Mental toughness and patience are being preached on the Texas State practice fields as the Bobcats prepare for their first game of the football season.
Coach Dennis Franchione understands now is the time for players to knock heads and go for the highlight touchdown runs each Saturday night, but said he is not quite sure what to expect with the first game.
“We’re at the point where we need to play a game,” Franchione said. “(We need to) find out where we are. You reach a point where you need to go play somebody else in order to get better. Hopefully we’ll play well, first game you never really know, you don’t have the benefit of scrimmaging against anyone else, it’s just against yourself.”
Much pressure will be placed on secondary defense and senior safety Aaron Matthews, who believes there is a significant difference from the Maroon and Gold game that took place during the spring.
“I think our intensity has picked up a lot,” Matthews said. “Everybody knows their assignments, we stepped it up a lot especially from last year. I think we click together, and have a better bond, especially in the back five.”
Unity will be the key when it comes to the back five, especially when former starting safety Xavier Daniel was asked to move to corner during the spring. With more of an emphasis on coverage and a different type of footwork, Daniels has impressed Matthews during his almost flawless transition.
“(It) couldn’t be better, I can’t even explain it,” Matthews said. “He’s just a great athlete, he’s talented, so he fits perfect in it. I’ve seen him progress a lot, especially from the springtime. He’s getting more physical. He looks like a natural talent, like he’s been playing corner his whole life.”
The defense is firing on all cylinders while the offense is in the midst of a quarterback battle. The competition between seniors Tyler Arndt, Duke DeLancellotti and freshman redshirt Jordan Moore still continues for the starting position.
“Whoever it is, I know they’re going to be a good guy,” Matthews said. “Coach will make the right decision, we have some very good quarterbacks.”
Regardless of who will be throwing the ball, Franchione will have the luxury of relying on an experienced group of receivers to take the pressure off the unknown quarterback. Texas State has three of the top four receivers returning and the Bobcat quarterbacks will have plenty of weapons at their disposal.
“We’ve got a good core, three, four experienced guys,” Franchione said. “Ben Ijah, Brandon Smith, Andy (Erikson) and Isaiah (Battle), those guys have played a lot of football for us. They’re all capable and we have confidence in them, and we have some guys who are coming along as well.”
Blake Cundiff, strength and conditioning coach, wanted to test this year’s team with a different approach and focused more on mental adversity in preparation for the season and Southern Miss.
“We’re far and above, from where we were at this time last year,” Cundiff said. “Obviously we were in good shape going into the first game last year, but the mental approach this year has been a couple of levels above from where it was last year. The physical stuff (follows) the mental, and they’ve done a hell of a job from the summer to this point.”