The 2013 Texas State Bobcats loved their non-conference schedule, they loved it so much they went 4-1 against non-Sun Belt foes. What they didn't like was that pesky Sun Belt string that saw the Bobcats go 2-5 in year one in their new conference. Coach Dennis Franchione wants better. He may have the talent to get their. Sharpen your pencils, it's time for summer school.
Are you ready to go fast?
Call Fran what you like, he's always sought to be adaptable. During his tenure at A&M, he fell in love with Urban Meyer's zone read option attack after the Utes proved a handful for Fran's Aggies. Now he's taking what Oregon, Duke and Baylor are doing and adapting it Texas State. The Bobcats plan on going fast in 2014.
“We've taken our offense and we've looked at Oregon, Auburn, Baylor, Duke ... a lot of those schools that were no huddle and tried to put together a little bit of the best of all of them to make ours” Franchione said.
"I've wanted to do that since I got here. We ran 64 plays per game last year, I'd like to run closer to 75-78." More plays on offense, or rather a quicker tempo puts more pressure on a defense. Texas State doesn't need anymore pressure on its defense.
Fran's plan is certainly en vogue as far as tempo and pressure go. Still, the Oregons and Baylors of the world took a few years to make the spread offense look less like a Chinese fire drill and more like an efficient, working offense. The move can be an equalizer for schools that lack the overall talent of their opponent. It can also backfire and turn a squad into a turnover machine that forces it's defense into too many bad situations.
Is Tyler Jones the guy?
We predicted that Tyler Jones might be the best option at quarterback for the 'Cats last year as a true freshman out of Stephenville (secretly the cradle of Texas quarterbacks). Jones did not disappoint.
When he was on the field he was head and shoulders better than anything else the Bobcats put under center. Still he wasn't exactly a world beater. The Bobcats still relied on the run, a fact which no doubt helped Jones. At least Jones was able to complete passes, a trait that evaporated once his backups entered the game. Bear in mind that Jones was a stat monster for Stephenville High School. His high school offense was phenomenal, and quick. He may benefit the most from Fran's plan to increase pace.
All indications were that Jones was effective in the spring. He also sported a sweet mustache which the Bud is always in favor of.
His accuracy improved and his ability to learn the offense was key. Now comes his time to do it against the big boys of the Belt. A full spring should help. If Jones can get the ball downfield a bit more his improvement will accelerate.
If not, Franchione brought in a junior college quarterback in Randy Price, and a prep school signal caller in Connor White, plus UTEP transfer Blair Sullivan to not only fill out the depth chart but also provide some friendly competition.
How does Texas State replace its defensive front?
Blake McColloch, Jamie Clavell-Head, Kamu Taulelei, D.J. Yendrey and Jordan Norfleet. Remember those names? Great, cause their gone now. Thanks for the memories guys.
The lone returning starter, Michael Odiari is undersized but effective from his defensive end position. He'll need help or this could get ugly, like 2012 Texas State defense ugly. With that in mind Franchione held open auditions for D-linemen this spring. He also brought in a slew of JC guys in the hopes of instant impact.
Roosevelt Pearson, Toni Pulu, Brian Guendling, Mershad Dillon, or Steven Eddings were all signed this spring to bolster the defensive front and all have experience from the JC ranks. Right off the bat they look the part, Texas State will be bigger and longer up front. Reviews from the spring were mixed however. Even with the increased size, the defensive line got pushed around a good bit.
Going the Junior College route can be a good quick fix for a program but you'd better be developing high school players as well or you'll constantly be behind the eight ball when it comes to player turnover. Plus, some JC guys bring a little baggage to the table. There's no indication that's the case here, but it's out there.
New defensive coordinator John Thompson knows what he's doing and he's been doing it for a while now. He'll need to mold a cohesive unit out of a lot of different parts for the Bobcats to be a threat on the defensive side of the ball.
Who's that guy?
Michael Orakpo Sr. LB, 6-2 226 Houston Westbury
Unlike the defensive line, linebacker will be a strength for TSU. Good thing because defensive line will be a total rebuild. Orakpo may be the most athletically gifted linebacker in the Sun Belt. He's a physical presence that is unmatched. He's been able to keep his head on straight in San Marcos which helps as well. He and David Mayo combine to form a dynamic duo anchoring the Bobcats defense.
Orakpo had 10 tackles for loss and 71 tackles overall. His tackles for loss were far and away the most on the squad and Orakpo also led the 'Cats in sacks. He'll draw a lot of attention next season, especially with the rebuild Texas State faces up front.