Hafford wins Defensive Player of the Year to lead Tarleton All-WAC honors
People around Stephenville have known for a while that Devin Hafford is one of the best defensive players in the nation. In his first year in a new conference, he quickly turned heads of people nationwide, and has officially been dubbed one of the best defensive players in the nation.
Hafford was named the Western Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year on Tuesday to lead a slew of awards dished out to the Tarleton football program. Three Texans were First Team All-WAC, two on offense in wide receiver Tariq Bitson and running back Jayy McDonald. Hafford was First Team All-WAC at defensive back. Four Texans were Second Team All-WAC, two on offense and two on defense. Tight end Marvin Landy and offensive lineman Blake Haynes earned the honor on the O, with linebacker Ronnell Wilson and defensive lineman Javier Duran getting the nods on defense.
Hafford earns the first WAC Defensive Player of the Year Award since 2012, when San Jose State's Travis Johnson won it. Hafford had an incredible run in 2021, recording six interceptions, two fumble recoveries, seven pass breakups, 51 total tackles, 25 in solo fashion, and 3.5 tackles for a loss. His eight takeaways were the tied-third most across all of NCAA Division I, counting both FBS and FCS. His six interceptions were the third most across all of Division I.
They were also the tied-sixth most interceptions in a single-season in Tarleton football history, just two short of matching the most in one season in the program's total run. Hafford had three multi-takeaway games this season, tied with just one player for the most such games in the country. He was the WAC Defensive Player of the Week in Week 8 following his two-interception game against Midwestern State. He also tallied two pass breakups and seven tackles that homecoming night.
The senior played six seasons at Tarleton, part of the program since 2016. Across 56 games, he recorded 244 total tackles, 11.5 tackles for a loss, 12 interceptions, 57 passes defended, a FF and four fumble recoveries. His 12 picks are tied for the third most in a Texan's career, just two short of the record. Tarleton went 35-21 with him on the field.
Bitson had yet another standout year for Tarleton, his second in Stephenville. He recorded 42 catches for 721 yards and seven touchdowns. His seven receiving touchdowns were tied-fourth most in the WAC. His receptions and receiving yard numbers were each third most. He averaged the second most yards per catch in the conference at 17.2 on average, and posted the third most receiving yards per game at 65.6 per. Across his Tarleton career, he recorded 85 receptions for 1,335 yards and 14 touchdowns in 18 games played.
McDonald led the team in his first year at Tarleton with 650 rushing yards on 99 carries, averaging 6.6 yards per carry, adding four touchdowns. Across the WAC, he had the second most yards per carry, the third most rushing yards, and the fifth most rushing touchdowns.
Landy, largely serving as a blocker in Tarleton's scheme with tight ends, still had 11 receptions for 182 yards, averaging 16.6 yards per catch. He had a 58-yard catch against Lamar, his career-best game as a receiving tight end, where he finished with three receptions for 91 yards.
Haynes started all 11 games on the Texan offensive line, providing the consistency and availability that Tarleton needed. He helped the offense average 5.1 yards per carry in the rushing attack, and 239.3 yards per game through the air.
Wilson has been with Tarleton for six seasons, dominating since 2016. This year, he finished second on the team in tackles with 58 total, 34 solo fashion. He played in nine of Tarleton's 11 games, adding seven tackles for loss, two sacks, two pass breakups, a fumble recovery, a forced fumble and a quarterback hurry. He was seventh in the WAC in total tackles, and sixth in tackles per game at 6.4. He played in 51 career games, earning 348 total tackles, 26.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, four interceptions, 18 passes defended, four FF and three fumble recoveries. His 348 tackles are the second most all-time in Tarleton history, the most in their NCAA era. Tarleton went 35-15 with Wilson on the field.
Duran had 32 total tackles, 17 solo, 3.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and three quarterback hurries in his first season at Tarleton. His best game was the team's season-opener, where he posted five tackles and 1.5 sacks against Stephen F. Austin.