When Texas State hired head football coach Jake Spavital in late November of last year, the Bobcats were in need of a spark.
The past four years have seen the football team go a combined 10-38 and cycle between three football coaches. In football-crazed Texas, those records are not going to cut it.
Before coming to Texas State, Spavital was an offensive coordinator and quarterback coach at California, Texas A&M and West Virginia. Each school would see their offenses ranked in the top 10 at least once.
The impressive rankings are backed up by stats as well, including the most advanced college football statistics machine ever created.
In 2007, Bill Connelly of SB Nation began an advanced analytical system to take a deeper look into college football statistics, naming it the S&P+ Rating System. The system breaks down offensive and defensive statistics of all the 130 FBS teams and is the most comprehensive set of college football data and measurement in the entire sport. S&P+ tracks the efficiency of a team’s progress through the season.
The S&P+ System has tracked Texas State’s seasons from 2012 through 2018. One of the Bobcats’ football woes was the lack of offensive firepower, especially over the last three years, which S&P+ was able to dissect to produce an offensive rating and comparison with all 130 other football teams in the following statistical algorithm list:
2016 Texas State (S&P+ Offensive Rating 14.5, Ranking 128)
2017 Texas State (S&P+ Offensive Rating 21.7, Ranking 116)
2018 Texas State (S&P+ Offensive Rating 14.9, Ranking 126)
Out of the three seasons, the Bobcats were one of the worst offensive units in the nation, including two seasons ranked at the bottom five out of the 130 teams. As a result, Texas State finished with less than four wins during the 2016-2018 seasons.
On the flip side, Spavital’s offenses have been highly rated by the S&P+ system. By using the same formula that rated the Texas State offenses, Spavital’s offenses have blown opponents out the water with the following rankings:
2013 Texas A&M (S&P+ Offensive Rating 50.5, Ranking 1st)
2014 Texas A&M (S&P+ Offensive Rating 43.6, Ranking 8th)
2015 Texas A&M (S&P+ Offensive Rating 30.4, Ranking 55th)
2016 California (S&P+ Offensive Rating 40.1, Ranking 7th)
2017 West Virginia (S&P+ Offensive Rating 33.6, Ranking 25th)
2018 West Virginia (S&P+ Offensive Rating 41.1, Ranking 9th)
With four offensive seasons where the team was ranked in the top 10, it is highly predicted Spavital can bring the offensive firepower that has been sorely missing.
“It goes down to efficiency,” Spavital said after Friday’s practice. “We just got to score more point than the opponent… with us we have to be smart and that we are putting our kids in the right position to have success.”
The strength of a Spavital offense lies in putting his players in the right position and letting his quarterback’s abilities shine.
Over the past six years, Spavital has coached Johnny Manziel, Kyler Murray, Case Keenum, Will Grier, and Davis Webb to name a few top athletes.
Though each quarterback has their own strengths and weaknesses, Spavital’s ability to exploit their strengths for his offenses has been successful.
“I’ll call a game different with all of those kids,” Spavital said. “With Johnny Manziel, he was remarkable with his feet… so we would utilize him in the quarterback run game… there was a reason he was called Johnny Football.”
Spavital also adjusted his offense in West Virginia to quarterback Will Grier’s strengths.
“Will Grier was a situational runner,” Spavital said. “ (He was) an accurate passer and good pocket presence so I could call a lot of drop-back (passes) because I knew he could sit in long enough to make someone miss.”
Spavital also coached current New York Jets quarterback Davis Webb during his time in California in 2016.
“Davis Webb was strictly a pocket passer… I couldn’t run him so I made sure we called more quick game if the run game wasn’t working.”
As well as building on his players’ strengths, Spavital said tightening their weaknesses year round can give his quarterbacks the upper hand.
“When it’s all said done, you keep working with these kids on their strengths during the season, and work on their weaknesses during the offseason.”
With a tight quarterback race coming into spring practice, Coach Spavital hopes to do the same with them.
“The main goal for them (quarterbacks) is communication and operation,” Spavital said. “These guys have to understand the same thought process as the play call and what are we trying to accomplish with this play and put it in motion…. once we get that rolling, we can focus on the other things.”
Looking at the Jake Spavital’s record with his offenses and his record with his quarterbacks, it is hard not to be optimistic about Texas State’s future.
Even the S&P+ is predicting the Bobcats are going to improve for the 2019 season, forecasting that the team will win five games overall. However, if the offense is able to increase their points per game by at least seven, Texas State’s win projection is bumped up to seven games, which is more than enough to qualify the Bobcats for their first-ever bowl game.
Excitement is buzzing around the program that hasn’t been seen in a very long time. If the computers are saying Texas State is going to improve, this could turn out to be the most memorable season in Texas State football history.