The 2017 football season has officially arrived. And while it’s a brand new start for the Texas State Bobcats with many “firsts” in store along with way, one narrative remains from 2016: This is a very young team.
Last season Texas State started nine underclassmen with 14 freshman or sophomores as backups on the two-deep roster. And while in 2017 second-year head coach Everett Withers will have the benefit of 17 returning starters from 2016 (7 offense, 7 defense, 3 specialists) and 42 lettermen, the youth movement is still in full swing.
“I think we’ve come a long way,” Withers said. “We’ve still got a long way to go. We’re the youngest team in the country right now. Thirty-one percent of our roster are true freshmen. We’ve had a really good recruiting class, what some people call the number one class in the Sun Belt Conference.”
Withers acknowledged there is a lot of young talent in the 2017 freshman class. He’s excited because it’s exactly what Texas State football needed – a young group to start building the program.
“I feel like our culture and the buy-in from the players that returned, along with the new recruits, really brightened up the building,” he said. “I like coming to work. I love being around our team. The kids are awesome. You get to coach them hard and then you get to love them up.”
A few firsts for Withers and his team this season include filling a full recruiting class, playing three different inaugural matchups and some new color schemes on their digs.
The schedule this season include visits to Boulder to play the Colorado Buffaloes and traveling to South Carolina to take on Coastal Carolina. However, this week the Bobcats play the Houston Baptist Huskies in their initial meeting.
Another big change for Texas State is playing without now-graduated quarterback Tyler Jones, who threw for 2,184 yards and 11 touchdowns as a senior.
Taking over for the Bobcats will be one of three quarterbacks.
Graduate transfer Damian Williams joined the roster last spring and is competing with true freshmen Willie Jones III and Jaylen Gipson for the starting quarterback position. Williams transferred to Texas State from Mississippi State where he played in 17 games and started one contest during the previous three seasons.
Withers compared the state of Houston Baptist’s football team, in its fifth year of existence, to his own in terms of trying to build a program. That’s not where the connections stop either as he and Huskies’ head coach Vic Shealy were once co-workers.
“In 1988, 89 and 90 I coached with Vic Shealy at Austin Peay State University, so I’ve known Vic for a long, long time,” Withers said. “He’s a very good and sharp coach. He’s got a very good staff. I think they’ve done a really good job of recruiting.
“They are really good on offense and really growing and getting mature. They are a little like us and are going to have some pressure on defense that we’re going to have to manage. I think they are a good first ball game for us to open up with to kind of see where our young team is. I know they are going to make mistakes early. I just want our kids to play hard and have fun playing. We’ve got some talented young people and I’m anxious to see those guys play. ”
Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. on ESPN 3 and can be heard on AM 1300 The Zone in Austin, 89.9 FM in San Marcos and 930 AM The Answer in San Antonio.