So here it is. The 2017 college football season is almost upon us and for Texas State fans another season of gridiron action in the hill country. So no more talk of 2016’s abysmal failures, no more mentions (please, who cares?) of Head Coach Everett Withers’ spring game comments, no more left over shambles of the Franchione era and for the love of all that is good no more damn attention to the new SECONDARY logo (it’s not the main logo!).
It’s 2017 Texas State football pure and simple in this article. So grab a drink or four, put on your Spergon Wynn jersey and join me as we look forward and #trustthepath or #winasunbeltgame or whatever hashtags the kids are using nowadays and preview the Texas State offense.
Quarterbacks: As of right now the pressing issue is that of Mississippi State transfer Damien Williams and his eligibility. The grad student recently took his GRE test and until the results come back he won’t see any action. He passes the test and my money is on him being pegged as the starter come opening day. Williams impressed at spring ball with a combination of a nicely thrown balls finding their way to the receivers and a fullback-like running style that few defenses in the Sun Belt will be able to stop.
Worst case scenario is that Williams is unable to start Week 1. Who would replace him? Well, at the spring scrimmage we got to see Joseph Gonzalez and Michael Ross taking second and third reps. However, Gonzalez was too busy folding faster under pressure than anyone playing poker with Kenny Rodgers. Ross was exciting, but was an erratic version of Fran Tarkenton with more chaos than skill.
So what’s left are the four freshman quarterbacks. Jaylen “With An E” Gipson, Willie Jones III, Kishawn Kelley and Jaylin “With An I” Nelson are the quadrilateral set of signal callers Withers has to work with. Withers has stated at press conferences that he likes Jones III for his pure athleticism, and Gipson (my favorite of the freshmen) is the most complete overall of the four. Nelson may play other positions due to his lack of height, but makes up for it in athletic talent according to Withers. Kelley is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and hasn’t had many reps this fall.
At the first fall scrimmage, Jones III ran the first unit while Gipson ran the second. Jones III showed some good throws and a touchdown run while Gipson showed some ability but nothing out of the ordinary.
Outlook: Like I said before, if Williams passes his test and gets the nod at starting I think the ‘Cats have a really good chance at four or five wins. That means Jones III and Gipson will probably play garbage time to gain experience. If Williams doesn’t play expect a Rodney Pete/Erik Kramer (or for the younger readers, Cardale Jones/J.T. Barrett) style rotation and probably two or three wins.
Backs and Receivers: Whoever will be under center will have a plethora of receiving talent to target. An underrated squad of pass catchers for State boasts speed, size, and ability. Senior Eric Luna and Thurman Morbley are prime targets, but I think of all the receivers Elijah King may have the best season of them all. The 6’2” senior has size and speed to excel and although he missed some time last year, he averaged 16.2 yards per catch and caught 65 percent of passes going towards him.
Of all the skill players, I think he has the best chance at 1,000 yards and/or double digit touchdowns. Receivers further down the depth chart include TJ Bedford, who played well at the fall scrimmage, Tyler Watts (a depth slot man and last year’s reception leader), and Mason Hays also have speed and hands to interchange into the lineup. Tight end Gabe Schrade also provides the quarterbacks with a reliable set of hands in the form of the 6’4” senior from Deland, Florida.
The backs have been a very turbulent bunch but have some depth. That turbulence came in the form of last year’s leading rusher Stedman Mayberry and Jaren Watkins leaving the team and Tyler Tutt out for the year with injury. Robert Brown Jr and Anthony Taylor will form the core duo of rushers. Jordan Versey and La Darius Hamilton switched from wideouts to running backs to add some depth to the depleted lineup.
Outlook: Brown and Taylor should be the most formidable rushing duo on the team. Depending on how the O-Line plays (see below), the quarterbacks (see above) all backs are athletic enough to run and could form a Cerberus-like rushing attack that would play into good ball/clock management that the Bobcats didn’t possess last year.
Offensive Line: The “veteran” duo Aaron Brewer and Tryston Mizerak are the two most talented anchors of this group of lineman. Brewer, who moves from guard to center, slimmed down this offseason. He will be the cornerstone whose talent will set the tone (hopefully) for this young squad of trench men.
At fall scrimmage number one, the first unit was made up of Nic Foster at right tackle, Jacob Rowland at right guard, Brewer at center, Jaqual Pierce at left guard, and Mizerak at left tackle. The run blocking of this squad did well, but leave a lot to the imagination on the pass protection, performing poorly in that department.
Outlook: The Texas State faithful are hoping for a little stability in its O-line and those young men may have a lot to grow and learn. Offensive line coach Eric Mateos has instilled a bond between the squad, and I hope that the time the linemen have been spending together is a good thing, at least in the long run.
Conclusion: Texas State’s offense has a long way to go compared to the defense. The mass loss of players on that side has proved to become a tear-down project in the biggest of meanings. The mass bulk-up of the linemen will be meaningless numbers unless they can bully back the opposing teams’ defensive linemen and blitz specialists, giving Williams/Jones III/Gipson some time to sit back in the pocket.
The skill players on the offensive side of the ball can provide some fireworks and hopefully can improve on the anemic 18.6 points a game and 4.3 yards per play they produced last year.