Texas State will meet Rutgers for the first time ever in football in Saturday’s season opener. And Everett Withers can’t wait.
“This is a great opportunity for us to go play someone else,” the Texas State head coach said. “We want to go beat a Big Ten. Our first goal on our deal is to go win the opener. We’d love to go win the opener.
”Hopefully by 2:30 or 3, we’re healthy and we know a lot more about our football team as we move closer to our conference schedule.”
While the Bobcats have yet to face Rutgers, Withers is familiar with the Scarlet Knights, having beaten them three times while he was a coach at North Carolina. He’s also familiar with Rutgers coach Chris Ash; Ash took over Withers’ co-defensive coordinator duties at Ohio State when Withers left to coach at James Madison in 2014.
“I know Chris well,” Withers said. “He hired (Texas State offensive coordinator) Zak Kuhr away from me (at James Madison) to be the running backs coach at Rutgers. He also hired (Texas assistant coach) Drew Mehringer away from me — and Drew is now at Texas — when he got the job at Rutgers.”
Kuhr was the running backs coach at Rutgers in 2015 and 2016 before rejoining Withers to be the co-offensive coordinator at Texas State. He is now the full-time coordinator after former co-offensive coordinator Parker Fleming left to be a quality control coach at Ohio State after last season.
Both Withers and Ash will field a quarterback making his first collegiate start on Saturday — sophomore Willie Jones III for Texas State and freshman Artur Sitkowski for Rutgers.
Jones has the upper hand in experience, having appeared in 10 games last season. But Sitkowski was a highly sought-after recruit out of Florida’s IMG Academy last season, turning down offers from Miami, LSU, Michigan and Florida before picking the Scarlet Knights. He will be the first true freshman starting under center for Rutgers since 2001.
“They are going to use a lot of what we call a 12 personnel with two tight ends, two wide receiver sets,” Withers said. “They won’t be as much of a spread offense like we are; they are going to be a little bit more conventional and try to run the ball.
“With a young quarterback, you have to take care of that young quarterback by being able to run the football. We expect play-action pass to take shots down the field, that kind of stuff with the young quarterback. Obviously, they think a lot of (Sitkowski) to name him the starter at a Power 5, Big Ten school.”
In 10 games as a freshman last season, Jones completed 18 of 37 passes for 281 yards and one interception. He also rushed for 168 yards on 43 carries.
Texas State at Rutgers, 11 a.m., BTN, 1300