West Texas A&M opened fall football workouts for the highly anticipated 2022 football season Monday afternoon on campus under sixth year head coach Hunter Hughes.
WT is coming off a 7-4 shortened season in 2021, however, did finish second place in the Lone Star Conference at 5-2 with wins over Angelo State and conference champion, Midwestern State.
The Buffs had a total of 119 players report to fall camp. Not only does Hughes bring back plenty of veteran starters, but he also brought in a plethora of new talent.
“Looking at the roster we have a lot of size and athleticism,” said Hughes, who is 26-23 entering his sixth season at WT. “How that translates on the field we’ll be for us to decide over the next 10 to 14 days.”
The NCAA transfer portal did take a hit on the Buffs. WT lost four-year starting left tackle and Stratford graduate, Parker Hanna, to the University of Indiana. The Buffs also lost electric All-American cornerback, Tobias Harris, to Old Dominion University.
Hughes understands that’s just how today’s football works, and the next player on the roster has to step up.
“We lost a couple of offensive linemen,” Hughes said. “So, we’ll need someone to step up there.” Defensively, I think we have really good depth on the front seven. We’ll have some new faces in the secondary. There’s experience but we’re young in a lot of areas.”
Defensively has been the strength of Hughes’ teams since taking over the WT program. Last season the Buffs ranked third in the LSC giving up 19.6 points a game. WT also returns a strong front seven including a strong linebacking group that includes the LSC Preseason Defensive Player of the Year in sophomore JT Cavender and hard-hitting veteran Christopher Thomas.
“I think this defense has a chance to be pretty special,” said Thomas, who had 44 tackles in seven games for the Buffs in 2021. “We just have to go out and compete and challenge ourselves every day. We just have to go out and put in the work. Our focus is us and getting better.”
As for the offense, the Buffs are in good hands with four-year starting quarterback and super senior Nick Gerber returning for one final run. Gerber opted to take his COVID year to play one more season for the Buffs. The Levelland graduate started all 11 games a year ago throwing for 2,029 yards with 14 touchdowns.
“It’s fun to be back,” said Gerber, who has made a combined 28 starts for the Buffs over his career. “It wasn’t a hard decision for me. I love playing football, and I love playing for this team. We have some new guys in, and we kept most of the coaching staff, so the key will be staying healthy. We had more guys this summer than we’ve ever had, so we’re ready to go.”
Gerber will have plenty of weapons surrounding him. Senior Jarrod Compton returns in the backfield. Compton rushed for 604 yards with four touchdowns in 2021. Sure-handed receiver Noah Bogardus is a threat on the outside. The 6-foot-1 receiver made an immediate impact last season snagging 38 catches for 689 yards with four TDs.
“I think the receivers will be really good,” Gerber said. “A lot of the players back are in their second or third year. They will be more comfortable with myself and the offense in general.”
WT was picked fourth in the LSC preseason poll, and will open the season at home against Western Colorado on Saturday, Sept. 3, at 7 p.m.
The Buffs continue afternoon practices at 2:30 p.m. the rest of the week.