Official Blog of Texas State University - San Marcos Department of Athletics.

Special Forces

Written by Bill Culhane on 3:12 PM

Special Forces

Are you old enough to remember Dana Carvey doing his Church Lady bit, on Saturday Night Live? Remember her, err…his, famous line, “Well isn’t that SPE-CIAL?!” The Church Lady wasn’t a football fan or coach, but if the character were, the Church Lady would have quickly proclaimed that many games are won, or lost, with Special Teams play.

Hidden yardage, momentum changing plays, field position, quick points, short fields, the list goes on, are all parts of what Special Teams can do for, or against, your football team. A blocked field goal scoop and score, a fourth quarter punt return for a TD, a blocked punt, etc., are all Special Teams plays which Bobcat fans only have to think back to 2010 to recall the impact of Special Teams.

In close games, and I think the Bobcats will have their share in 2011, a Special Teams play can often be the difference between a W or L, or championships. In 2005, we had five games decided by a touchdown or less. In 2008, we had six such games. Case closed.

Coach Brad Franchione, who we already “met” when we reviewed the linebackers, is also our Special Teams Coordinator.

“I believe we made a tremendous amount of progress since the first day of camp,” is how Coach Franchione described ST’s so far. He continued, “I’m excited about what we’re doing kicking the ball, punting the ball. I think that Follis, Will Johnson, and Lloyd Chisum have shown themselves to be quality at what they do.”

Covering kicks is a part of the ST’s job description and Coach Franchione is getting happier by the day, “I’ve seen our coverage improve drastically, really in the last five days…probably because we’ve emphasized it more as a coaching staff.”

Make no mistake, there will be a lot of starters in on the ST units. According to Coach Franchione, “The precedent was set by the head coach many days ago…all the players in our program understand that quality effort, technique, execution on special teams, in some ways, is thought of higher than what they’re doing offensively and defensively.“ “If they can’t do that, then they may not be playing on offense and defense.“

Ben Follis, slated to be the Bobcat’s starting punter, is one of the veterans on the 2011 team and has punted (and run the ball!) for the Bobcats the previous three seasons.

According to Ben, it has been a building block process in getting the ST’s ready for 2011, “We’ve been breaking it down, doing one thing at a time, and then building on that at each practice.”

On the fifteen yard drop back from punt formation, “I haven’t done a fifteen yard drop back since high school. In the Spring, I was kind of struggling with it, getting my steps down. In Fall Camp, I’ve been a lot better.”

Spread the word! Bobcat radio can be heard on ESPN Austin, 92.5FM, starting with the season opener, this Saturday, at Texas Tech. “This Saturday”, can it be true?! We’ll speak with you beginning at 5PM with the pregame show. Note: You can also catch Bobcat football online at espnaustin.com or txstatebobcats.com.

In our next blog, we will run like the wind with the running backs.

If you have any questions or comments, please let me know at lightthestar@gmail.com

Eat 'Em Up!

Bill

Written by Bill Culhane on 11:16 AM

Wanted: Fleet of Foot, Nerves of Steel

In 2011, a lot will be expected of the Bobcat cornerbacks in the 4-2-5. There will be many situations in which the corners will be locked up with a receiver mano y mano style. Multiple thousands of fans in the stands, all eyes locked on you, in the hip pocket of the receiver, here comes the ball…rinse…repeat. Sounds like a pleasant way to spend a Saturday? Oh, and by the way, in your “free time”, on occasion you will be expected to come up and take on a running back as he enters your real estate. Timid and passive need not apply.

Of course, Darryl Morris returns at corner after earning All-SLC 2nd Team honors in 2010. Pass defense, run support, Darryl does it all, along with being on the all-interview team. In part, Fall Camp 2011 was dedicated to identifying the other side along with cultivating the requisite depth. Corner, like most positions, requires a quality rotation to keep everyone on the hop. Even if you’re a Darryl Morris.

Others who project to contribute at corner are Derek Lopez, who saw significant action in 2010, and Craig Mager, a redshirt freshman who has surely impressed. Do you remember, wide receiver, Cedric Alexander? Now I present to you, cornerback, Cedric Alexander. Back in 2008, Mo Crosby converted from receiver to corner and it resulted in all-conference honors for the senior. Phillip Benning, who saw time last season, will also be a part of the equation. There are others who battled in Camp 2011 and could propel themselves into a role as the festivities move along.

Jason Washington, once upon a time a Bobcat who prowled the secondary with authority (when he wasn‘t manning centerfield for the baseball team), returns to Texas State to lead the cornerbacks. You recall that “J-Wash” was our cornerbacks coach from ‘04-’06.

Coach Washington likes what he sees in the CB group, “All those guys are doing a great job. We talk about being trustworthy, accountable…working and competing each and every day.”

He likes the leadership in his group, “Seniors Cedric Alexander and Derek Lopez have taken the reigns and have really emphasized the opportunity to work. They make sure every guy is giving their full one hundred percent each and every day.”

Coach Washington agreed that Darryl Morris is very good and added he has high standards for the Bobcat Junior, “I require of him to do more. We talk about win every drill…win every one on one that you do. Darryl has been focusing on that every time he is out there.”

We talked about corner responsibilities in run support, “You can’t just be a cover corner. You have to be physical and get involved in the run. We will blitz our corners, get them involved, stick their noses in the action.”

On Craig Mager, “He has done an unbelievable job. He’s taken great pride in his technique and just takes steps forward to be successful.”

Speaking of Craig, how valuable is a redshirt year? In my opinion, it is quite rare when you would suggest that a redshirt year is a bad thing, particularly at a position like corner, where one misstep in a thirty yard route can be costly.

Mager, from nearby Luling, talks about the value of his year off of the game field, “Definitely, the redshirt year was a good thing. I put on around ten pounds by working out in the weight room. My footwork was horrible, because I played offense before I came over here. It gave me a whole year to work on my technique.”

Craig chuckled and added how it helped with the books, “Ah, school!!! It’s good to have a redshirt year just so you can get used to the transition of going from school to football practice.”

Craig is playing for more than himself, “I’m really family-oriented. I have three little sisters, so I’m out here trying to “get it” for them.”

Of course, Fall Camp 2011 is now a memory. Brant and I joined Coach Fran to wrap up camp and discuss the building of the Bobcats, version 2011.

In the next blog, we review the other third, the Special Teams.

If you have any questions or comments, please let me know at lightthestar@gmail.com

Eat 'Em Up!

Bill

Got Vertical?

Written by Bill Culhane on 11:53 AM

Got Vertical?

Take a glance at the calendar. Fall Camp 2011 is officially over, so you know what that means! My esteemed, maroon and gold brethren, it is Game Week! It seems like literally yesterday we were witnessing the Bobcat baseball team in the NCAA Regional...time flies.

As I think spread offense, the forward pass quickly comes to mind. However, make no mistake, the Bobcats are going to “pound the pavement” as well. That being said, let’s look at the Bobcat wideouts and tight ends who will catch and, rest assured, block in the Bobcat’s 2011 offense.

After Markee White put together his sensational 2005 season, we pondered how long it would be before another Bobcat receiver could approach, or match, his production. Cameron Luke entered the picture and constructed record setting seasons in ‘07 and ‘08. How long would the next wait be? Hello, Da’Marcus Griggs. In ’09 and ’10, Da’Marcus etched his name in the Texas State record books. Will it be a guy, or some form of a committee, who end up on the end of aerials in 2011? This question is just one of the reasons I’m excited about the upcoming season.

Coach Jason Johnson is the man tasked with developing and identifying the 2011 receiving corps. Coach Johnson, a former quarterback at Western Kentucky, is in his first year at Texas State. Note: Coach Johnson still throws a very good ball!

Coach Johnson recently gave us his overall evaluation of the receiver group, “We’re still building, still building the foundation of the core receiver group.” He continued, “We’re working together and communicating well. The kids have really embraced each other. We have a lot of different faces than we had in the Spring and everyone has joined in, and bought in….I couldn’t be any prouder as a group and as an offense.”

Expectations are a big part of any group or organization and Coach Johnson defined his expectations for his student-athletes, “This program is built on trust and accountability, first and foremost. They need to be accountable, not just here in football and the things we ask of them over here, but also on the academic side and socially.”

As a leading returning receiver, you would expect that Darius Bolden would be called upon to be a key contributor. Coach Johnson has been impressed by Bolden, “Special. Special kid on and off the field…a lead by example type of kid. Always does things the way you want him to do it…he is a kid who is special to me.”

Isaiah Battle, seen to the right, transferred to Texas State from Blinn College and is one of the newcomers Coach Johnson was referring to earlier. Battle is a physical looking football player, makes the catch, and projects to be a “hard guard” for opposing corners.

I asked Isaiah about the transition to this level, “It wasn’t really a major transition because we all have to play at a certain level all of the time. We have to go hard all of the time, as Coach Fran told us.”

Isaiah discussed how much of a help Darius Bolden has been to the receiver group, “Darius Bolden is basically the leader of the group. He knows the in’s and out’s of everything, so everyone goes to him if they need to know something.”

I asked Battle about receivers contributing with the run game, “Blocking is definitely one of the bigger things we emphasize…on the field at this level, we have to be extremely tough. You have to be just as tough as linemen or anybody on the field.”


If variety is indeed the spice of life, then the tight end situation at Texas State is hot. I have zero reservations offering that this projects to be the best tight end group I’ve seen in my time at Texas State. Transfer Chase Harper, who I saw play in high school, is the very definition of prototypical tight end. He can run routes, catch, block, and if you come up to tackle, you may want to snap on that chin strap. Talented, physical returner David Lewis and newcomers, i.e., Kyle Doll and Colby Goodwin also figure to be in the mix.

It's true! As I noted in a previous blog, we have a new radio home for Bobcat football! Bobcat football can be heard on ESPN Radio 92.5 FM, in Austin, or streamed on the internet at www.espnaustin.com or www.txstatebobcats.com. The one-hour pregame show will consist of the same elements you've become accustomed to: visit with Coach Fran, a Bobcat player, a Bobcat assistant, Voice of the Opposition, and much more. Each broadcast will conclude with a 15-minute postgame, including words from our head coach, Coach Fran.

I know you have your tickets. Do you know of any Bobcat friends, family members, or fans who don't have their's yet? Send them this link ...they'll thank you for it!

In honor of the season opener being right around the corner, we will visit the Bobcat cornerbacks in our next blog.

If you have any questions or comments, please let me know at lightthestar@gmail.com

credits: Brant Freeman provided the pic of Isaiah Battle.

Eat 'Em Up!

Bill

We have your back(ers)

Written by Bill Culhane on 4:59 PM

We Have Your Back(ers)

In case you just returned from an eight month vacation to Mars and your internet was down during your trip, the Bobcats are returning to the 4-2-5 defensive attack. Did I hear an “Amen!”? Emphasis on “attack”. During prior years when we’ve had the 4-2-5, linebackers like Greg Pitts (our
all-time tackles leader), Myron Coleman, David Simmons, Jeremy Castillo, etc., have feasted on the tackle and make a play opportunities out of this “linebacker friendly” scheme.

The formula is D-line fill and own your gaps, secondary shutdown the back end,
and linebackers let your mama and girlfriend hear your names on the public address system for four quarters. Everyone share the glory. I like.

To put it concisely, I'm excited about our linebacker unit. Guys like Bryan Iwuji, Brian Lilly, Josh Minde, and Joplo Bartu have played a lot of Bobcat football. Despite the fact that our defense is new to these student-athletes and a w
ork in progress, you can see from these guys that they were linebackers at birth. These four, and some of our newcomers, will make you keep your head on a swivel in ’11.

Brad Franchione was a two-time national champion head coach at Blinn, and will be responsible for the linebackers in his first year at Texas State. As most of you know, Coach Brad Franchione is the son of our head coach, Dennis Franchione.

Coach Brad Franchione gave this appraisal of our linebacker group in Fal
l Camp, “I’m very excited about their progress…I believe the four or five guys we’re going to count on this year are very smart about the defense, know what their responsibility is, and for the most part have executed well.”

Coach Franchione, at right coaching up the LB's, also offered why the 4-2-5 scheme is so good to linebackers for piling up the tackle numbers, “Coach Naivar (our d-coordinator) makes it real simple for us in coverage. So, we‘re not thinking a lot about what we have to do in pass coverage. We listen to the safeties, they give us a quick call, and we know exactly what we’re supposed to do…”

With Morrison, Thornton, Bailiff, Williams, Lundin, Langford, Clark, and others, the Bobcats have appreciated success in making it a family affair to suit up for Bobcat football. Many of you will remember that Wellington Deshield was a stalwart for the Bobcat teams from ‘04-’08. He requires no introduction, but I introduce you to his not so little brother, Joplo Bartu.

Joplo is intelligent, quick, and ends up near the football. In his first two seasons on the field for the ’Cats, Joplo has shown flashes of knock your socks off play (i.e., at SFA, circa 2010, wow!). Based on his progress through this Spring and Fall, I expect 2011 to be a constant beam of light for #31.

I asked Joplo to explain why he has shown continued improvement as his ‘Cat career moves along, “…it’s about learning the plays and knowing what you’re doing on every single play and busting your butt to be perfect out there every time.”

Joplo discussed the concept of preparation, “Summer workouts helped, got bigger, put on some pounds.” He added, “The film room works out too, watch a lot of film, know what we‘re doing.”

For our next blog, we head back to the offense with the wide receivers/tight ends.

We have a new radio home for Bobcat football in 2011! You can tune in for Bobcat Football each week on our flagship station, ESPN Radio 92.5 FM, in Austin. Brant and I will kickoff each broadcast with a one-hour pregame show and end with a 15-minute postgame, including a visit with Coach Fran.

Do you have your precious 2011 season tickets yet? Check this out.

If you have any questions or comments, please let me know at lightthestar@gmail.com.

credits: Brant Freeman provided pic of Coach Brad Franchione.

Eat 'Em Up!

Bill


To Serve and Protect

Written by Bill Culhane on 11:24 PM

To Serve and Protect

As the seconds continue to tick away, we will continue our preview of the various position groups as Kickoff 2011 approaches. Today, a quick glance at the offensive line. A coach once said to me, “In an offensive line, it’s got to be a unit. You can’t have five pennies, it has to be a nickle.” My money is on the Bobcats being improved up front.

You want an excellent football team? Make sure your offensive line play is top shelf. True story - the Bobcats have lit up scoreboards when the o-line has been above solid. The Bobcats obviously have an excellent starting point in three-time, All-SLC, honoree DJ Hall (35 career starts). There are a lot of good players who wouldn’t have stepped on the field with the health situation that DJ had in ‘10. My friends, DJ Hall was in the huddle! DJ understands fire, footwork and leverage as well as any Bobcat offensive lineman who I’ve seen. You can go to the BobCast from Media Day to hear from the Bobcat senior.

The Bobcats have a solid, veteran foundation when you also combine the likes of Steven Kenney (19 career starts), Mike Chambers (11 career starts), and Jon Vernon. However, as 2010 proved, depth is key and something the Bobcats are working to identify in Fall camp. Converted tight end Devin Baker, Thad Watkins, along with a few others, appear to be progressing nicely to me. Of course, the proof will be when the pads and tortillas start flying in Lubbock on September 3rd.

Veteran Coach, Dennis Darnell, who is in his first year at Texas State, is the architect of the offensive line. Think the man knows some football? Where were you when Coach Darnell started his coaching career in 1969?

After a slow start in Fall Camp, Coach Darnell has been impressed with the offensive line lately, “We’re getting more physical, we were soft to begin with.” Coach Darnell knows the offensive line has the physical tools and work ethic, “We’re pretty darn strong. Almost every guy in there benches 400 to 450 pounds, squats 500-600.” He continued, “They’re physically strong enough to do it. Now, we have to be confident and get off the ball and get it done.”

Coach Darnell discussed the depth of the offensive line, “Every team in the nation feels good if they have three backups that are as good as the starters. We aren’t quite there with that. We’ve really gained ground on that from where we were in the Spring. I think we will be at that eight-person depth, which is where you’d like to be.”

Mike Chambers has been one of the most pleasant surprises in camp. Mike has always been a good football player for the Bobcats, but has changed his body and challenged himself to raise his level of play. Hardly a practice goes by that you don’t hear Mike earning praise for his play. Strong, good feet, playing with a good motor and echo of the whistle attitude, look out for #55 in 2011.

Recently, Mike Chambers discussed the work that was put in during the offseason, “I took it upon myself that I had to get heavier, I had to get stronger. Last year I played at 280, so I put on about 15-20 pounds. I worked out with the other offensive lineman in the Summer…they were all in there with me, every day of the Summer, grinding, so I know they’re going to bring it too.”

Mike may have a future in scouting. I asked him if the high school talent is better in Texas or his native California, “I think we (California) have better teams, but Texas has better athletes.” Some nearby teammates (Texans, of course) gave “critical” reviews on his assessment.

You still have time to get your 2011 season tickets to support your Bobcats!

For our next blog, we go back to the defensive side of the ball with the linebacker corps.

If you have any questions or comments, please let me know at lightthestar@gmail.com

Eat 'Em Up!

Bill

Fall Camp 2011 - Defensive Line

Written by Bill Culhane on 9:19 PM

Front and Center

Here is another installment with observations from Fall Camp 2011. A season ago, over the finishing five games in which the 'Cats were 1-4, the defense produced a combined two sacks and exactly 0 interceptions in the final match ups of '10. Those numbers came on 144 pass attempts by the opponents. This season, in particular with the resurrection of the 4-2-5 defense, the front 4 is going to be called upon to make plays, occupy blockers, be in the right place at the right time, and be the foundation for the defense. We've all seen what a Bobcat 4-2-5 defense can produce when the big guys up front are making things happen.

After an eight-season hiatus, which took he and his family to Sam Houston State and perennial FCS power Montana, Mike Hudson returns to San Marcos. As a matter of fact, this is his third coaching stop in San Marcos. Coach "Hud" will primarily coach up the defensive line.

Coach Hud described his expectations as follows, "I want our defensive linemen to be accountable to themselves, to their teammates, to their coaches..." In addition, he offered, "I think we need to continue to become stronger mentally and physically. We have to become a more physical unit and become more consistent. We are making progress."

As he discussed the X's and O's specific to the d-line, Coach Hudson said, "We have to control the line of scrimmage. We have to maintain gap integrity, our gap is our house. They (the rest of the defense) are counting on us to fit the gaps correctly so they can make their correct fits."

On yet another 100+ degree day, Coach Hud had a quick response when I asked him if it was ever this hot in Missoula, Montana. He grimaced and responded, "No, double No!"

Deshun Williams - A year ago, as a true freshman, Deshun played in all eleven games and ended the season with eight stops and a sack. He is expecting bigger and better from himself in his second campaign. "Bull in a china shop" is one way to describe the Bobcat's sophomore defensive tackle. Coming out of Carthage High School as a two-time state champion, Deshun had a reputation for being a defensive force; athletic, strong, quick...and some experience carrying the ball. Huh? Yes, Deshun was also known to carry the rock for the Bulldogs.

As far as camp up to this point, Deshun said, "Practice has been going good, we've been working hard." He addressed how last season's experience will help him in 2011, "It will help me with the game speed. I know what to expect when I go out there on the field."

When asked if he has designs on rushing the ball for the Bobcats, in addition to rushing the opposing quarterback, Deshun laughed and said, "No, not yet. Hopefully, we get to that, but not yet."

Adley Eshraghipour - The best way to describe Adley is "leader". "Unfortunate" has also been the case for the Bobcat defensive lineman. I would argue that his season-preventing injury a year ago was a huge part of why the Bobcat defensive front struggled at times.

After a breakout season in 2009, in which the then-sophomore received All-SLC Honorable Mention honors, big #94 missed all of 2010.

On his health, "I'm feeling great, the best I've felt in a while. It feels good to put pads on and I'll be ready."

On how things change for the defensive line with the implementation of the 4-2-5, "This is more of an attack style of defense. It helps a lot when you have d-ends playing beside you like Jordan Norfleet and Ron Jackson...the whole defense...it's going to be nice."

Programming note: Brant Freeman and I will be at practice Saturday morning to put together an expanded BobCast report on Fall Camp 2011. You can listen in to the podcast beginning early next week.

Are you as excited as me about the upcoming 2011 season? Give those vocal chords their final offseason rest, get your maroon and gold gear ready, and get your tickets today!

If you have any questions or comments, please let me know at lightthestar@gmail.com

Eat 'Em Up!

Bill

Countdown to Kickoff 2011

Written by Bill Culhane on 9:35 PM

Countdown to Kickoff 2011

Along with the extensive coverage by the Sports Information and Marketing departments, Brant Freeman and I will be stopping by here, from time to time, to give our observations from Fall Camp 2011...Bobcat style.

A little over one week of Fall practice is in the books as the Bobcats continue to work out in the drought and record-breaking heat. As expected, there has been no drought in terms of competition for positions as the Bobcats prepare for the 2011 season opener at Texas Tech on Saturday, September 3rd. The rising tide lifts all ships and competition during practice elevates the play of everyone. At this point, the depth charts are in pencil so we will hold off on that topic for now.

Very early observations: We talked about it throughout Spring practice. Under Bobcat Head Coach Dennis Franchione and his staff, the practices are uber-organized and repetitions are precious and maximized. Every drill, station, period is “on the hop”. Having gone through Spring Camp, and now that the newcomers have a week under their belts, it is apparent that everyone knows the when, where, and why. Observing practice, I can’t help but think that this approach will help to slow down the game when the Bobcats lace ‘em up in real game situations.

In his big picture review of camp to this point, a focused and energetic Coach Fran said, “The guys who went through Spring practice had good retention and carry over which helps the newcomers learn...” “…the guys are in shape…which means we get more done in practice.”

In talking about the work done during the 8th practice of camp (Friday afternoon), Coach Fran noted, “We are fairly along in situations, today we worked on our 2-minute offense and defense. Most of our installation is in.”

Game program, get your game program! Coach Fran pointed out that there are some new names in the mix for valuable playing time. Specifically regarding the transfers, “I think there is a good number of the new group who will help us this year.” As far as the incoming freshmen, “I think it’s a little early to qualify any freshman on how big of an impact they will make yet…with the freshmen it‘s to survive the test of time, see the reps, and see how they handle things until the first game.”

Bobcat fans know that the Bobcats are returning to the 4-2-5 defense which yielded a lot of success for the Bobcats in years past. Defensive Coordinator Craig Naivar, who was the DC here from ‘04-‘06, returns to Texas State to orchestrate the deceptive, aggressive, attacking flavor of defense.

Senior linebacker Brian Iwuji recently pointed out that, regardless of the defensive formation, the basics for the linebackers remain the same, “It doesn’t really matter to us (linebackers) what style of defense we run, we are excited to do our jobs, be aggressive, and make plays.”

Offensively, like teams across the nation, the Bobcats have arrived at camp with questions to be answered. Two of the concerns centered around the health of sophomore quarterback Tyler Arndt, who reports, “I am at 100% percent”, and who will take over for record setting wide receiver Da’Marcus Griggs. The Bobcat signal-caller said, “It’s hard to replace a guy like Da’Marcus, but we feel like we have a bunch of guys who are working hard and can get the job done.” Both items are great news for ‘Cat fans who like to see pigskins fill the air at Bobcat Stadium.

I spoke with Chris Park, Assistant Athletics Director - Development, and he confirmed that all of the luxury suites will be occupied for 2011 and there are fewer than 75 club-level seats available! As Bobcat fans know by now, the Bobcat Club membership numbers continue to climb to new record setting levels on a daily basis. Join today and become a part of the invaluable team of Bobcat supporters.

Be a part of history. Do you have your 2011 season tickets yet?

If you have any comments or questions, let me know at lightthestar@gmail.com

Eat 'Em Up!

Bill

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