By Jared Fields, Sports Editor
Danieal Manning has NFL scouts watching him and is a candidate to be one of the top NCAA Division-II football players in the nation.
However, with the final game of the season this weekend at Midwestern State, Manning is just as ready for the game against the Indians, even if it has no playoff implications.
“Scouts from the NFL talked to me, but I really didn’t pay much attention to them,” Manning said. “I told them I wanted to talk to them after the season.”
Manning, a junior defensive back and return specialist, is one of only four defensive players selected, as a candidate for the Harlon Hill Award. Twenty-six players of all positions are chosen as candidates total. The award is given to the best Division II football player each year.
“Lot of hard work I’ve been through on that finally getting noticed,” Manning said. “It’s just a great honor.”
Other players nominated from the Lone Star Conference are Texas A&M-Kingsville linebacker Deandrae Fillmore, West Texas A&M quarterback Dalton Bell and Tarleton State running back Derrick Ross.
Midwestern State doesn’t have a player on the Harlon Hill ballot but has two offensive playmakers that could test the Wildcats’ stingy defense on Saturday.
In last week’s game against Eastern New Mexico, sophomore quarterback Daniel Polk ran for 244 yards on just 12 carries and two touchdowns, while completing seven of 11 passes for 149 yards and two more touchdowns. Polk’s 393 total yards helped the Indians accumulate 668 total yards of offense in their 62-27 win.
“He’s like a Michael Vick in D-II,” head coach Chris Thomsen said. “He’s a guy that can make everybody miss on one play, and we’ve got to stop him.”
Manning is impressed with another player, junior running back Ross Harrison.
“By far probably one of the best running backs we’ve faced,” said Manning. That includes Tarleton State running back Ross, who leads the LSC in rushing.
Thomsen said the receiving corps is also strong on offense and gives the Wildcats some challenges on defense.
“We want to stop them from running and make them pass,” Manning said. “So we’ll try to make them a one dimensional team.”
Thomsen said his priority is stopping the quarterback.
“If you don’t stop their run game, then they’re going to beat you,” Thomsen said.
For the Wildcat offense, redshirt freshman Nick Bird will make his second start at quarterback. Redshirt freshman Taber Minner will start at running back after rushing for more than 100 yards in the last two games.
Minner took the place of senior Rashon Myles, who sprained his left ankle in the Angelo State game. Myles ran 12 times last week for 43 yards, but Thomsen said he looked better in practice this week.
“He actually looked pretty good at practice yesterday,” Thomsen said Wednesday. “I’m looking forward to getting some production from him.”
The Indians’ season mirrors the Wildcats. They got off to a decent 2-1 start, lost three in a row, and are now on a three-game winning streak. The Indians record may be a mediocre 5-4 overall, but the team is on a hot streak and has the LSC’s South Division Offensive Player of the Week in Polk.
“He’s got a great supporting cast, he’s got great coaches,” Manning said. “It’s going to be a nice game this weekend.”
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