32 career sacks, most ever by a Bobcat. CJ was 1st Team All SLC in '99 and '00 and the no-brainer choice for Southland Player of the Year in 2000. Throw in 73 unassisted tackles in 2000, (foreshadowing), tied with Cliff Black for most in a season by a Bobcat. Speaking of Cliff, and homage to earlier nicknames, Cliff was “Tylenol“, due to the headaches he delivered. A second team All League pick in 1999, with him prowling in the secondary, the Bobcats had the Southland's best pass defense in '99. He was named Defensive Player of the Year for a very good Bobcat “D” in 1999.
Andrew Ireland ('06-’08)
Honorable Mention: Ray Whitehead ('91-’94)
Bill: Once Ireland won the kicking job in ‘06, it was his for the duration. As 10-11 in 2006, 10-15 in 2007, and 14-17 in 2008 will attest to, the equation was simple: Ireland on + kickoff team get ready = put three on the board. He owns a school record-tying 52 yarder against Southeastern Louisiana. I recall fondly his 28 yard game winning FG at Northwestern State in ’07, with one tick left on the clock, that put a fork in the Demons. Ray Whitehead wasn’t short of ice water in his veins. His 36 FGs are the most in a Bobcat career. Against third-ranked Northern Iowa in ‘94, he kicked a game winning 48-yard field goal in the closing seconds at Bobcat Stadium. That was my first blessed taste of “unbelllievaaable”!
Brant: Automatic Andrew. His numbers are so darn close to Whitehead’s (Ireland: 34-43 on FGs, 117-119 XPs…Whitehead 36-45 FGs, 70-72 XPs), but like you, I cannot forget the Montana game. A Texas native (Cedar Hill HS) who started his career at Baylor, one would think the coldest conditions he played in was late November in Texas (in what, 65 degree temperatures?). The box score states the game day temp was 41 degrees that day, but it was wet and felt like 21 degrees on the field. He calmly nailed both FG attempts (47 & 25 yards) (:39 and 7:15 in).
Karrington Bush ('07-’10)
Honorable Mention: Claude Mathis ('94-’97)
Brant: Ahhh the Ninja. Owner of two of the biggest plays of the year in the ’08 SLC Championship season, both in the same game. But without the first the second doesn’t happen (his 79-yard KO return for a TD when the ‘Cats were down 28-13 in the 3rd quarter in the final game of the season @ Sam Houston State, then scored on the option play on 3rd & Goal to win the game in OT). Every time the ball was kicked to him, you held your breath. Especially if you were the kicking team.
Bill: He did a lot as a rookie, but like Claude in 1994, Karrington locked up the 2007 SLC Freshman of the Year award through his ahhh-inspiring talent in the kick game. It isn’t common that a guy can rush and return for 1,000 yards. In 2008, “KB” returned an all-time SLC season high 42 kickoffs for a single season best 1,055 yards. My humble opinion, that kickoff return to paydirt at Sam is arguably one of the Top 5 biggest plays in Bobcat SLC history. Claude Mathis (page 127) in the Bobcat record books is like sand on the South Padre beach…it’s everywhere. This includes kick returns.
Alright Maroon and Gold faithful, let us have it. Did we get it right, almost nailed it, or did we miss by an Elolf punt? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your selections and/or opinions.
Special thanks: John McElfresh, our esteemed and very talented Athletic Video Production expert, for his assistance. Of course, we also take our hats off and thank each and every Bobcat who has ever put on the pads and taken the field for our great university.
Reminder: Get your season tickets for your Bobcats and we will see you on Gameday!
Eat ‘Em Up!
Bill and Brant