Tarleton State’s football team was picked to finish fifth in the Lone Star Conference preseason poll at the Lone Star Conference football media day held Thursday at the MCM Elegante in Odessa.
The Texans received 135 votes from the news media, head coaches, and sports information directors in the conference. The Texans received one first-place vote.
Tarleton is coming off a 5-6 campaign in 2016 and was 5-4 in the LSC, tying for fifth.
Head coach Todd Whitten is returning 48 lettermen from last year's roster, including eight offensive starters and seven on the defensive side.
"I think we have a chance to be improved this season," Whitten said. "We were able to win five games a year ago. Our guys have really worked hard this offseason. We've added a few transfers that will come in and make us a better team.
“These guys sitting next to me (Del’Michael High and E.J. Speed) are really good players and I expect them to have great seasons. We have a chance to have a winning season this year."
After three straight LSC football titles, Texas A&M-Commerce was picked to finish first in the conference with 229 votes, including 21 first-place votes. Midwestern State was tabbed second with 192 votes and two first place votes.
Texas A&M-Kingsville is picked third (177) and Eastern New Mexico is picked right above Tarleton in fourth with one more vote at 136.
Angelo State is picked sixth (114), followed by West Texas A&M (97) and Western New Mexico and UT Permian Basin tied for eighth with 45 votes.
In addition to the preseason rankings was the naming of the league's Offensive and Defensive Preseason Players of the Year.
Texas A&M-Commerce quarterback Luis Perez and Eastern New Mexico running back Kamal Cass were voted as the preseason co-offensive players of the year, while Texas A&M-Kingsville defensive end Brandon Jones was picked as the preseason defensive player of the year.
Last season, Tarleton averaged 27 points per game while giving up 25 points per contest.
The Texans averaged 358 yards on offense and returns the LSC leader in receiving touchdowns in High, who had 790 yards to go with his 10 touchdowns. Quarterback Zed Woernerk returns for his senior season and is coming off a year with 2,445 yards and 24 touchdowns passing.
"As a football coach, I want our guys to get better every week," Whitten added. "But our first goal is to have a winning season and if we are fortunate enough to get that one in the books, you just go week by week and see where you are at the end of the season."
Defensively, the Texans had 16 interceptions and forced 17 fumbles last season.
Key members returning from that defense are Speed (6 sacks, 5 forced fumbles), Chase Varnado (8 sacks), (Basil Jackson (84 tackles, 2 interceptions), (David Solomon (39 tackles, 3.5 sacks) and Devin Hafford (54 tackles).
TSU will open the 2017 season on Sept. 2 at Delta State in Cleveland, Mississippi for a 2 p.m. kickoff. The home opener for the Texans is against Oklahoma Panhandle State on Sept. 9 at 7 p.m.