Texas State (6-6) - WAC Rankings -
Offense Avg Defense Avg
Rushing 195.3 Rushing 164.7
Passing 149.9 Passing 235.0
Total 345.2 Total 399.7
Points 25.5 Points 28.5
The Bobcats gradual ascent up the college football ranks from NAIA is finally complete as they begin their first season in the FBS. Their final season in 1AA started well enough, going 5-2 before the wheels fell off the wagon and they limped to a 1-4 finish. The team bears the hallmarks of a Dennis Franchione-led squad - a power running attack offset by a questionable defense. After going 0-2 against FBS foes last season (Texas Tech and Wyoming), they play 11 this season, with Stephen F Austin the only FCS squad. They have a glut of starters returning, which will help with the transition, but whether the defense can hold up against the an early slate of explosive offenses (Houston, TTech, Nevada) could dictate the course of the season.
The Bobcats may have a run-first philosophy, but that’s no reflection on athletic dual-threat QB Shaun Rutherford. Cam Newton’s former backup at Blinn JC threw for 1227 yards and 12 TDs with just 4 picks, while rushing 449 yards and 3 scores, but missed the last two games with an injured shoulder. Former starter Tyler Arndt struggled in relief, but will battle for the starting job in camp. One of the incoming QBs (including 2 JUCOs) could make some noise, but I can’t see Rutherford losing his spot unless he’s injured. Top receiver Darius Bolden has moved on, but Isaiah Bolden (27-368-5) and TE Chase Harper (20-287-3) return. Both played well in spurts last season. The running attack looks to be in good shape with the return of the top 3 leading rushers. Franks was the leader with 863 yards and 9 TDs, but Marcus Curry wasn’t far behind with 637 yards and 3 scores. The return of Dexter Imade from injury will bolster the depth. Of course, if they can’t rebuild the offensive line, the running game may be going nowhere. C Charlie Tuttle and T Thaddeus Watkins played well and return, but filling out the other three slots will be tough. There is some experience among the backups and Jordan Clermont and Adley Eshraghipour move over from the defense to help out, but expect some of their (surprisingly good) freshman class to get some snaps.
The D gambled a lot last season and often paid the price - there were plenty of big plays going in both directions. Eight starters return, but graduated star DE Michael Ebbitt (11.5 sacks) leaves a gaping hole. Jordan Norfleet is smallish but quick at one end, while Jonathon Ward will get first shot at replacing Ebbitt after showing some ability in reserve. Deshun Williams was solid at one tackle spot, but Blake McColloch wasn’t quite as effective opposite him. This is a small D-line that may get blown away in the FBS. Look out for JUCO Thomas Evans to make some impact here. The Bobcats only use 2 LBs in their 4-2-5 defense, but Brian Lilly and Joplo Bartu combined for 103 tackles, 11.5 for loss with 5 sacks. They’re an experienced pair, but suffered from the lack of protection from the D-line last year. That doesn’t look like it will change this season either. The reserves lack seasoning. The secondary is the strength of the defense and returns all 5 starters. The corners are the strength of the unit - Craig Mager broke up 12 passes with 1 pick, while Darryl Morris had 6 PBUs and 6 TFLs. FS Xavier Daniels led the team with 77 tackles, 5 PBUs and 3 picks. Injuries last season mean this year’s reserves have some experience, and there were some nice off-season pickups too.
5 Players to watch out for
- OT Adrian Bellard - with the offensive line needing work, the 4 star recruit is a much needed signing. While he should play straight away, he has had academic issues that could be problematic.
- OG Felix Romero - another decent lineman, this time a 3 star. Romero needs to lose some bad weight which affects his mobility and explosion, but he’s a strong and nasty lineman who fits the offense to a T.
- WR Dede Westbrook - another 3 star recruit, Westbrook is already an accomplished receiver who could make an early impact. The biggest thing that may hold him back is his slight frame, but he could be an inside threat in the slot and as a returner.
- DB Vince Albritton - Albritton was a tough, speedy RB in HS, but the Bobcats look to switch him to defense where his athleticism and ball skills should fit in nicely in their secondary. If he doesn’t pan out on D, he could still be a factor on offense. He could also play a role on special teams.
- DE Thomas Evans - a JUCO transfer from American River College, he led the team with 7 sacks en route to an 11-0 record. With Texas State looking for a pass rusher, he should be favorite to take over for Ebbitt.
The OOC isn’t fun - in addition to those mentioned above they also take on Navy - but the schedule isn’t horrible (it is the WAC). There are two ‘ifs’ - if the O-line gels AND the D-line creates a pass rush, the Bobcats could be a surprise team and win 4 or 5 games. They are big ‘ifs’ though.