The first day of fall camp is typically a day for excitement and hope. It's also a time for coaches to explain why certain players have yet to appear for issuance of their jock straps. In San Marcos on Monday Everett Withers met the press and what he said may have been a death nail on the Bobcats' season.
According to Withers, graduate transfer Damian Williams is suspended indefinitely due to academic and personal issues. Williams is the graduate transfer from Mississippi State who lit up the spring game and was inked in as the probable starter. He's also the only quarterback on the roster who's seen live action in a college football game.
The hits just kept on coming with the similar news that running back Stedman Mayberry has left the team. Mayberry led the Bobcats in rushing last season, no one else was within 350 yards of him. He had 100 carries more than the next most used Bobcat. Next came word that running back Tyler Tutt may be lost for the year due to injury.
According to Withers there's "no telling" whether Williams will be back for the 2016 season. The loss of Mayberry can be overcome. Robert Brown and Anthony Taylor are ready to step up. But losing Williams mean that Texas State would be forced to start either a walk-on or a true freshman. Every quarterback with experience from last year's squad left the program. One graduated, one transferred, one left for EuropThe four true freshman the Bobcats would choose from are talented, but they are true freshman.
The bigger issue is the state of the program.
Everett Withers was a good hire from an FCS up and comer in Jame Madison that he built. Withers has Texas ties and a great pedigree coaching with Mack Brown, Urban Meyer and Butch Jones. Still, his tenure at Texas State, however brief, has been marked by failure on the field and issues off it. Withers inherited a near impossible situation with the talent left behind by Dennis Franchione. The result was a 2-10 season with a now improbable win in the opener vs. Ohio and a beatdown of FCS opponent Incarnate Word. In conference the 'Cats were outscored by an average of 40 to 14.
In public Withers placed his teams struggles squarely on the personnel and culture he walked into. While that's partly true, the attitude alienated those inside the football building and caused dissension on the field. Watching from the outside, Texas State played like a team divided in 2016. A team that lacked the desire, motivation, and physicality needed to overcome their shortcomings.
Then this offseason Withers once again made headlines when he said, after the spring game, that he wasn't comfortable having his family around last year's team. Said flat out he didn't like last year's team. Said that it was infested with bad guys. Those are hardline statements that you can't imagine most coaches uttering, let alone doing so in front of a gang of reporters and on video for the world to see.
Now based on today's revelations it appears that the quarterback the 'Cats were staking much of their season on may never see the field and their top returning running back left the program over the summer. Whatever progress and hope for a better 2017 is now dimmed by the void.
Withers has always said he would recruit his problems away, turn over the roster, break the infestation. His chips are in. He's burned his bridges. Whatever personnel and culture issues exist today fall by-in-large squarely on he and his staff. Wins will validate the direction he's taking the program and his tactics. Those wins look increasingly difficult to come by.