(all times local to playing site)
|Sept. 1||at Houston||7:00|
|Sept. 8||TEXAS TECH||6:00|
|Sept. 22||STEPHEN F. AUSTIN
||at New Mexico
||*at San Jose State
|Nov. 3||*at Utah State
||*NEW MEXICO STATE
With construction on a North Side Complex at Bobcat Stadium ending, head coach Dennis Franchione continues to build his Texas State football team for the transition into the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).
The addition of the North Side Complex enclosed one end of the field and added of 14,000 seats to bring seating capacity to 30,000 at the stadium. In addition, the new complex contains a new Athletics Ticket Office, Strutters Gallery, concession stands, novelty stands, restrooms and an apparel store.
The Bobcats join an FBS Conference for the first time when they play in the Western Athletic Conference for one year before joining the Sun Belt Conference in 2013. Texas State played last season as an independent.
Franchione is in the second year of his second stint at Texas State after previously serving as the Bobcats' head coach in 1990-91. During those two seasons, he produced the school's first back-to-back winning seasons as a Division I FCS program.
In 2012, he wants to open up his offense after the featuring a strong running attack to shorten game and take advantage of his team's strengths in 2011.
"In most of the games we won, we controlled the ball offensively," Franchione said. "That allowed us to rest our defense, kept them fresh, established good field position so our opponents had to go a long way to score and maybe kept their offense out of rhythm by keeping the ball and forcing them to sit on the bench. It was tough on us when our offense had too many three and outs and our defense was stuck out there for a lot of plays.
"Our strengths were at tight end and running back so we tried to play to those," Franchione said. "Things haven't changed with our running backs and tight ends, but we have fewer weaknesses this year so I think we can open up our offense more and gain 225 yards rushing and 200-225 yards passing. But, I don't worry about how we score as long as we score more points than they do."
Texas State returns 18 starters and 46 lettermen in 2012 with 23 lettermen and eight starters back on offense. The Bobcats also return 9 starters and 22 lettermen on defense and one starting specialist. Headlining the list of offensive returnees are preseason All-WAC selections Chase Harper, Marcus Curry, Terrence Franks and Isaiah Battle.
Harper leads a strong tight end corps that also includes juniors Colby Goodwin, David Lewis and sophomore Bradley Miller returning from last season. Harper is the second-leading returning receiver for the Bobcats with 20 receptions for 287 yards and three touchdowns. One of the top athletes on Texas State's roster, Franchione sees him playing up to 20 plays per game on defense.
"We went through spring practice last year when David Lewis had performed pretty well and we had high hopes for Colby Goodwin," Franchione said. "The defensive coaches were looking for a pass rusher, but Chase didn't have the benefit of spring practice so we let it go and just played him on offense. This spring, I told the coaches to take him over to defense when he was not playing with the offense. We feel pretty comfortable that he will play 6-18 snaps per game on defense this year."
Lewis played in eight games last season and caught eight passes for 114 yards and a touchdown, while Doll had six receptions for 97 yards and one TD. Miller also caught three passes for 29 yards. Goodwin enters fall camp listed as the No. 2 tight end after having an excellent spring.
Marcus Curry and Terrence Franks return to head up the running back position after combining for 1500 yards, 13 touchdowns and averaging a robust 5.5 yards per carry last season. Franks led the Bobcats' rushing attack with 863 yards and nine touchdowns, while Curry gained 637 yards and ran for three touchdowns. Curry also caught 13 passes for 119 yards and another TD.
The Bobcats also return sophomore Chris Nutall, who gained 71 yards and scored a touchdown on 17 carries as a true freshman.
Joining them is Dexter Imade, who sat out his sophomore season with an injury after running for 414 yards and five touchdowns in 2010.
Isaiah Battle is Texas State's top returning receiver after catching 27 passes for 368 yards and leading the team with five touchdown receptions. Battle is also a dual threat as a kickoff returner on special teams, having returned 20 kicks for 476 yards and recording the second-longest kickoff return in school history with a 93-yard return last season.
Another dual threat for Texas State is inside receiver Andy Erickson, who caught four passes for 35 yards and averaged 11.1 yards on 18 punts. Tim Hawkins, who split time at running back and wide receiver last season, enters this season playing at the wide receiver spot.
The Bobcats also return senior Cody Matthews at the wide out position and Ben Ijah, who had a good spring and could be a productive receiver. Jafus Gaines also performed well in the spring could challenge other receivers for playing time. Franchione thinks freshman Brandon Smith could emerge as an immediate contributor.
Texas State opens fall camp with a pair of No. 1 quarterbacks in senior Shaun Rutherford and junior Tyler Arndt. Rutherford started the first nine games last season before being sideline with an injury in the Prairie View A&M game.
He ended his season with a 144.66 efficiency rating after completing 58.3 percent (91-156) of his passes and throwing 12 touchdowns and having a 3-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Arndt struggled most of last season while recovering from an ACL injury, but received the team's Jim Bob Helduser award as the most improved offensive player in spring drills. He completed 13 of his 19 passes for 218 yards and a touchdown. He also completed a 70-yard pass to Erickson in the spring game.
"We left spring knowing that we have two number-one quarterbacks," Franchione said. "Last year, there were days that we did what they could do and not much more than that. I thought Tyler really raised his game in spring practice, which was great to see. Shaun also improved. Both can start and play in a game. We have 29 practices to figure out who will run out and start the first game."
The Bobcats also have added three more scholarship quarterbacks to the roster with junior college transfer Duke DeLancellotti and Jordan Moore joining the team in the spring and Fred Nixon joining the team this fall.
The biggest question mark for Texas State's offense is on the offensive line where senior tackle Thaddeus Watkins and sophomore center Charlie Will Tuttle are the returning starters. Senior Adley Eshraghipour enters this fall listed as a starting tackle after moving over from the defensive line in spring practice. Another defensive lineman who joined the offensive line is junior Jeff Clermond, who Franchione thought was "coming on" at the end of spring practice.
Tuttle moved over to guard last spring to make room for redshirt freshman Matt Freeman to take over at center after the first six practices last spring. In addition, redshirt junior Mike Yoder enters fall camp as the other starting guard entering fall camp.
The offensive line could get an added boost if Collin Fissell fully recovers from the knee injury he suffered last season. Franchione also looks for junior college transfer Tyler Potter, juniors Devin Baker, Andrew Sims, Lee Conoly and Joey Simone, along with redshirt freshman Stephan Jacobs to continue their development. In addition, signees Matt Gray, Hayden Lambert, Ryan Melton, Felix Romero and Adrian Bellard join the team this fall.
One of the keys to improving Texas State's offense is reducing their turnovers after they registered 24 in 2011 and Franchione believes that the Bobcats took a dramatic step towards improving in that area last spring.
"We had just one turnover in our three scrimmages and that was an interception in the spring game," Franchione said. "Hopefully, we can carry that into the fall because when we were good in the turnover margin category last year, we won every game."
The strength of Texas State's defense heading into fall workouts is the experienced depth in the secondary where both starting cornerbacks, and three safeties that split time as starters return.
Both Darryl Morris and Craig Mager started all 12 games last season. Entering his fourth season as a starter, Morris ranked third among team leaders with 62 tackles, 6.0 tackles for loss and three quarterback sacks. He returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown, making him the first Bobcat to accomplish the feat since 2008. He also broke up six other passes, and recorded a safety with a quarterback sack in the end zone against Lamar and recovered one fumble.
Mager recorded 51 tackles and broke up 12 passes to lead the Bobcats as a redshirt freshman. He intercepted one pass and forced a fumble for the Bobcats. Redshirt freshman David Mims II emerged as Texas State's third corner in spring drills and true freshman Justin Albritton reported in the spring after graduating last December. The emergence of Mims and Albritton allowed the Bobcats to move Phillip Benning to safety.
Xavier Daniels led the Bobcats with 77 tackles and 3 interceptions as a first-year starter at free safety. Aaron Matthews, who ranked second on the team with 65 stops and 2 interceptions, and Tyler Chase, who played primarily on special teams and recorded seven tackles and blocked a punt, join Daniels.
Texas State also has experience at the weak safety position. Senior Jason McLean returns after making eight starts last season. McLean recorded 42 tackles, while intercepting one pass and breaking up another pass. He also registered a quarterback sack and had three quarterback hurries in 2011.
Benning joins junior Justin Iwuji at the other safety position after breaking up three passes to go along with his 15 tackles. Iwuji registered 33 tackles, including six tackles for loss and recovered a fumble. He also broke up five passes and had four quarterback hurries.
One of the biggest surprises in spring practice was Joshua'e' Robinson, who earned the Fred Bleil "Most Improved Defense" award and helped solidify the linebacker position last spring. Robinson will contend with senior Brian Lilly for a starting spot at the SAM position when the team reports for August. Lilly split time at the position and recorded 52 tackles, a quarterback sack and two hurries last season. He also forced a fumble and had six tackles for loss. Another player who could step in as an immediate contributor is junior college transfer Damion McMiller from San Joaquin Delta Community College.
Senior Joplo Bartu returns at MIKE linebacker after emerging as a starter last season. Bartu had 51 tackles and ranked second on the team with four quarterback sacks in 10 games. Junior college transfer David Mayo and freshmen Jerrid Jeter-Gilmon could contend for playing time there as well.
A concern for Texas State's coaching staff is at defensive end, where the Bobcats must replace Michael Ebbitt and Ron Jackson. Ebbitt joined the team last season and led the team in tackles for loss with 15.5 and quarterback sacks with 11.5. He also recovered two fumbles, returning one for a 63-yard touchdown and forced another fumble. Jackson split time with junior Jordan Norfleet at the other end position. Norfleet returns to lead the group after tallying 32 tackles and 5.5 tackles for loss. He recorded 2.5 sacks and led the Bobcats with six quarterback hurries last season. In addition, junior college transfers Thomas Evans and Jacob Woten provided some sparks in spring practice. Redshirt freshman Tylond Robertson, true freshman Justin Booth and senior Jarrett Haywood will see playing time this fall.
"Rushing the passer is a concern," Franchione said. "But Thomas Evans and Jacob Woten showed us some things in spring practice, and Jordan Norfleet also improved. Justin Booth will also help us. We did not know about Michael Ebbitt at this time last year, but I think he turned out great and gave us a pass rusher. It might not be one guy, but a combination of players."
The coaching staff is more comfortable with interior defensive line where Deshun Williams and Blake McColloch return after starting every game last season. Williams had 22 tackles at his nose tackle position and McColloch registered 18 stops. They also combined for eight tackles for loss and three quarterback sacks. Junior college transfer Kamu Taulelei stood out in the spring and could push McColloch for a starting tackle spot. The Bobcats also have experienced depth at nose tackle with junior Jamie Clavell-Head returning after logging 11 tackles and intercepting a pass. Redshirt freshman Samuel Mayes could push them for playing time.
Sophomore Will Johnson returns as Texas State's kicker and assumes the punting chores with the departure of Ben Follis. As a true freshman last season, Johnson set a school record with a 53-yard field goal and converted on nine of his 13 field goals from outside 40 yards. Perfect in his 33 extra-point attempts, he made just 50 percent of his field goal attempts inside the 40. Johnson also was punter in high school and averaged over 40 yards per punt as a senior. The one area in which Franchione would like to see him improve is in his consistency.
"Will has an outstanding leg and has a chance to be a great kicker if he improves his consistency on short field goals," Franchione said. "If he is inconsistent, we can use Jason Dann."
Dann is a transfer from Nebraska, who earned All-District honors at Lake Highland High School. He kicked 11 field goals and converted 46 PAT tries during his senior season.
"We have improved as a football team," Franchione said. "The big question for us is, ‘Do we have enough of a FBS team to meet the challenges of this schedule?"
The schedule begins at Houston on Sept. 1. The Bobcats also play non-conference home games against Texas Tech on Sept. 8, Stephen F. Austin on Sept. 22 and Nevada on Sept. 29, before traveling to New Mexico on Oct. 6. Texas State begins its WAC schedule against Idaho on Oct. 13, before traveling to San Jose State on Oct. 27 and Utah State on Nov. 3.
The Bobcats return home to play defending WAC champion Louisiana Tech on Nov. 10 before traveling to Navy for their final non-conference game on Nov. 17 and playing a conference game at UTSA on Nov. 24. The Bobcats close out the season playing host to New Mexico State on Dec. 1.
"It is a hard schedule and it would be a hard schedule had we been a FBS team for five years, let alone our first year," Franchione said. "We are jumping into the FBS all the way now and know that this is going to be a big step.