Willie Jones III will get the nod at quarterback when Texas State faces Rutgers in New Jersey on Saturday.
Texas State coach Evertt Withers made the announcement at his weekly press conference Monday. It will be the first time in three years an underclassman will lineup under center.
“(Jones) probably has the bigger knowledge because he’s actually had game reps in what we do,” Withers said. “I think Willie has grown from January to this point today, as not only a football player but as a person. I think leadership wise he has taken some tremendous strides. He’s taken some steps to where our football team really trusts him in that leadership role.”
Jones, a sophomore, was competing with redshirt freshman Jaylen Gipson and true freshman Tyler Vitt for the starting job. As a true freshman, Jones appeared in 10 games last season. Jones’ consistency, experience and leadership separated him in the group, according to Withers.
Jones has yet to have a collegiate start, but he completed 18 of 37 passes for 281 yards with just one interception while rushing for 168 yards on 43 carries.
“I think the more game reps he has, the more that confidence will come out,” Withers said. “The one thing you can’t do … he’s really talented, he has a lot of physical skills, but for a quarterback that has confidence and a lot of physical skills, what you can’t say is ‘I’m going to go win the game by myself.’ That’s what we can’t have out of Willie. He has to have confidence in his other teammates to help him make plays.”
While Withers has named his starting quarterback, the other positions aren’t quite settled. Withers didn’t release a depth chart and there is an ongoing competition for several positions.
“I won’t release a depth chart probably until Wednesday,” Withers said. “We don’t know in some spots … A lot of competition at receiver and I think we’ve gotten better at receiver because of that competition. Same thing a little bit with the secondary and it’s been the same thing with the offensive line this camp. So we’ve had more competition this training camp than at any point in time that I’ve been here. When you start building competition, that means your team has a chance to improve and get better in practice.”
Withers added this fall’s camp was the best he’s been a part in two prior seasons at Texas State.
“No question,” he said. “No doubt about it. No doubt about the daily practices and the competition level at practices. No doubt about just the focus in meetings. The two previous camps, there was always something to set us back with off the field something just because guys not being bought in. We didn’t have that at all this camp. We probably grew closer this camp then maybe at any other camp I’ve been a part of.”
Texas State at Rutgers, 11 a.m., Big Ten Network, 1300