Believed to be on a program on the upswing, Texas State finished a disappointing 3-9 last season. Head coach Dennis Franchione was replaced by Everett Withers, who is tasked with getting the Bobcats back on track. With just eight returning starters, Withers will have every opportunity to mold this program to his liking. But is Texas State in line for a quick turnaround or another finish near the bottom of the Sun Belt standings?
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Previewing Texas State’s Offense for 2016
Everett Withers has already had to dodge this question: Who’s your No. 1 quarterback? As for his response, well, it’s simple: You have to wait until late August for the answer.
The first-year head man, who replaced Dennis Franchione at Texas State after the latter retired last December, has said that every spot on the depth chart is up for grabs, including the starting quarterback.
On the surface, incumbent Tyler Jones would appear to have a leg up on the competition; the senior has eclipsed 3,000 total yards in each of the past two seasons. Yet, with Eddie Printz, a graduate transfer from Missouri, and redshirt freshman L.G. Williams hot on Jones’ heels, the race probably won’t be settled until a week before the Bobcats take the field at Ohio University on Sept. 3.
While the quarterback battle will hog the headlines, Texas State has as many questions, if not more, at tailback. The Bobcats certainly have quantity at the position (Nick Bingham, Stedman Mayberry, Tyler Siudzinski and Anthony Taylor along with incoming freshman Tyler Tutt). The quality of those tailbacks is where the uncertainty lies.
Regardless of who’s under center and who’s toting the football, new offensive coordinator Brett Elliott has made it clear that Texas State will remain an up-tempo attack. After averaging 78.6 and 77.2 snaps in 2014 and 2015, respectively, the Bobcats plan to surpass those numbers this season.
Previewing Texas State’s Defense for 2016
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There’s nowhere to go but up for this group. Texas State ranked 124th in the nation in total defense (521.8 ypg) and 120th in scoring defense (39.2 ppg). Defensive coordinator Randall McCray hopes that a change in formation (3-4 in 2016 compared to 4-2-5 in 2015) and an emphasis on “running to the football” will turn things around.
For the Bobcats to improve defensively, they have to do a better job of creating takeaways. In 2015, Texas State had to wait until Game No. 9 (Georgia State) to record its first interception of the season. In all, the Bobcats finished with 14 takeaways (11 fumble recoveries, three interceptions).
McCray’s toughest task prior to the season opener is in finding a dominant nose tackle, arguably the most important position in the 3-4. Dallas McClarty is a candidate for the job, but look for freshmen Ramon Readus and John Lilly to challenge the senior.
Previewing Texas State’s Specialists for 2016
Brandon McDowell showed with his kick-six touchdown against South Alabama last season that he is a home run threat on special teams. Lumi Kaba the punter was great, but Lumi Kaba the placekicker wasn’t. Kaba pinned opponents inside the 20 on 20 different occasions last season. Yet, the junior’s field goal kicking left something to be desired (10-of-18).
Before last season’s 3–9 clunker, Texas State was a program on the rise. After recording four wins in 2012, the Bobcats’ debut FBS season, and upping that total to seven two seasons later, what transpired in 2015 was unexpected, and that’s putting it mildly. Withers, who has said he wants to bring a new brand of football to Texas State (hence the hashtag #PartyInTheEndZone), guides a football program that is at a crossroads.
Best-case scenario? The Bobcats show that last season was merely a speed bump and make positive inroads toward 2017 by going to a bowl game. Worst case scenario? Texas State slips further behind, which is entirely possible given the lack of talent in some key areas on both sides of the ball.
If Texas State can weather the early storm of a tough non-conference schedule and take advantage of a favorable Sun Belt slate down the stretch, Withers’ team could reach six wins and secure the first bowl bid in program history.