The crashing of shoulder pads can now be heard as the Bobcats are adding more and more (and new) gear with the first week of Fall Camp nearing an end. The one-on-one drills have been amped up, lineman are able to engage against one another, and we have also seen the start of the “Bobcat Drill”, where an offensive player tries to stand up a defensive player and keep him from getting to a ball carrier. At first glance yesterday (Day 4 of camp), several starting defensive players got the better of their offensive counterparts, including projected DL starters Dallas McClarty, Darius Hood and Michael Odiari.
That was promising to see. Everyone’s eyes lean toward the biggest position battles in camp, and this season that distinction belongs to the Bobcats’ defensive line. Blake McColloch, D.J. Yendrey, Jamie Clavell-Head, Jordan Norfleet and Kamu Taulelei are all gone from last year’s team, each starters at various times (in McColloch’s case, all 36 games for Coach Fran) in their Bobcat careers.
In speaking with Defensive Line Coach Mike Hudson after practice, he named Odiari and McClarty as two d-lineman standing out in the first week of camp, along with RS Freshman Jeff Banks. The player that Coach Hudson noted as the most improved over last year was DE Kris Petersen. If you’ll recall, Peterson was recruited to Texas State as a tight end, but as the season progressed last season, Petersen (6’4” 232 lbs) was slotted onto the defensive line in pass rushing (3rd and long) situations.
After a year of experience (not just in games, but practices which Coach Fran points out is just as important), Petersen may be more than a “specialist”. Coach Hudson says that he has a chance to be an every down DE.
Something else to keep in mind, is that under 1st year Defensive Coordinator John Thompson, the Bobcats will be more multiple with their defense, to include the line. We could see a mix of 4- and 3-man fronts with the linebackers serving as pass rushers. However, when it comes to playing the position of defensive lineman, Hudson reiterated that “football is football”. Beat the guy in front of you and you’ve done your job.
Unlike the defensive line, the offensive line doesn’t have many question marks. There’s only one starter (Devin Baker) gone from last season, and all of the projected starters have plenty of experience, the most of which belongs to the line’s only senior (among the starters): Charlie Will Tuttle. Originally a walk-on at Texas State, Tuttle has since become a scholarship player and told me that without a doubt, THIS year’s line is the deepest and most talented when compared to his previous 3 seasons.
The projected starting five lineman are Adrian Bellard and Ryan Melton at tackle, Tuttle and Felix Romero at guard and Matt Freeman at center. Tuttle, who has played center, says he will stick to guard this season but is moving from playing next to Bellard last season to playing alongside Melton this season. Melton, by the way, was the answer given to me by Tuttle when I asked him who has been the most improved offensive lineman since last season. Offensive line and quarterback were two HUGE question marks last year and that’s not the case this season which gives reason to believe that Texas State’s offense (23.9 PPG in 2013) will play much more consistently in 2014.
Other observations from Day 4 of camp:
- The Bobcats ran a KOR (kick-off return) drill, sending 10 players deep to receive footballs from a machine. The 10 players were C.J. Best, Craig Mager, Dila Rosemond, Tyler Watts, Brennan Blakemore, P.J. Anderson, Terrence Franks, Brandon McDoweell, Jafus Gaines and Brandon Smith.
- Speaking of Franks, in 11-on-11 near the end of practice, he stiff-armed Mager on his way to a long run, but didn’t score. The man who caught him? Mager.
- The two highly touted receivers from last year’s recruiting class, Brice Gunter and Demun Mercer, were redshirted in 2013 but could each play a significant role in the offense this season. Each got reps with the 1st team offense last night, and Gunter in particular was making some pretty incredible catches all night, whether in drills or in 11-on-11.
- When Mike Orakpo got a breather with the 1st team defense, Trey McGowen was subbed in his place. Not a name we’ve discussed much when it’s come to LB depth, so that’s definitely something to keep an eye on.
- In my last blog, I wondered who would win the battle of back-up QB to Tyler Jones. According to Coach Fran, Fred Nixon is the front runner.
#BobcatAccess question of the day from Felipe (@caldeira8felipe): Who, so far, is looking like the most improved player since last season?
I would say David Mims II. He got some playing time last season behind Mager and Xavier Daniels but his role will increase this season and he’s earned it. He’s been playing CB with the first team defense and I haven’t seen too many passes completed against him. The Bobcats will need him to keep it up in order to keep the pressure off of Mager.
Keep the questions and comments coming to #BobcatAccess, we’ll try to cover as much as we can leading up to the season opener (Aug 30th vs UAPB). We’ll have a couple of podcasts coming your way next week from the Texas State Media Days.
Until then, Eat ‘Em Up and Go ‘Cats!