Spring ball is just around the corner in San Marvelous, year three of the Everett Withers experience. The first two years? Not great in the win column, but last season showed tangible improvement on the field. Close losses to Appalachian State, New Mexico State, and Georgia State are encouraging. The first half against Colorado on the road is encouraging as well. This program is improving but at some point closes losses need to translate into wins.
It's spring ball time, and the Bobcats have some work to do. We have a list of ideas for Texas State to start working through in the next month.
Find a quarterback
Like UTEP, Rice, and UTSA, the Bobcats are facing a wide-open quarterback battle this spring and probably into fall camp. Texas State's front-runner is Willie Jones III, the rangy, lanky athlete who saw action last year, including extensive action against Louisiana Lafayette and Wyoming. He's the only quarterback on the roster who's made real live college throws.
Last year's bumper crop of signees needs to produce a competent starter. The Bobcats signed five quarterbacks/athletes and currently list four as quarterbacks, Willie Jones, Kishawn Kelley, Jaylen Gipson, and Jaylin Nelson. Nelson is probably better suited to play running back or slot, but his athleticism might make it hard to keep him off the field.
Jones, Kelley, and Gipson are all dual-threat quarterbacks, each is above 6-2, and each has a spread background. Kelley was slowed with a shoulder injury last season. Gipson worked with the first team during fall camps last season, but Jones emerged as the backup to grad transfer Damien Williams. Jones appeared to have a different gear on the field and a good passing touch.
Texas State doesn't have a more critical position to ferret out than quarterback. This spring the Bobcats need to start finding that answer.
The Offensive Line
The Bobcats experienced grown pains n the offensive line last season. The 'Cats tried different combinations, moved players in and out, to search, hope, and rectify the situation. They're still searching. Their entire two-deep returns, a year more experienced, maybe a year better. Aaron Brewer returns, he's the blue-chip of the bunch. Brewer shifted from center, to guard, and even left tackle last season. He's a more natural interior play, but he's the best athlete up front as well.
After Brewer, Tryston Mizerak started every game at right tackle and freshman Nic Foster started ten games at left tackle as a true freshman. Tackle might be set, with Tanner King and Josiah Washington providing depth.
Inside the Bobcats moved true freshman Reece Jordan to center for the last seven games. Jacob Rowland started every game at left guard as a true sophomore. Washington filled in at guard as well.
The growing pains of 2017 might spawn a competent offensive line in 2018. Brewer is the known commodity. The rest of these young players had up and down seasons, mostly down. Do you chalk that up to youth or is there a talent deficit? Offensive linemen take multiple years to develop, and depth forced Texas State to speed up that process last season.
The Bobcats signed three offensive linemen for the 2018 class; ideally, those players would redshirt to bulk up and learn the system. With so many young players on the offensive line depth chart, the evaluation will be critical this spring.
Meet Chris Woods
The revolving door of Texas State coaching continued with Randall McCray's departure to the NFL. This one stings. Last season the Bobcat defense started to turn. They were aggressive, fast, and much better up front. Chris Woods enters the picture from Oklahoma by way of some smaller classifications.
No matter the base scheme, the defense will change. Texas State returns some excellent young prospects. They form the base of Woods defense. Bryan London, JaShon Waddy, Jordan Mittie, and Frankie Griffin can all be dynamic players. Sami Awad and Caeveon Patton, Ishmael Davis, Dean Taylor along with Mittie give the Bobcats decent depth up front.
McCray's vision for a fast, attacking unit began to come to fruition. Now it's Woods turn to run things and put his stamp. For the new defensive coordinator installing his system and assessing his talent is important over these fifteen practices.
Get to know JaShon Waddy
Who's the toughest guy you know? If you know JaShon Waddy, you may already have your answer. Waddy played most of last season with one arm and did it better than most corners in the Sun Belt. Everett Withers contemplated shutting Waddy down for the rest of the year, but the toughest guy in the 512 wouldn't have it. So he started eleven of twelve games, most while wearing a sling due to a bum shoulder.
Waddy is a rarity, a cornerback who doesn't tackle like he's making business decisions. He's not afraid to stick his head in and mix it up. Waddy finished fifth on the team in tackles with 55 and broke up five passes along the way. He also almost had a few interceptions. If you've followed Texas State football recently, you know that interceptions aren't a given. He also forced a fumble.
Imagine what Waddy could do with two arms? Hopefully, Texas State fans get to find that out this fall.