Saturday, July 22, 2017

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Texas State Bobcats

Texas State Bobcats
Everett Withers came from a strong run at James Madison to take over a program that Dennis Franchione never got off the ground, and he had a tough go of it in year one, as the Bobcats finished with just two wins. Withers, the former Ohio State assistant, has the pedigree to win, but this roster is in just year two of a complete rebuild, and it's very tough to see how long it will take to get competitive. After getting blown out on a regular basis last fall, this team has to find some confidence, and just learn how to best compete with talent that just is not entirely up to par across the board. That process is in place, but nothing gets built in one year.

What To Be Excited About: Offense
The passing game should receive a boost this season, as all three starting receivers return in Tyler Watts, Elijah King, and TE Gabe Schrade. King is the best of the bunch, as he averaged 16.43 yards per catch last fall. Thurman Morbley returns as well to give the Bobcats a solid receiving corps. Now they just need someone to get them the football on a consistent basis.

Three starters return on the line, including both Tackles in Tristan Mizerak and Jacob Rowland, and Aaron Brewer at Center.

Marcus Ripley did not get a ton of work in, but he took advantage of what opportunity he had by hitting 5/6 FG attempts. He will return to handle the PK job as a sophomore.

What To Be Concerned About: Offense
The run game was absolutely abysmal last season, as the Bobcats averaged just 82.42 yards rushing per game as a team. Stedman Mayberry, the starter last season, is rapidly falling down the depth chart, as RS freshman Robert Brown and sophomore Anthony Taylor are currently running ahead of him on the two deep.

The Bobcats are handing over the QB position to Mississippi State transfer Damian Williams, who comes in with a ton of promise. The staff seems excited about him, but he has to transfer that potential into real game ability, and he had all of two career starts at Mississippi State before the transfer. There's reason for excitement, but until we see what he can do in a game for the Bobcats, there is reason for concern as well.

The line, while blessed with three returning starters, will be very young overall, as four underclassmen could be handling starting duties on opening day against Memphis. That combination normally does not work out very well.

What To be Excited About: Defense
The LB spot could be a strength in 2017, as three starters return in the 3-4 set. Bryan London, one of the best players in the Sun Belt, is back after a 141 tackle effort that also saw him lead the team in TFLs with 8.5. Gabe Loyd, who finished with 102 tackles, also returns this fall. Frankie Griffin finished with 46 tackles as a sophomore, and returns to start as well.

What To Be Concerned About: Defense
Ishmael Davis is the lone returning starter that seems a lock to retain his job on the line this season after finishing with 6.5 TFLs from his DE spot in 2017. Jordan Mittie, who was the starter at NT to end last season, is being pushed at NT by Sami Awad and Gjemar Daniels, and Mittie could end up moving to DE where would battle Dean Taylor for a starting spot.

The secondary is in complete rebuild mode, as all four starters will be new this fall. Anthony J Taylor and Jashon Woddy are expected to lock down the CB jobs, while AJ Krawczyk and Quinn Tiggs are projected to start at the Safety spots. There is limited, at best, experience with this group, and depth will be non-existent.

James Sherman is expected to grab the starting Punter job this fall, but punted just three times last season, to unimpressive results.

2017 Schedule
9/2 Houston Baptist, 9/9 at Colorado, 9/16 Appalachian State, 9/23 UTSA, 9/30 at Wyoming, 10/7 UL-Monroe, 10/12 at UL-Lafayette, 10/28 at Coastal Carolina, 11/4 New Mexico State, 11/11 Georgia State, 11/18 at Arkansas State, 11/24 at Troy

Final Overview
Patience is the key here for the Bobcat faithful, who have a very active fan base. There is enough talent in the recruiting base to eventually build this program up, but it will take some serious time, and anything less than five years to get it done is just asking too much at this point. Withers certainly has his hands full, and the schedule maker did this team no favors by starting this season off with Colorado, Appalachian State early, and a trip to Wyoming to end the month of September. The "rivalry" game with UTSA returns, and that should be a lot of fun for the fans. All in all, I expect another rough year in San Marcos, but we will be looking for signs of development and growth.

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