Stadium: Bobcat Stadium (30,008 capacity), San Marcos, TX
Head Coach: Everett Withers (3rd year, 4-20)
Offensive Coordinator: Zak Kuhr
Defensive Coordinator: Chris Woods
Despite the only double-digit loss seasons in the Bobcats’ football history both happening in the first two years of head coach Everett Withers’ Texas State career, the energy emanating from the coaching staff and players is full of optimism. The fan base should forget the the last two seasons, as 2016 and 2017 can be considered year-zero due to the extreme circumstances Withers faced upon inheriting the program. It’s time for fans to invest in what Texas State is selling.
The Bobcats finished the 2017 season as one of the youngest teams in the nation, only losing a scant nine seniors. Those young players return to 2018 as veterans, giving Coach Withers his most experienced team yet.
Texas State has loads of young talent with lots of potential but exactly where they fit and how they’ll be utilized is still up in the air.
The quarterback spot will be taken by the third starter in as many seasons. Willie Jones III played little time in 2018, backing up grad transfer Damian Williams. Regardless of experience, essentially the job is WJIII’s to lose due to his command with the offense. Redshirt freshman Jaylen Gipson and incoming three-star recruit Tyler Vitt both competed for the starting job in fall camp and both could see reserve snaps this year.
Jones III showed the potential to be a dual threat last season, having some cleanup time and relieving Williams during the Thursday night matchup against the Ragin’ Cajuns last year. Gipson has a similar skill set and a slingshot arm and Vitt has a Dan Marino-like quick release and descent foot work in the pocket, as well as the ability to take off when needed.
Coach Withers has stated that the starter under center will be picked based on the leadership and trust from teammates.
Anthony Taylor got the bulk of the carries last year for the running back corp leading the team with 436 yards. Taylor also led the team in receiving out of the backfield. But Taylor was a only a part of a triad of backs carrying the load with Robert Brown and Anthony Smith being the other featured backs. Taylor will be the main back this year with Brown likely seeing more carries as Smith is out for 2018 with an ankle injury. Jaylin Nelson and Caleb Twyford have been mentioned by Coach Withers as possible fill-ins.
The receiving corp will be lead by senior Tyler Watts and junior Mason Hays. Watts was the number two receiver last year, gathering 40 catches while Hays was cut down with an injury after only four games. Hutch White is a versatile all-purpose wide receiver who I think will be a wild card and can fashion himself a spot in the play making department.
Coach Withers has given his wide receivers praise and feels there are many playmakers on the roster.
The output of the skill players of course lies within the concourse of the offensive line. Compared to the 2016 team, the 2017 o-line got bigger but just couldn’t gel together. It also could be attributed to the fact that the line and the team itself were a roster peppered with underclassmen.
Aaron Brewer is the clear veteran leader of the line and for a reason. Brewer was recently named to the second team All-Sun Belt preseason team and has the skill set to back it up. With the best feet of the linemen, his versatility has had him placed as a guard in the past but he’ll be at left tackle in 2018.
JUCO transfer Kameron Jemison is a talented newcomer who is expected to start according to Coach Withers. Even with the addition of Jemison, the line still has a long way to go. They must improve for Texas State to even have a breath of a chance to cut down on the 109 tackles for loss they allowed last year.
Texas State added defensive coordinator Chris Woods from Oklahoma to bolster a defense that allowed 439.2 yards a game and didn’t pick off a single pass last season.
That’s right. No interceptions. Not one. No Neil O’Donnell-style Super Bowl XXX wounded-duck bow-tied gifts thrown to Texas State defenders, no tip drills. None.
But don’t dismiss the defense, let alone the secondary, as the fatal flaw of the team. Yes statistically the ‘Cats’ defense was about as threatening as an episode of Full House but those are stats and that was 2017. There were no justifications for the points and yards allowed. But my goodness, do they have talent.
Withers and co. have recruited very well and the young underclassmen have gotten another year older, wiser and more experienced. Given time to develop, the defense will be better in 2018.
The Bobcats have a steady cast of linemen led by Sami Awad. The 6’1” 300 pound senior will literally be the centerpiece of the defensive line and Coach Withers aforementioned that the team needs to be stronger along the middle of the Bobcat defense.
A sure-fire section of the defense that shined last year was the linebacking unit. Sure, two of the three leading sackers that resided in the middle are gone in Easy Anyama and Gabe Loyd, but this unit has loads of depth.
Any Texas State fan will agree Bryan London II is unequivocally the star player of the team, along with fellow linebacker Frankie Griffin. There is no worry about this squad of linebackers. London II has led the Bobcats in tackles the last two years, while the hard-hitting Griffin was spearing opponents like Goldberg, forcing two fumbles and recovering two of his own.
If the first two lines of defense hold up their end of the load, all the secondary needs to do is get some picks and defend some passes. While it may not be that simple, getting some takeaways are a necessity.
A.J. Krawczyk was a ball hawk at safety recording 74 tackles and two forced fumbles last season. JaShon Waddy has shifted from corner to safety, bolstering a secondary in need of some electricity.
Anthony J. Taylor and Kieston Roach will round out the corners.
The season will start with many questions that could lead to even more, depending on how the start of the 2018 season develops.
Can WJIII withstand a full season or will Vitt or Gipson take over the reigns? Is the young and talented secondary ready to be it all can be? Will the O-Line finally gel together?
As optimistic as I am, give me four or five wins this season and hopefully the Withers rebuild will show some promise. 2019 should be the season where Withers’ plan finally realizes its potential.