Texas State Football Season Preview

Sports Reporter

The Bobcats are looking to improve upon last year’s 6-6 record and seventh-place finish in the Sun Belt conference.

Coach Dennis Franchione stressed the importance of offensive consistency at the Bobcats’ media day session.

“Right now we are not very consistent,” Franchione said. “We’re very up-and-down. From an offensive standpoint, it’s nice to have our starting quarterback in place. Tyler (Jones) is having a good camp. Our tight ends need to be more consistent, but our offensive line is better.”

The coaching staff has implemented a hurry-up offense that looks to put more pressure on opposing defenses. The Bobcats ranked last in total offense last year, and Franchione believes a more up-tempo offense will lead to more points.

“I look at Duke last year, and they had a great season,” Franchione said. “They had a 10-plus win season and overcame things and dictated tempo with their offense. Now, are we good enough to do that? I don’t know. Hopefully we have a chance to keep that up-tempo going and wear people down in the fourth quarter.”

Jones, sophomore quarterback, is a crucial part of how the offense responds to the hurry-up style of play. In eight games last season, Jones had a completion percentage of 62.5 percent, and threw for 1,130 yards with eight touchdowns and five interceptions.

“We have to improve our ball security,” Jones said.  “Coach Franchione considers the Sun Belt Conference to be a mini-SEC (Southeastern Conference), and to an extent I agree with him.  There are some well-coached players in this conference, and we have to take care of the ball.”

The coaching staff gained a new face this off-season with the addition of defensive coordinator John Thompson. Thompson served the past two years as Arkansas State’s defensive coordinator.  In 2013, Thompson’s team ranked third in the Sun Belt in both scoring and passing defense. 

Thompson brings a complex and aggressive style to Texas State. Opposing offenses will see many different plays from the Bobcat defense in the upcoming season, and Thompson hopes this will allow the defense to dictate the flow of the game.

“We’ve got to make it tough on the offense,” Thompson said. “If you only run two or three different coverages, the offense will scheme you and gash you. We’re going to attack the other team, and we’re going to attack the other quarterback.”

Michael Orakpo, senior linebacker, is entering his last season as a Bobcat and is looking to continue to be the anchor on an improving defense.  Last season Orakpo had 71 tackles and led the team with 4.5 sacks.  Orakpo is excited about the aggressive style Thompson is bringing to the defense, and he is impressed with the new blitz schemes.

“Overall, the best thing about my position is that the middle linebacker calls the shots,” Orakpo said.  “Sometimes we can dictate where the blitzes go or where to slide the defensive line. Coach Thompson has really taught us how to read offenses. That’s important for me because I feel like we are going to put our players in a position to make plays.”

Craig Mager, senior cornerback, is also impressed with the new aggressive style of defensive play.  Mager has made 36 consecutive starts for the Bobcats. He recorded 49 tackles and nine pass breakups last year, with a touchdown against Southern Miss. Mager enjoys the freedom an aggressive defense allows him.

“I love just being on an island outside,” Mager said. “That’s what kind of corner I am. It puts a little more pressure on you when we bring a little more heat because you don’t have as much help over the top, but I really enjoy the pressures he (Thompson) is putting on us because I feel like it gives us more freedom to just play.”

With the new season brings a new batch of freshman looking to compete for starting positions.  Gabe Schrade, a freshman who attended Deland High School in Florida, has impressed the coaching staff and could possibly be competing for a starting position at tight end. Clarence Guidry III from Pflugerville, Texas, has also been competing for the cornerback position. 

P.J. Anderson from San Antonio, Texas, should also provide depth at the wide receiver position.  Overall, the coaching staff is impressed with the work ethic of the new freshmen and the team as a whole.  The Bobcats are moving in the right direction, but Coach Franchione realizes that there is more work to be done.

“We’re not where we want to be, but thank God we’re not where we were,” Franchione said.

Although there have been changes to the offensive and defensive game plan, the Bobcats should benefit from playing the Sun Belt opponents for a second year in a row. Texas State faces Arkansas-Pine Bluff in the season opener Aug. 30 at Bobcat Stadium.