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Blogging Maroon & Gold (July 23rd): Top 10 Preview

Written by Brant Freeman on 10:52 AM


Well bobcat fans, Texas State has been an official member of the FBS for a few weeks now and the highly anticipated 2012 football season is less than a month and a half away.  Couple that with the construction of Bobcat Stadium nearly complete and these are some exciting times at our University!  For more on the significance of what the “move up” means, check out my interview with Associate AD Don Coryell online at KGNB’s website.  

Training Camp is also on the horizon as players report on Sunday August 5th and will be in helmets and shorts August 6th and in full pads for the first time that Friday, August 10th.  Looking forward to covering camp and you can expect some more blogs and podcasts with myself and my broadcaster partner Bill Culhane all camp long!  Did you know Bill is entering his 19th football season at Texas State?  He’s been covering the ‘Cats longer than some of our players have been alive…(if he’s reading this, Bill feel free to jab me on air in return sometime this season, I’ll be expecting it…)

In anticipation of the fall camp and the coming season I would like to take a look at the storylines I’m most excited to see unfold this season.  And you know me, I love Top 10 lists so here are my Top 10 things to watch for in 2012…

#10 - Special Teams

Texas State is up against a really tough schedule this season, the toughest the program has ever had (which of course comes with the territory of being an FBS school for the first time).  To ask the offense to drive 80 yards multiple times week in and week out will be difficult.  Turnovers will help create short fields (the Bobcats were -7 in TOs this past season, a number Coach Fran has pointed out must improve) but the return game can be a huge asset in this department as well. 

I think it’s flown under the radar a bit, but in the past few seasons the Bobcats have been really good at returning punts and kicks.   Did you know that Texas State has had at least one kickoff return or one punt return for a TD in each of the past four seasons?   From Karrington Bush to DaMarcus Griggs and last year Isaiah Battle and Andy Erickson the ‘Cats have made opposing special teams units nervous. 

Speaking of punting, the Bobcats will start just their fourth different punter since 2003 this season while place kicker Will Johnson (who could also do some punting for the Bobcats) will prepare for his second season kicking field goals and handling kickoff duties.  Johnson was 13-24 on FGs as a freshman (5 FGs from 45 yards or further) and had 17 touchbacks on kickoffs.

#9 - The Running Back Stable

I don’t think many people thought that by the end of the season last year that Terrence Franks, a redshirt freshman who’s career high season yardage in high school was 688 yards, would’ve led the Bobcats in rushing but he did.  The former track star from Angleton had 863 yards with a 5.9 yards per carry average and 9 TDs.  An explosive back, Franks had 8 rushes of 20 yards or more including runs of 74, 58 and 22 yards at SE-Louisiana en route to a 234 yard day against the Lions, a Texas State freshman record.  Marcus Curry (when healthy) has proven to be a playmaker as well finishing third on the team in all-purpose yards last season in limited action racking up 736 yards (63 yards/game).  Chris Nutall looked good in the Spring and with Dexter Imade returning from injury this season, the Bobcats should have plenty of options in the backfield and those running backs will serve a crucial component of Texas State’s spread option offense.

#8 - Pass Rush

When training camp opened last season, not many knew who Michael Ebbit was.  He was a transfer from Texas A&M where he really didn’t get the chance to play.  He wasn’t listed on the two-deep going into the opener at Texas Tech and was thought of being just “a guy”.  It didn’t take long for Ebbit to shed that label, totaling 11.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss.  Consider that the season before that the Bobcat team had 13 sacks TOTAL.  Problem is, last season was the only one for Ebbit in a Bobcat uniform and Texas State is left looking to replace that production. 

Defensive Coordinator Craig Naivar is known for having an aggressive defense, looking to get pressure on the quarterback from all angles, blitzing linebackers, corners and safeties.  While that shouldn’t change this season, the more the ‘Cats can get pressure with their front four, the more other defenders can drop back in coverage and the defense as a whole will be more effective. 

With the loss of Ebbit, Bobcat coaches hit the recruiting trail to bring in some beef upfront and around the edges, evident by the signings of Kamu Taulelei, Jaryl Mamea and Thomas Evans.  With the returns of DE Jordan Norfleet (32 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks) and Blake McColloch (18/3.0/1.0) among others, the ‘Cats front four will look to bring the heat against opposing QBs in 2012, and against some pass-heavy offenses they’ll need to do just that.  Also look for Bobcat tight end Chase Harper to get some snaps at defensive end in obvious passing down situations…

#7 - The New Guys

We just touched on a couple in Taulelei and Evans but that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.  Between last year’s redshirts, incoming JUCO transfers and a few freshman (assuming a good chunk of freshman will be redshirted this season), the Bobcats will be as deep as they’ve ever been. 

A lot of coaches have expressed excitement about RS Fr. Linebacker Joshua ‘E Robinson who had an impressive spring and fellow RS Fr Matt Freeman is expected to start on the offensive line.  The true freshman recruits, such as OL Ryan Melton and DB Martell Summers (a pair of three-star recruits) could be players to watch out for as well should the coaches choose not to red-shirt them. 

Bottom line is Texas State is getting an influx of talent like it never has before, and the coaching staff, the move to the FBS and renovations at Bobcat Stadium have all played a huge part.  Can’ wait to see it translate onto the field…

#6 - The Schedule

One could argue that incoming recruits are being sold on Texas State’s schedule as well.  College Football is an event and prospective student athletes love nothing more than to perform in front of sold-out crowds and against the best the sport has to offer.  The Bobcats have never played more than two FBS schools in a season in the history of the program.  Well, Texas State IS an FBS school now.  Just compare this year’s schedule to last year’s.  (An in-state Big XII school is coming to San Marcos!)

In road games last season, Texas State’s opposition averaged just over 18,000 fans (a number inflated by the opener at Texas Tech, take away that game the average plummets to under 11,300).  The teams the Bobcats will visit this season combined to average nearly 25,000 fans a game.  The Bobcats will play two bowl teams this season BOTH here in San Marcos (Nevada and Louisiana Tech). 

You will not look at Texas State’s 2012 schedule this season and think of the word cupcake.  This is going to be a tough yet challenging and fun schedule.  In the words of NFL linebacker Bart Scott…well, you know.

We’ll round out the top 10 in the next blog coming soon.  Until then…Eat ‘Em Up!

- Brant (bf17@txstate.edu)

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The Drive is more than new buildings and championships. It's an increased sense of pride. The essence of Texas State makes this school one of the best universities in the country. Get Loud, Be Proud! It's A Great Day to be a Bobcat!

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