Texas State won just one game against an FBS opponent last season and needed overtime to do so. The Bobcats (2-10 in 2016) had their share of issues on both sides of the ball, ranking 124th in the nation in scoring offense and 125th in scoring defense. Texas State should be improved in head coach Everett Withers’ second season as head coach, but there are too many holes on this roster to expect a significant increase in the win column. Picking up at least one victory in Sun Belt play would be a step in the right direction.
Previewing Texas State Football’s Offense for 2017
After finishing 124th in scoring with an average of 18.6 points per game in 2016, the Texas State offense will return most of its starters with the exception of arguably the most important position on the field. Four-year starting quarterback Tyler Jones played his final season last year, leaving the Bobcats with a big hole to fill.
Damian Williams, a graduate transfer from Mississippi State, handled first-unit duties in the spring and is the expected starter, but the Bobcats have three freshman quarterbacks joining the team in June: Jaylen Gipson, Kishawn Kelley and Willie Jones III.
The biggest concern on offense will be on the line, which allowed 44 sacks in 12 games in 2016. This issue was addressed in recruiting as the Bobcats added five offensive linemen on Signing Day.
Junior running back Stedman Mayberry will return after leading the Bobcats in rushing last season with 593 yards. Mayberry will have to compete with six other running backs on Texas State’s roster, including sophomore Anthony D. Taylor, who was the primary running back in the spring.
Texas State’s top seven pass catchers from 2016 are returning, including junior Tyler Watts, who led the Bobcats in receptions with 43 catches out of the slot. Sophomore Thurman Morbley has moved from slot to flanker after catching 35 passes for 400 yards in 2016. Seniors Elijah King and Eric Luna are returning starters who have been injured and aren’t expected back until fall camp.
Previewing Texas State Football’s Defense for 2017
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Despite the efforts of freshman linebacker Bryan London (141 tackles, second in FBS), Texas State’s defense fared just as poorly as the offense. The Bobcats finished the season 125th in scoring defense, allowing 41.1 points per game.
Inside linebacker won’t be an issue for the Bobcats as they are returning their top two tacklers from a year ago, London and Gabe Loyd (102 tackles). The defensive line and backfield were problematic for the Bobcats, forcing London and Loyd to clean up a lot of missed assignments, hence the high tackling numbers.
Running a 3-4 base defense, the Bobcats were undersized along the line, especially at nose tackle. In the spring, they moved sophomore Jordan Mittie back and forth from end to tackle. Mittie is expected to stay at end when junior college transfer Sami Awad and freshman Gjemar Daniels join the team this summer. Junior Ishmael Davis and sophomore Dean Taylor were the primary ends this spring.
The defensive backfield lost some starters, with safety Javante O’Roy graduating and corner Brandon McDowell departing with one year of eligibility remaining. Junior A.J. Krawczyk moved to safety from wide receiver and ran with the first team in the spring along with senior Quinn Tiggs. Sophomores Anthony J. Taylor and JaShon Waddy emerged as starters at corner in the spring but will have competition when freshman Kieston Roach joins the team.
Previewing Texas State Football’s Specialists for 2017
With McDowell’s departure, there is a vacancy at kick returner. Watts and Morbley split time fielding punts in the spring, but freshman corner Kordell Rodgers is also expected to get into the mix. Texas State lost its primary punter (Lumi Kaba graduated) so Marcus Ripley and James Sherman split all the kicking duties this spring, with Ripley on punts and Sherman handling field goals.
After a tumultuous 2–10 season, the worst by the Bobcats since going 0–8 in 1938, things should only get better in head coach Everett Withers’ second season. A winning record would be a major stretch in 2017, but with improvements to both lines and a new quarterback with experience in the SEC, they should be a little bit more competitive in the Sun Belt Conference.
National Ranking: 129
Sun Belt Prediction: 12
(Bryan London photo by Kelley Spencer)