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Withers: To fix the Xs and Os and the program, you’ve got to recruit

It’s hardly been a successful season on the field for the 2-9 Texas State Bobcats who are 0-7 in the Sun Belt Conference. But that doesn’t mean it was a complete wash in other areas, head coach Everett Withers said Tuesday.

“I could spend an hour on the things that we didn’t do well when I first took this job, one of them being on time and accountability,” Withers said. “We’re starting to get better at those things. I mean, you want to talk Xs and Os, but I talk about the program. You talk about the team, and I talk about the program.”

“Where we’ve grown is guys being where they need to be, guys being on time, knowing every day that they are going to be held accountable at practice. Understanding what the expectations in this building are and when they’re on campus, as far as academics, and knowing that there is consequences for actions. To me, as a head coach, that’s where I start before Xs and Os.”

The lack of off-the-field issues and improved work ethic are worthy of praise, for sure. But wins are still paramount in college football, even in San Marcos. So what do the Bobcats need to do in order to take that next step and become a winning program again?

Withers, throughout his first season, has stressed the importance of focusing on three areas: Building leadership, establishing a championship culture and recruiting.

“Xs and Os, we’ve got a long way to go,” Withers said. “You know how you improve Xs and Os? Go improve your players. That’s what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to go recruit and improve our players so we can improve our Xs and Os.”

The Bobcats seem to have the recruiting part down. The 2017 class is ranked 76th nationally by 247Sports’ composite ratings, which is 20 spots better than Texas State’s highest-rated class (96th, 2015). The 19 commitments are all 3- or 2-star prospects, including three 3-star quarterbacks.

With only 17 seniors and with more than 40 freshmen on the roster, leadership has been more of an uphill battle. Some young players have emerged as leaders, like linebacker Bryan London, who ranks third nationally and first among freshmen in tackles. But not enough have stepped up as verbal leaders.

“It can’t just be me as the head coach standing up, yelling and screaming from the mountaintop; it’s got to be the players,” Withers said. “I think growing leadership is going to be critical for us moving forward. Getting guys in here that take leadership and believe.”

Establishing a winning culture with a program that has been mediocre for so long might be the toughest of those three tasks for Withers, but he believes the process of getting there is already in place.

“I do think we are headed in the right direction,” Withers said. “Have we established the culture like we want? No. It’s not there yet. It’s not a championship culture yet, but there are some things we’ve laid to put a foundation in place.”

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