Your Texas State Fighting Flipping Bobcats didn't turn in a performance that inspired much confidence or hope in the future. Nope, the Bobcats found their way to two wins, none in conference, and one vs an FBS school. At least they beat Incarnate Word.
Let's have a look at the Bobcats 2016 with an eye toward their future. It may not be pretty.
We harp on this because it's critical, what's the identity of a program? In other words, beyond the "core values" and marketing, what does a program do well? What do they do that makes them special, potent, or hard to deal with? For a new coach like Everett Withers it's important that he establish an identity as soon as possible. Win or lose, what are the Bobcats all about? After 2016 we don't know.
Withers sold us on a fast paced, innovative offense. A Party in the End Zone if you will. That didn't happen. Defensively Withers promised an aggressive, fast, physical unit. That didn't happen either.
The question is, after a 2-10 season and a lack of competitiveness in conference, did Franchione leave the cupboard bare or is Withers the right guy? It's too early to have an answer to the latter. A large exodus of players in the offseason, not unusual when a new coach shows up on campus, didn't help but it's clear that Withers will need time to turn the roster into one that can compete with other Sun Belt members. Fran's recruiting didn't yield a team, in particular up front on the lines of scrimmage, that can be effective on either side of the ball.
Watching the Bobcats this season it was easy to see the deficiency, they lost the line of scrimmage. Texas State's offense was dead last in the NCAA in tackles for loss allowed, last in rushing offense and yards per rush. What's more, Texas State was 104th out of 128 team in yards per attempt passing. The Bobcats' quarterbacks, Tyler Jones in particular, were forced to check down and eliminate areas downfield because the 'Cats offensive line couldn't hold up. The Bobcats were 126th in sacks allowed at 44.
On defense the Bobcats allowed 196 plays of ten yards or more. They were an equal opportunity enabler on defense, allowing yards via the ground and through the air with almost similar ineffectiveness.
The issue with Withers and his abilities, in an admittedly small sample size, is that there's not much for Texas State to build on moving forward. No signature win, or competitive loss that revealed a hope for the future. The Bobcats were trending down as the season ended. They limped in.
If there is hope for Texas State fans it may be found in the FCS and James Madison, Withers' former employer. The Dukes are currently in the semifinals of the FCS playoffs. They just took down the #1 ranked Sam Houston State Bearkats in a blowout win in the quarterfinals. Withers built most of that explosive roster. Can he do that at Texas State? Absolutely, he's got better facilities and a much better recruiting area. The question may be does he get time to do it? If 2017 looks like 2016 the answer will be no.
Well, we've got two to choose from, and one of those is over the aforementioned Southland squad so we're really dealing with one, MAC East champion Ohio. In week one of the season no less, the Bobcats traveled to Athens, Ohio and won. Tyler Jones set school records throwing 56 times for 418 yards and four touchdowns. Still even looking back now, the problems were simmering below the surface. Jones was sacked six times and the offense ran 42 times but for only 2.5 yards a carry. The offense allowed thirteen negative plays on the afternoon, but still a win is a win and Texas State exhibited the bold scheme and playcalling that they'd like to be a foundation of the rebuild.
What Answers do we have?
What does Texas State have moving into 2017? Well, they have a number of young skill players who played big roles in 2016. Stedman Mayberry had almost 200 total touches including a remarkable 41 catches from his running back position. Receivers Tyler Watts and Thurman Mobley both came on throughout the season. Watts caught a season bet 43 passes and Mobley showed the speed and athleticism as a true freshman that could make him a special player.
The interior of the offensive line is young and should improve. Aaron Brewer, a true freshman, started eleven games including the last four at center. On the final two deep five of the six center and guard positions were held by redshirt or true freshmen.
Tight end Gabe Schrade is just the kind of swiss army knife that can be incredibly useful as he heads into his senior year. He played well for 2/3 of the season in 2016.
On defense redshirt freshman Bryan London finished second in the country in tackles with 141. Linebacker is the strength of the defense, seven of eight players on the two deep return including rising senior Gabe Lloyd who accounted for 102 tackles.
True Freshman Dean Taylor started the final five games at defensive end. He's the kind of player that Withers wants, at 6'5 he has the frame to build on and could become a very good player plus he's from a very competitive Pearland program so he's been exposed to a winning culture.
What needs fixin'
Tyler Jones is graduating, Eddie Printz is apparently heading to Europe and Connor White didn't exactly inspire confidence when he came in late in the season. Texas State needs to find/develop/invent a quarterback. Is there another grad transfer that can come in an help? Can one of the high school quarterbacks give the 'Cats a shot in the arm? This position is the priority.
We also like to see the Bobcats utilize a bigger back and find some bigger receivers. Texas State is undersized generally, including skill players.
Both tackles graduate, and regardless, the Bobcats need to improve on the offensive line. As we noted, there are young players with some experience inside, they'll need to develop and young tackles like Josiah Washington need to step up. Otherwise, expect Texas State to look to the JC ranks for immediate help. If this area doesn't improve, Texas State will have a very difficult time doing anything more than what we saw in 2016.
Defensively, the Bobcats were very undersized for a 3-4 unit. They were playing a 235 pound nose guard the last two games. With Dallas McClarty graduating, they'll need some of their young defensive lineman to grow up in both ability and stature. There are good frames at defensive end, they need to be chained to a buffet until April.
Next Year's Schedule
The Sun Belt hasn't released its schedule as of posting, but the non conference slate looks fun.
9/2 Houston Baptist
9/9 @ Colorado
9/30 @ Wyoming
Texas State opens with a Southland team, Houston Baptist, then they travel to PAC 12 South Champion Colorado. Two weeks later they get a home game in rival UTSA and then travel to Mountain West Mountain Division Champion Wyoming.
*Disclaimer: It's recruiting, this will all change. 17 year olds are fickle, odd, often times dumb, humanoids. This list is accurate as off the date of posting. We apologize that we lack a crystal ball or a sorting hat to deal with the changes or make them permanent. Regardless, everyone loves your team, and your recruits are so much better than everyone else's. Never forget that.
Withers has been adamant that he needs to fix this program by recruiting. He's right of course, and he's done a decent job this year. Scout ranks his class 78th in the country and best in the Sun Belt. Rivals ranks his class 94th currently. Their lists are different, we'll go with the Rivals list though as with all things recruiting this is subject to change.
|Quan Hampton||WR||Texarkana, TX||5'8"||165||12/12/16|
|Segun Ijiyera||OL||Corinth, TX||6'2"||270||2||5.4||12/4/16|
|Calvin Clater||WR||Fort Worth, TX||6'3"||185||2||5.4||12/4/16|
|Jaylen Gipson||QB||Mexia, TX||6'2"||195||3||5.5||10/26/16|
|Reece Jordan||OL||Boyd, TX||6'3"||253||2||5.3||7/11/16|
|Jakharious Smith||DE||Grand Prairie, TX||6'3"||220||2||5.3||6/25/16|
|Kordell Rodgers||ATH||Lufkin, TX||6'0"||165||2||5.4||6/25/16|
|Jaylin Nelson||ATH||Duncanville, TX||5'10"||190||2||5.4||6/22/16|
|Kishawn Kelley||QB||Corsicana, TX||6'2"||200||2||5.4||6/22/16|
|Colby Peterson||DB||Round Rock, TX||5'11"||178||2||5.4||6/22/16|
|Caeveon Patton||DE||Cuero, TX||6'3"||265||2||5.3||6/22/16|
|Logan Peterson||TE||Aledo, TX||6'3"||221||2||5.4||6/14/16|
|Darren Thomas||DT||Converse, TX||6'1"||274||2||5.4||5/18/16|
|John Brannon||LB||Prosper, TX||6'2"||228||2||5.3||4/18/16|