COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2012 PRESEASON TOP 25
Sun Belt PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Dennis Franchione, 23-23 (4 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Jeff Conway, Mike Schultz | DEF. COORDINATOR: Craig Naivar
Texas State returns five starters on offense and will have a new quarterback as Shaun Rutherford has exhausted his eligibility after accounting for 20 touchdowns last season. Senior Tyler Arndt is the projected starter. Ardnt completed only 39.3 percent of his throws in five games last year.
Over 70 percent of last season’s receiving production is back. Senior Andy Erickson developed into the top threat with 482 yards on 39 catches, both team highs. Isaiah Battle, another senior receiver, averaged 16.5 yards per catch and set a school record with a 98-yard TD reception against Stephen F. Austin.
Running back Marcus Curry is gone after combining with Rutherford for nearly 60 percent of the team’s rushing yardage, so new threats must emerge. Sophomores Robert Lowe and Tim Gay averaged 10.3 and 9.5 yards per carry, respectively, on limited attempts last season, and junior Terrence Franks had five TD runs. Freshman Jamel James, a former Notre Dame pledge, and junior college transfer C.J. Best could be factors.
Texas State has to improve up front after allowing 28 sacks a year ago. Junior guard Charlie Will Tuttle, who had a team-high 60 pancake blocks last season, leads the offensive line.
This unit has seven starters back after forcing 26 takeaways last season, but Texas State also allowed 33.5 points and 484.8 yards per game. The 4-2-5 scheme struggled against the run and tied for the fourth-fewest sacks (12) in the FBS, so losing all-conference defensive end/linebacker Joplo Bartu hurts.
The line rotation features six seniors, including end Jordan Norfleet and nose tackle Blake McColloch (6.5 tackles for a loss in 2012). Newcomer D.J. Yendrey, a senior defensive tackle, was a two-time honorable-mention All-Mountain West selection at TCU.
Colorado State transfer Michael Orakpo, brother of NFL star Brian Orakpo, could make an impact at linebacker. He made 87 tackles for the Rams in 2011. Senior linebacker David Mayo (41 tackles in seven games) was a starter before suffering a season-ending knee injury.
Three starters are back in the secondary, the strength of the defense. Senior Xavier Daniels (66 tackles) and junior Craig Mager (four interceptions) are proven playmakers.
Will Johnson is expected to pull double duty again at placekicker and punter. The junior made 12-of-17 field goals, including a school-record 54-yarder against New Mexico State. He also averaged 41 yards per punt. Texas State also was among the national leaders in punt and kickoff returns and should be strong again with Erickson and Jafus Gaines back.
Coming off a 6–6 campaign as an FBS independent in 2011, Texas State opened its second year under coach Dennis Franchione (in his second stint with the school) with an upset of Houston but finished 4–8 overall and 2–4 in conference play in the program’s only season as a WAC member. This season the Bobcats are on the move again as they join the Sun Belt.
This year’s schedule could be a challenge as Texas State will play five bowl teams, including road games against Texas Tech, New Orleans Bowl winner UL Lafayette and two-time Sun Belt champion Arkansas State. The Bobcats hope to build off last season when they had six losses to bowl-eligible teams.
Franchione is optimistic Texas State will have a breakout season after adding eight 3-star recruits (according to Rivals) and 11 junior college transfers. For the Bobcats to improve, they must answer questions at quarterback and running back and make big strides defensively.