Can Everett Withers and the Texas State Bobcats Claw Out of the Sun Belt Basement?
Despite hiring a new head coach, 2016 was more of the dismal same for the Texas State Bobcats. A sudden rash of dismissals and defections puts the Bobcats season in even deeper doubt. We explore:
The Bobcats didn’t enter the Sun Belt with the same FCS pedigree as Georgia Southern or Appalachian State (though Texas State did win consecutive Division II National Championships in 1981 and ’82). However, Texas State had something just as valuable as history: potential. Located deep in the heart of talent-rich football territory, and bolstered by an administration that appears willing to spend athletic dollars, the Bobcats seemed like a program that could compete in the Sun Belt immediately.
But, nope! Aside from booking a solid 7-5 season in 2014, Texas State has struggled to get it together. Coming into the season, the Bobcats are a woeful 17-36 in Sun Belt play. A 3-9 season in 2015 ended the second Dennis Franchione era in San Marcos, leaving the door open for Everett Withers, recently coming off a successful stint at James Madison. Hard-nosed and blunt-spoken, Withers was supposed to bring a fighter’s edge to a Bobcats team that had promising talent, especially on defense.
Withers and the Bobcats of Texas State opened 2016 with a nice 56-54 OT win over the Bobcats of Ohio. That was the season’s high point. The Bobcats finished the year 2-10 and winless in the Sun Belt. Yuck.
Can Withers bail the sludge out of this sinking ship?
Withers delivered a Top 3 Sun Belt recruiting class in 2017, landing four 3-star talents including defensive back Kieston Roach right out of the Houston Cougars’ backyard. That’s the good news.
The bad news: players expected to make a big impact on offense this year are suddenly no longer with the team. Let’s review:
- With long-time signal caller Tyler Jones graduated, Damian Williams (a graduate transfer from Mississippi State) was projected to start at QB. He was dismissed for “personal reasons,” leaving Withers to fill the team’s most important position with one of four freshman. Yikes!
- Kentucky transfer T.V. Williams was a big addition to the wide receiver corps, but he’s struggling academically. If Williams gets it together, it’s possible we’ll see him return to the team. Gah!
- Three-star JUCO recruit, 6’5” 310 offensive lineman Anthony Mayes was expected to make an impact on the Bobcat line this year. Be Mayes announced he was physically unable to perform in 2017. Ug.
- But the biggest blow might be the loss of running back Stedman Mayberry, who started 11 games in 2016, racking up 914 total yards and 5 TDS. Rather than play another season for the Bobcats, Mayberry told Withers “adios.” Damn!
That’s a lot of talent no longer available to Everett Withers, who already courted disaster by telling the press he didn’t much care for 2016’s squad. Having burned through his Honeymoon Year, season two for Coach Withers has all the hallmarks of a “make it or break it” season.
Texas State has one of the most interesting schedules in the Sun Belt
Now would be a good time to have a capable team at Texas State. Just look at that OOC! The Bobcats open with FCS punching bag Houston Baptist, saunter to Boulder for a dust-up with Colorado (picked to finish 4th in the Pac-12 South), and then finish the slate with in-state rival UTSA and Mountain West superstar Wyoming. That’s a juicy lineup loaded with opportunity.
The conference schedule is a bit of a headache, tho. The Bobcats host Appalachian State immediately after the Colorado trip, then close out the season with bruising visits to Troy and Arkansas State. Glass half full: the Bobcats are in position to radically shape the Sun Belt. Glass half empty: OMG WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!
Otherworldly tackle-machine Bryon London returns at linebacker. So does TE Gabe Schrade and beefy offensive lineman Aaron Brewer. Those guys are all preseason First and Second Team Sun Belt. Joined by Damian Williams, T.V. Williams and Stedman Mayberry, the Bobcats are an interesting team to watch. Without them? Well, as of this instant, the Bobcats rank 3rd in the Sun Belt for 2018 recruiting, representing another strong effort from the staff.
There’s always next season.