[Editor’s note: For the next few summer issues, The University Star sports staff will provide you with breakdowns of the 2015 Texas State football team—from the skill players to the front seven to the secondary to everything in between.]
Tyler Jones, junior quarterback, returns as the third-year incumbent starter. Jones will be the go-to leader for this Bobcat offense. As a dual threat, Jones adds to the Bobcats’ running game. Jones rushed for 718 yards last season, the third best mark on the team. His improvement needs to come from being an impact passer.
Jones has grown with his passing efficiency, completing 65.4 percent of his passes and a 22:7 touchdown to interception ratio in 2014. However, Jones averaged only 222.5 passing yards per game, which ranks 52nd in the nation.
Jones needs to utilize his arm late in close games. In two seasons, he has shown a penchant for making plays in high-leverage situations. That will take Texas State to the next step in making a bowl game for the first time in school history.
Connor White, sophomore quarterback, does not think he will get playing time, but he said his grasp of the offense has increased since transferring from prep school last year. In the event of an injury to Jones, the team can insert White into the fold and maintain the offensive pace Coach Dennis Franchione asks for.
Robert Lowe, senior running back, returns after posting 1,091 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns last season. Chris Nutall, senior running back, also returns after missing the 2014 season. Nutall ran for 506 rushing yards and six touchdowns when he split carries with Lowe in 2013.
Running back will be a strong position for the Bobcats in 2015. The run game is the catalyst for the Bobcats’ spread offense. Texas State rushed for 2,862 total yards in 2014, 18th in the nation.
Texas State lost Ben Ijah to graduation in 2014, but Brandon Smith, CJ Best and Jafus Gaines, senior wide receivers, all return for the Bobcats. The trio combined for a total of 1,058 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. Gaines and Best are smaller, quicker, deep-threat types who are both shorter than six feet. The taller, lengthier Smith will look to be the bigger body on the outside, as well as making his contributions to the kick return game.
The tight end position will be split between Lawrence White, and Ryan Carden, senior tight ends. Both sat behind Brad Miller, who took the majority of the snaps in 2014.
Miller was the Bobcats’ leading receiver, snagging 44 catches for 431 yards. Miller was Jones’ security blanket. Replacing the production of Miller will be key for success in the passing game for Texas State because Jones habitually targets the tight end in the middle of the field.
After catching two passes for 31 yards in the first seven games last season, Lawrence White scored all three of his touchdowns in the last five games along with 110 yards. Jones’ growing comfort with Lawrence White bodes well for this season.
Chris French, sophomore tight end, is on the fringes of the depth chart but he could potentially be a fill-in if he acclimates to the system quickly. French, 6-foot-4, is a three-star recruit from San Clemente High School.