Sigh. A tumultuous season, in which the word tumultuous means excited, confused or disorderly, pretty much sums up our 2016 Texas State Bobcats season. A 2-2 non-conference schedule headlined by a triple-overtime game for the ages against the other Bobcats at the University of Ohio and a good ol’ fashioned ass whoopin’ at the hands of then-ranked #6 Houston Cougars at a sold out Bobcats Stadium gave way to an 8 game losing streak in conference play and the worst season in Texas State football history at 2-10. Now it’s too early to point fingers or place blame seeing as head coach Everett Withers had no time to properly recruit and a very young team awaited him. So while my eye twitches while writing this recap I will give the benefit of the doubt to a team making a transition.
Total Rank: 127th of 128
Poor Tyler Jones. The senior who was a four year starter, despite a horrid 2016 that found him running for his life à la Archie Manning, still ranks as one of the greatest passers in Texas State history. But this past season was not a reflection of that. His 11 touchdowns to 14 interceptions, 6.4 yds/pass (career low), 120.4 rating (career low) and 30 yards rushing (career low) ranks as his worst season. The offensive line gave him no chance and he was under constant duress every game. His highlights came in the two wins the Bobcats notched this year. In the triple-overtime thriller in the season opener vs. Ohio he threw 418 yards and four touchdowns. He would later eclipse those numbers against Incarnate Word a month later with a school record 475 yards through the air and five touchdowns. Sadly after the first four games he only threw two touchdowns to nine interceptions and only had one total touchdown in the final six games.
Bobcat coach Everett Withers chose to play his other quarterbacks late in the season to give the staff a look ahead to 2017. Former Mizzou Tiger Eddie Printz and Sophomore Connor White had a few sparks but fared worse than Jones.
The undersized line was and still is a big issue for State as the gears of the offensive line lost their mesh and stripped their cogs more than a few times. The 6’5” senior offensive tackle Ryan Melton was the anchor for the overwhelmed group. Coach Withers mixed and matched his young linemen with a standout being true freshman Aaron Brewer. The 6’3” 295 lbs guard started 11 games including four at center.
The offensive line’s best showing came at Louisiana-Monroe in their near comeback win vs the Warhawks when they cleared the trenches for the backs with a 6.2 yds/carry.
The wide receivers and running backs are quick, young and when given the opportunity they could really fly. Freshman Stedman Mayberry led the ground game with 593 yards and five touchdowns while adding another 321 yards receiving to lead the team in total offensive yardage.
Senior Tyler Siudzinski finished second on the team in rushing but in a baffling decision was sparingly used despite showing promise in 2015.
Junior receiver Elijah King (who missed time after the New Mexico State bus crash) and Thurman Morbley led the receivers with 453 yards and 400 yards respectively. They showed a lot of speed and dexterity and with tight end Gabe Schrade returning and a healthy Eric Luna returning, whoever lines up behind center in 2017 will have a good receiving corp to work with.
As an added surprise running back Anthony D. Taylor led the nation in blocked kicks with three.
Offensive grade: F/D-
The offensive line was a big factor this year and the talent was there. They just couldn’t give Tyler Jones and Stedman Mayberry a chance.
Total Rank: 115th of 128
Points allowed/game: 125th
Much like the offensive line, the defensive line was out-sized and out-powered almost every game. Defensive end Ishmael Davis, Jordan Mitte and Jeremy Miller (despite never starting a game) combined for 13 1⁄2 tackles for losses but only three sacks. At times they had their moments but inconsistency had defensive line coach Antoine Smith’s players shuffled in and out of the lineup. Like most of the team they are young and should be able to improve.
The shining star this year was the linebacking squad led by Bryan London and Gabe Loyd. A quick and relentless crew, freshman Bryan London broke out with a vengeance, finishing second in the nation in tackles and led the ‘Cats with 7.5 tackles for loss.
Complementing London was Gabe Loyd who started every Texas State game and was the second leading tackler on the team while adding a couple of fumble recoveries.
Including Gavin Graham and Frankie Griffin, the linebackers include a junior, a Sophomore and two freshmen at the helm and will be a group to look out for in 2017.
Much like the defensive line, the secondary was torched quite a bit. But when you play ranked teams like Houston, Arkansas and Troy, who boast much faster skill players, it is to be expected.
Senior safety Javante O’Roy led the secondary in tackles and interceptions. Junior corner back Clarence Guidry III led the team with six passes defended while safety Damani Alexcee had a career highlight when he recovered a fumble and ran it back for a 50 yard touchdown at Georgia State.
The secondary was shuffled around much like the whole team did much of the year as their coaches make observations for 2017.
Defensive grade: D
The offense couldn’t give the defense a break and so the stats look worse than they could’ve been.
One of the youngest teams in the nation, they had the 5th most first-time starters in the FBS with a whopping 24. The biggest takeaway from 2016 is that with the talent they have and Withers with a full recruiting period they should be better or at least showing improvement in 2017. The big problem will be at quarterback as Connor White and Eddie Printz, who were being groomed to take over Tyler Jones, are leaving as White has elected to transfer while Printz will be turning pro in Italy. As recruiting heats up, so will the anticipation of 2017.