Texas State Preview: Digging out of 2016

Year two of the Everett Withers rebuild begins in just a few weeks. Year one basically hit the reset button. Withers couldn't have imagined how deep or wide the mess was he was stepping in, but it was substantial. Mass defections, little experience, less buy in, undersized, it was all a mess. 

Now comes a chance to start digging out of the mess that Dennis Franchione left. The roster is young, but it's Withers' more and more seemingly each day. If Texas State is going to make its way up, it'll do so with Zak Kuhr calling the shots. He and former receiver coach Parker Fleming will serve as co-offensive coordinators. Fleming will now coach quarterbacks in addition to his grander responsibilities.

Kuhr renews his partnership with Withers. The two were together at James Madison and while there Kuhr's offenses were pretty prolific, average 43 points a game and putting up great rushing numbers. Texas State will need to reemphasize the rushing game to get out of the hole they're sitting in. 

On defense there's reason to believe in Randall McCray. His unit will look more, physically, like a 3-4 defense. The parts will start to line up. At Gardner Webb McCray's defenses were very good. They played an attacking style. As the parts fit, expect more of that in San Marcos. 

This is still going to be a long road for Withers and the Bobcats. This team should be much better than last year's group, however wins will still be hard to come by. But Texas State is definitely moving in the right direction. 

Key Numbers

Scoring Drive % TD Drive % Scoring Drives % Allowed TD % Allowed 3rd Down % Turnover Margin Total Adjusted Run Rate (Nat'l Rank)
0.214 0.170 0.503 0.384 31% -14 -2.764 (128)

Legend

  • Scoring Drive %: Percentage of offensive drives that end in points.
  • Touchdown Drive %: Percentage of offensive drives that end in touchdowns. 
  • Scoring Drives % Allowed: Percentage of drives allowed that ended in points. 
  • Touchdown % Allowed: Percentage of opponent's drives that end in a touchdown. 
  • 3rd Down %: Offensives success on 3rd down. 
  • Turnover Margin: Total number of giveaways minus total number of takeaways. 
  • Total Adjusted Run Rate: Taking the national average of yards per carry and yards allowed per carry and comparing that to the relative team. Teams that end up with a plus Total Adjusted Run Rate average 8.4 wins per year. Teams with a negative Total Adjusted Run Rate average 5.5 wins per season. The top 20 teams in Total Adjusted Run Rate Averaged 9.7 wins per season over a five year period. 

Quarterback

As of writing this, the Bobcat's  quarterback room has been placed in flux with the news the grad transfer Damian Williams has been suspended from the team for personal and academic issues. As the situation comes more clear, it appears that Williams may be reinstated before the season begins and could be as early as next week. If his status doesn't change that's a huge blow to Texas State's season. 

 Damian Williams

Damian Williams

Williams is a grad transfer from Mississippi State and was a highly regarded recruit out of Metairie, Louisiana. Williams is 6-1, 230 pounds and built like a fullback. He's got a strong arm and isn't afraid to test defenses downfield. He's actually more comfortable making downfield throws, at least on film. His mechanics can get a little wonky on quicker, shorter throws. 

In parts of four seasons in Starkville, Williams completed 58% of passes with five touchdowns and two picks. He's good and willing runner. In the spring game Williams went 14-23 for 172 yards and four scores. His presence jump started the Bobcat offense during the scrimmage. 

If Williams doesn't play then the job will be left to a group of true freshman and walk-ons. Joseph Gonzalez and Michael Ross went through spring practice as walk-ons. It's hard to imagine either of them having a positive impact. Everett Withers signed four, yes four, quarterbacks in February: Jaylen GipsonWillie Jones IIIKishawn Kelley, and Jaylin Nelson. A couple of those probably fall under the heading of "athlete" rather than quarterback, Kelley and Nelson were listed as such by 24/7. Kelley is recovering from a shoulder injury that could limit him as fall camp begins. 

Gipson was a three star recruit with offers from Texas Tech, Colorado State and New Mexico. On those wonderful Hudl videos, it appears he will win the Heisman but isn't a polished passer. Jones held offers from Louisiana Lafayette, Louisiana Monroe, and San Diego State. He's a big athlete at 6-4, but again, he'll need to be coached up to be an efficient collegiate passer. 

Bottom line, we like Williams a lot. If he's healthy, Texas State could win four or five games. But if something happens to him, with all the young, raw depth, the Bobcats will struggle. 

Running Backs

Texas State was among the worst rushing team in the country last year. They were among the worst teams in the country in a lot of areas, but we're talking about rushing the football so we'll confine out comments to that. But there is hope Bobcat fans. The Bobcats announced as camp started that  Stedman Mayberry, 2016s leading rusher led the team and  Tyler Tutt will more than likely miss the season due to injury. 

Redshirt freshman Robert Brown is taking most of the first team reps as camp starts. The Aldine Eisenhower product is stocky at 5-8, 200 pounds. Anthony Taylor on the other hand was a special teams savant with three blocked kicks. On offense, his production was limited as well with just 21 yards on 11 carries. 

The 'Cats signed three star running back Anthony Smith out of Fossil Ridge. Smith is upright and shifty, but he needs to bring a more physical component to his play. 

Receivers

The Bobcats have their shortcomings but receiver isn't one of them. If you just take catch rate, they're the best in Texas at 68% of targets. Are they undersized? Sure, but these guys can catch and they've got a fair number of playmakers.

 Thurman Morbley

Thurman Morbley

Thurman Morbley is undersized but as a true freshman he caught seven of every ten passes thrown his way. When he catches the ball Morbley can make things happen. He averaged 11.4 yards a catch and this season he moves outside where he'll have more green grass to work with.

His partner is Tyler Watts who led the Bobcats in catches and was among the nations leaders in catch rate at 76%. He's a classic slot player who made 43 catches all in his first year of real playing time. Want a bigger target? Senior Eric Luna is your guy at 6-1 205 pounds.

Fellow senior Elijah King also caught above the national average of targets at 65%. Texas State's top four receivers all caught north of 60% of balls thrown their ways. Mason Hays added seventeen catches in 2016.

Tight Ends

 Gabe Schrade

Gabe Schrade

Texas State went to Florida to find Gabe Schrade. The senior from Deland was elected captain last season and caught 25 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns. Among tight ends last season he ranked in the 83rd percentile in receptions and yards. 

His 25 catches were easily best among Texas FBS tight ends. 

Behind Schrade is sophomore Brendon Rushing from Desoto. He's the best athlete of the bunch and caught four passes last season. Rushing average 23 yards a catch. Chris French transferred in prior to 2015 from Saddleback College. He caught three passes last season. 

This summer Texas State brings in T.J. Bedford a freshman from Covington, Louisiana who gives the Bobcats a much needed, 2nd big target at 6-4. Caleb Twyford from Lewisville is a Swiss Army knife who played receiver, running back, and returned kicks for the Farmers.

Offensive Line

Texas State's offensive line was abysmal in 2016. The Bobcats allowed 44 sacks and rushed for an FBS worst 2.32 yards pre carry. The good news is 2016 is over, the better news is that Texas State can build around a talented sophomore Aaron Brewer. 

Brewer started 11 games, seven at guard the last four at center. He'll play center in 2017. Though undersized, Brewer plays with great quickness and leverage. Larger nose tackles give Brewer problems, but he's smart and adept at getting to the second level.  

Tryston Mizerak played in nine games at tackle last season. He put on 15 pounds this offseason, pushing him to 305. If he's in a phone booth he's a physical tackle with long arms who sets well. With speed rushers in space he's going to struggle. Expect junior Cedric Gambrell to get first shot at the other tackle spot. He's a converted defensive lineman who played a bit on offense last season. The Bobcats are hoping that redshirt freshman tackle Josiah Washington grows into his recruiting projections. 

Inside the Bobcats will look to Jacob Rowland a redshirt sophomore from Wills Point who started five games at guard last year. He's bulked up a bit as well, which should help him avoid getting bullied inside. Charlie Vatterott bulked up as well, adding nearly 30 pounds this offseason. He and  redshirt freshman Jaquel Pierce will compete for a guard slot. Vatterott played in parts of three games last season while Pierce played a lot in the sprig game if that's any indication of his value to the coaching staff. 

Defensive Line

There's nowhere to go but up for Texas State's defensive front. The Bobcats were among the worst in the FBS in yards per carry and sacks. The 2016 Bobcat defensive front was undersized and under experienced. The 2017 version will at least be bigger and a year older. Bigger is the key. Jordan Mittie has gone from 235 to 270 pounds. Ishmael Davis was 223 last season, he's 260 now. Dean Taylor was 230 as a true freshman, now as a sophomore he's tilting the scales at 280. 

 Dean Taylor

Dean Taylor

Mittie started at nose guard as a 235 freshman. Against Arkansas State in the season finale, no defensive line starter tipped the scales at more than 240 pounds. 

The biggest addition, literally and figuratively, is Sami Awad a space eater at 300 pounds from Trinity Valley. Awad was second team All Conference last season at Trinity Valley. The nose position is such a critical area in Randall McCray's 3-4 and Awad's presence is an immediate upgrade. Behind Awad is RS Freshman John Lilly. Two true freshman should factor in as well, Kenedale product Gjemar Daniels and Cuero Gobbler Caeveon Patton. Daniels is a one gap fire hydrant at 5-11, 315 pounds. Patton is a very good athlete out of Cuero and is more college ready at 6-2 and 285 pounds. 

At defensive end Davis will hold down one side with Jeff Banks backing him up. Banks made the move from tight end and like everyone else on the defensive front added girth, jumping from 212 to 240. 

On the other side Mittie and Taylor will be in rotation. Mittie is the most productive returner up front. We love Taylor's frame and arm length. As Withers continues to revamp his roster, look for Texas State to continue to add longer, bigger athletes to McCray's odd man front. 

Linebackers

Most of you haven't heard of Bryan London, the sophomore from San Antonio Randolph, but you need to. College coaches overlooked London as well. They made a big mistake. London ranked 3rd in the nation with almost a dozen tackles per game. He's the best defender on the Texas State roster from his inside linebacker position. 

 Bryan London

Bryan London

The second best defender lines up next to London in Gabe Lloyd. Lloyd a senior averaged 8.5 tackles a game. He and London started all twelve games inside for the Bobcats in 2016. Nikolas Daniels and Clifton Lewis back up Lloyd and London. Daniels played in all twelve games as a true freshman. 

On the outside of Randal McCray's 3-4 Hal Vinson returns after a rather successful true freshman season. Vinson, out of South Oak Cliff, will line up opposite Frankie Griffin. Griffin is underside at 205, but started the last eight games of 2016. Skyline product Markeveon Coleman will provide depth outside along with true sophomore Kumonde Hines. Hines played in all twelve games last season while Coleman redshirted. 

Defensive Backs

Opposing quarterbacks completed 68% of their against the Bobcats. Opponents were playing glorified 7 on 7 drills against the 'Cats. The touchdown interception ration was 28-3 in favor of the offense. It was a one-sided 7 on 7 drill.

Anthony Taylor, Jordan Eastling and Jashon Waddy were thrown into the fire as true freshmen in 2016. Down the stretch Taylor and Eastling each made four starts, and Waddy saw his time increase. Necessity is the mother of invention and in this case the mother of experience. Taylor has some dog in him and is the most physical of the three young corners. Junior Anthony Aneke will be in the rotation as well after backing up the departed Brandon McDowell. 

If the season started today, and there's no reason it should, Taylor and Waddy would start with Eastling being the first guy in. 

 Quinn Tiggs

Quinn Tiggs

At safety Quinn Tiggs a JC transfer from Itawamba is back after five starts in 2016. Tiggs is versatile enough to play either position, but seems more natural at strong safety. Dila Rosemond made seven starts at safety. He showed a lot of flashes as a younger player but struggled to get on the field the past two seasons. He could shift to corner or play more of a nickel role. 

Free safety provides an interesting prospect in converted running back and receiver A.J. Krawczyk. Krawczyk, a walk-on from Kingwood, earned a scholarship in 2016 after starring on special teams. He had a very good spring. Chances are his spot will be hotly contested come the fall. 

Specialists

Texas State returns kicker Marcus Ripley from their 2016 squad. The redshirt sophomore from Klein Oak connected of five of six field goal attempts and even averaged 38 yards on eight punts in 2016. The Bobcats must replace Lumi Kaba, a very effective punter who saw the majority of the action last year. He also held down kick off duties. 

James Sherman also kicked last year and hit the season long for the Bobcats, a 39 yarder. He also averaged 37 yards in limited punting action. Sherman should step into kick off duties in 2017. 

The Bobcats lose their best returning in Brandon McDowell who left the team in the spring. He returned 41 of the 76 punts and kick offs directed at Texas State last season. Tyler Watts backed him up on punt returns last season. Defensive back Jordan Eastling will get a look at kick off returner as well. He averaged 18 yards on 11 returns last season. 

2017 Schedule

Best Case:

Damian Williams is reinstated and he and the young receivers click. The Bobcat offense takes flight.The 'Cats run enough to keep people honest and Williams takes the top off defenses. As for their own defense, added girth up front and the right pieces make the unit serviceable. The Bobcats beat HBU, ULM, Coastal, New Mexico State and perhaps even one of the other Sun Belt foes or upset UTSA at Bobcat Stadium. If the latter happens they'll be partying in San Marcos. Well more so than usual. 

Worst Case:

The offensive line continues to be Maginot Line of college football, nice in theory but wholly ineffective. A true freshman or walk-on take the majority of the snaps at quarterback. The defense can't stop the run and offense can't run. In short, 2016 all over. A win over HBU could be the high point. 

HBU.png

Houston Baptist Win

FCS Opponent

'Cats go 1-0 to start the season. Expect offensive fireworks. 

Get some confidence now, because the next four weeks are rough. 

 

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@ Colorado Loss

Tough trip to a PAC 12 2016 Division Champ.

Cash the check and hang on for dear life.

App State.png

Appalachian State Loss

Bobcats open conference  play with always tough Appy State. 

Last year's game wasn't exactly ugly, but Texas State didn't threaten the Mountaineers in Boone. 

UTSA Loss

I-35 Rivals finally get to settle things on the field instead of twitter. 

An upset here could be huge for Texas State, not only now but also on the recruiting trail.  

@ Wyoming Loss

Mountain West Division Champ at Altitude = Rough Day.

Wyoming beats people to sleeps. Score may not be an indicator so much as Texas State's ability to play with a physical team. 

Louisiana Monroe Win

After a tough stretch, 'Cats get a W vs. ULM at home.

If not, there ain't many more chances on the docket. 

@ Louisiana Loss

Thursday night, short week, on the road. Should be a tough evening for Texas State.

@ Coastal Carolina Pick 'em

FCS Power making the jump to the Sun Belt. 

Coastal just announced their coach won't be coaching this season due to health concerns. 

'Cats get a few extra days to prep, but still a tough task.

New Mexico State Loss

'Cat avenge last year's 40 point loss in Las Cruces. 

2016 win was the biggest by an Aggie team since 2002. You don't want to be the team on the other end of that score. 

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@ Arkansas State Loss 

Sun Belt favorite on the road. 

Texas State led the 2016 matchup early in the 3rd quarter, but in Jonesboro this is a tough ask. 

Georgia State Pick 'em

Last, best chance at a W. 

GSU has a new coach, moving into a new stadium and are a mystery. 

Bobcats were competitive with the Panthers for a half in Atlanta last year. 

@ Troy Loss

Troy on the road to end the season. Prepare for the worst. 

The Trojans could have a Sun Belt title locked up when this kicks off. 

Roundup Projection: 3-9

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