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Notebook: Defensive changes bring in energy, optimism

Photo by: Preslie Cox | Multimedia Editor

There’s a new defensive coordinator in town—at least for the time being.

In the wake of defensive coordinator John Thompson’s resignation Sunday, Texas State has entered a transitional phase.

The change starts with Brad Franchione, who will transition from special teams coordinator and linebackers coach to a more prominent role—the interim defensive coordinator.

“I feel like he’s the guy most ready to orchestrate the things that we want to do and the subtle changes that we’ll make,” said Coach Dennis Franchione. “We have a good rapport. He and I are on the same page on some of the things that need the courage to be fixed.”

Brad Franchione spent the last five seasons at Texas State leading the linebacker and special teams units.

Now, four weeks into the season, Brad Franchione is taking over a defensive unit ranked last in the country in scoring defense and 126th in total defense.

In four games, the Bobcats are allowing 49.5 points and 585 yards per game. Those numbers are down from last year when the defense gave up 27.7 points and 445 yards per game.

“Let me just say this, all right?” Brad Franchione said. “At 18 years, this is the dream that I had. Am I ready? Yeah, I’m ready.”

There’s quite a bit of work to do in the meantime. Texas State’s next game is Oct. 10 against Louisiana-Lafayette, which outscored the team 82-34 in the last two meetings.

To compensate, Dennis Franchione believes it isn’t a matter of simplifying the entire defense.

Instead, the defense will clarify the schemes and eliminate the gray area from the sidelines. There were times during the game when the defense would lag behind while listening to Thompson’s play call.

That split second of hesitation would put the defense at the mercy of the opposition—which totaled 1,302 yards in the last two games.

Dennis Franchione wants to eliminate any indecision so his players will be faster and play with less doubt.

“You can’t make dramatic changes,” Dennis Franchione said. “Fortunately, our system is flexible enough that we can make some subtle changes to evaluate our players and find out how we can best put them in a position to have success.”

Through two practices under Brad Franchione, the motto is energy and no excuses. Brad Franchione wants accountability in the face of a 1-3 start.

Texas State isn’t shying away from the numbers. The defense hasn’t played well. But with eight games left in the season, it isn’t time to give up on the process either.

“We’ve had a lot of energy at practice,” Dennis Franchione said. “We are working on ourselves. It takes a lot of concentration to make the improvements that we need to make.”

“We’ve had two good days. They’ve worked hard. They wanna do better, they wanna do better. That’s a big part of the battle when they come out with that kind of attitude,” Dennis Franchione said.

The coaching staff has realigned their positions to compensate for Brad Franchione’s increased workload. Ashley Ambrose is now coaching the safeties as well as the cornerbacks.

“It’s exciting, but, at the same time, it’s exhausting,” Brad Franchione said. “Our coaches on defense and our head coach and everybody has been supportive. They’ve made it as easy as a transition as they could and they’ve done a good job staying together. We all have to stay together if we are going to improve.”

Dennis Franchione said time is the only variable that will define the team’s defensive improvement or lack thereof.

There are still two months left in the season to turn the ship around.

“It’s hard on everybody—hard on our fans, hard on the players, hard on the coaches,” Dennis Franchione said. “It hasn’t been easy for anybody. The players are better than what they’ve played for whatever reason. We all believe and know that they are better.”

Injury update: Texas State entered its game against Houston without its three defensive tackles. Then Mershad Dillon, senior defensive tackle, exited in the first quarter, leaving the Bobcats’ defensive line even more depleted.

“I don’t know many college programs—and I’m not trying to make any excuses here—but we have to get healthy,” Dennis Franchione said. “There’s not many programs that can leave their top two teams at defensive tackle and hang in there.”

Now the injury total has increased to seven players on the defensive side this week.

With two weeks before Louisiana-Lafayette, Dennis Franchione expects the majority of his defensive rotation to be back at full health by next week. 

“There’s a good chance we’ll have them all back for the game against Lafayette,” Dennis Franchione said. “I really think by next Tuesday they’ll return to practice.”

Defending the quarterback: Among Texas State’s defensive struggles is containing the quarterback.

The last two quarterbacks to face Texas State’s defense—Houston’s Greg Ward Jr. and Southern Mississippi’s Nick Mullens—didn’t have much resistance in the passing or running game.

Ward Jr. and Mullens averaged 346 total yards, five touchdowns and 11.5 yards per play against the Bobcats.

Containing the quarterback—or at least making his job more difficult than it has been—will go a long way toward improving the defense.