At his first two media days, Texas State head coach Everett Withers preached patience while he and his staff changed the culture in San Marcos.
In his first season in 2016, Withers dismantled an underachieving team from the previous season that had preseason hopes for the program’s first bowl game. The Bobcats finished 3-9 in 2015.
Over 30 players left the team before his first game – half on their own, half by dismissal – leaving Withers behind before he even started.
After finishing 2-10 in 2016, the following season was spent rebuilding that depleted roster by aggressive recruiting.
The Bobcats signed the top class in the Sun Belt Conference that year, according to 247Sports composite rankings. While there were improvements on the field, Texas State finished with the same 2-10 record last year.
After three straight losing seasons, the building process for the Bobcats is still ongoing but there is more optimism within the program.
“We’re going to have 76 scholarship players going into 2018 where in previous years we had 62 (in 2016) and 68 (in 2017),” Withers said. “We would have loved to be further along in year two but it’s harder to be further along if you don’t have the numbers and people in place.”
Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) teams are allowed a maximum of 85 scholarships while Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) teams are allotted 63. Texas State moved to FBS from FCS in 2012.
“Anytime you have more depth at a position, it creates more competition so players are competing at a higher level,” said Withers, who enters his third season with Texas State.
“It makes your football team better and if that happens at each of the positions, it gives you a chance to go compete against your opponents. Eight days of practice and it has shown up as a positive for our football team in 2018. I’m excited where we are eight practices in,” he added.
Said quarterback Willie Jones III, “Guys are more confident. They know what they are doing and why we’re doing it now. There’s a lot more energy with the coaches and the players. It’s just a different feel. Makes you want to be out there to go hard for your coach and the next man beside you.”
Another difference for the Bobcats this season will be the youth movement under center.
The Bobcats started a senior at quarterback the last two seasons but Jones, a sophomore, is the most experienced quarterback on the roster. He didn’t make a start but appeared in 10 games last season and completed 18-of-36 pass attempts for 281 yards while rushing for 168 on 43 attempts.
“It helped me get to know the pace of the game,” Jones said. “How much quicker it is and how clean and crisp you have to be with everything you do. It’s so much different than high school.”
Jones has taken most of the first team snaps but freshman Jaylen Gipson and true freshman Tyler Vitt are also competing at quarterback. Neither has played in a collegiate game.
The Bobcats open the season on Sept. 1 at Rutgers.