Foes to Know: Sam Houston State

RaiderPower.com is taking a closer look at Texas Tech's 12 regular season football opponents in 2015. Senior writer Joe Yeager will spotlight two players who could pose problems for the Red Raiders. One will be on offense and the other will be from the defense. Up first is Sam Houston State, led by head coach K.C. Keeler (pictured above).

Texas Tech scheduled Sam Houston State for the same reason all FBS schools schedule FCS programs—these games are considered automatic wins which are necessary to balance out difficult conference slates.

But sometimes the blueberry muffin turns out to be a grizzly bear. Or in the case of Sam Houston State, a grizzly Bearkat. And the latter is what the Red Raiders will likely face on Sept. 5 in the 2015 season opener.

K.C. Keeler’s club went 11-5 last season, but after starting the season with three losses in four games, finished like a house afire. The Bearkats won eight in a row later in the season before losing the national championship semifinal game to four-time national champ North Dakota State to finish the year.

Sam Houston is expected to be at least as good this year, with the Sporting News ranking the Bearkats No. 2 among all FCS schools.

Offensive Player to Watch
NAMEPOSCLASSHOMETOWNHTWTNOTEWORTHY
Donald Jackson IIIOTSRKilgore, TX6-22752014 AP All-American

The Bearkats produced the No. 6 rushing attack in the FCS last season, and the performance of tackle Donald Jackson III was a major factor in that success. And he’s already pulling down preseason All America notice for 2015.

Not that that is anything new for the Kilgore native who took Associate Press All America honors last season. As a sophomore he was an All Southland Conference performer and earned Freshman All America status in 2012.

Jackson earns his spurs primarily as a tackle but is also more than capable of playing guard and has done so in the past. Regardless, he will present a formidable obstacle to every Texas Tech defensive lineman who comes his way including Big 12 sack leader Pete Robertson who played his high school ball only 10 miles up the road from Jackson’s Kilgore in Longview. There looks to be a showdown brewing between East Texans in West Texas on opening night.

Offensive Player to Watch
NAMEPOSCLASSHOMETOWNHTWTNOTEWORTHY
P.J. HallDESOSeguin, TX6-127029 tackles for loss in '14

Just as the matchup between Donald Jackson III and Pete Robertson will be one to watch, so will the battle between Sam Houston State’s P.J. Hall and Texas Tech’s Le’Raven Clark.

Hall, a sophomore defensive end from Seguin, had a monster freshman season after redshirting the year before. He finished third in voting for the Jerry Rice Award, which is given to the best freshman in the FCS ranks. Hall was the highest finishing defensive player.

And it’s easy to see why when one looks at his production. Hall recorded 29 tackles for loss, which was fourth best in the FCS and the second best tally in Sam Houston State football history. He also blocked five kicks and recorded eight pass breakups.

Hall appears to be a bit of a speed rusher, but his pass deflection and blocked kick totals, when combined with his short stature, also suggest a player with tremendous quickness, strength and all-around athletic ability (he could be a Kerry Hyder type). He will be a handful even for preseason All-American Clark, but you can be certain the Sam Houston State coaches will move Hall to left defensive end as well to test redshirt freshman Justin Murphy, who is expected to start at right tackle.

It will be a baptism by fire for the youngster and if he can prevent Hall from camping in Tech’s backfield, doing so will portend great things.

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