by Logan Harris
It brings me great excitement to remind all you Bobcat fans that football season is back in full swing! Last Friday, August 7th, was the first day of Fall training camp for Coach Franchione and his Bobcats.
After back-to-back Bowl-eligible seasons and back-to-back Bowl-less seasons, Coach Fran’s message is clear early on… “Leave no doubt”. The NCAA’s Bowl committee has not been kind to Texas State these last couple years, as they’ve elected not to grant our ‘Cats a single bowl game in each of the last two seasons now. So the team’s goal this year is to not only win a conference championship and to play in a bowl game, but they want to do it with conviction and to ‘leave no doubt’.
For Texas State to meet these lofty goals, they will need to have their most successful season in Bobcat Football history. With the trend that the ‘Cats have been heading these last couple seasons, it wouldn’t be too much of a shocker to see them meet these goals.
Now that you have a good feel for where the Bobcats are at, let’s dive into the 1st week of camp.
Key holes to fill:
Texas State had, what most people would call, their most successful NFL draft heading into 2015. Which is a big-time plus when it comes to future recruiting, but it also leaves some gaping voids to fill for the upcoming season. Here are some of the holes that must filled for Texas State to meet their goals.
David Mayo, MLB:
This will no doubt be the biggest and probably the toughest spot to replace for the Bobcats heading into 2015. Mayo led all of the NCAA in tackles last season, and was arguably the heart and soul of the defensive unit. To replace a player of David Mayo’s talent, it’ll probably need to be a group effort, rather than a one-player job. The Linebackers are going to have to come together to be as successful as last year’s Linebacking corps. Individually so far though, Teron Fitzgerald has looked solid in the middle.
Craig Mager, CB:
Though Mager was the highest draft pick from Texas State in over 20 years, this will be an easier void to fill because of 1 man…. David Mims. Mims has already proved he’s one of, if not THE best cornerback in all of the Sun Belt Conference. He was voted Preseason SBC Defensive player of the year, and will also be on the Jim Thorpe’s Watch list (given to the best defensive back in the nation). Obviously Mim’s will take over Mager’s spot, it’s the rest of the position’s depth that the Bobcats need to be worried about. Brandon McDowell has been getting most of the No.2 Cornerback reps so far, but keep an eye on Javante O’Roy, who has caught some eyes the last couple days.
Bradley Miller, TE:
Miller, at the Tight End position, was the Bobcat’s leading receiver in 2014; both in receptions and yards. I’m not wanting to take anything away from Miller, but I feel like this position has already been replaced beautifully early on in camp. Head Coach Dennis Franchione obviously agrees… When asked about how new starting Tight End, Lawrence White, stacks up against the other Tight Ends in the conference he replied “I think he’s as good as any of them.” He then continued on to say “I actually think we have the best [Tight End] tandem in the Conference.” He of course was referring to the tandem of White and No.2 TE, Ryan Carden. Obviously Coach Fran is high on the tight end position, which means I am too.
Positional Breakdown: Wide Receivers
The Wide Receivers have really been sticking out early in camp, which is very promising because from a production standpoint, it was one of the weaker positions for the Bobcats last year. From top to bottom, rather it be the returners or the newcomers, the entire position has been solid so far. Though Texas State mostly runs 3 WR sets, Coach Fran has alluded to a ‘starting 4’ forming with the receivers. He said he hasn’t figured out exactly how he’s going to rotate the ‘starting 4’ yet, but one things for sure is you’ll be seeing plenty of C.J Best, Brandon Smith, Jayfus Gaines and Demun Mercer.
Like I mentioned, the receiver position as a whole has been great so far. Some young guns that have impressed Coach Fran early on are Kwamane Bowens (sophomore) and Justin Gamble (true freshman). With how top-heavy the position is, I don’t see these younger guys getting too much run in 2015, but they’re definitely worth keeping an eye on because their futures are bright.
Okay we’ve talked about the starters and the young guys at the position… Now let’s talk about both in redshirt sophomore, Demun Mercer. Yes, I’m going to hold him name for a 2nd time because he deserves it. To say this guy has been making noise in camp so far would be a disgusting understatement, he’s been THAT good. Going into camp, Smith, Best and Gaines were no doubt the starters, but with how impressive Mercer has been, there’s now a ‘starting 4’ forming, as I’ve mentioned. The other 3 starters have been great too, which is why it wasn’t as simple as taking out one of the starters to make room for Mercer. Out of the 4, I’d say no one has really separated themselves to where there’s a clear No.1 WR. Tyler Jones has been spreading the ball out and hasn’t really cued in on any of the 4 targets.
Next week I’ll be breaking down the Cornerbacks and Safeties.
Standouts of the Week:
I think I’ve covered enough of THE standout player of the first week, Demun Mercer. So let’s start with backup Running Back, Chris Nutall. Coach Fran loves this guy’s running style and will be hard-pressed to find playing time for him behind Robert Lowe. When asked about Nutall’s running style, Franchione compared him to a bowling ball in the sense of how low he gets and how hard he is to tackle, and he also added “He has the ability to really embarrass defenders when he puts a move on them.” I didn’t know much about Nutall coming into camp, but after hearing coach talk about him, I started looking his way a lot more. When Coach Fran is right, man, he is right… this guy isn’t just the defense’s least favorite person to tackle, he’s also got jukes that will make you jump out of your shoes! Robert Lowe is the clear No.1 RB, but look for Nutall to be a great compliment to him heading into 2015.
Honorable mention: Javante O’Roy
O’Roy, a Juco transfer, had back-to-back interceptions in Friday’s practice, which quickly got everyone’s attention. He was pretty quiet up until those plays, so we’ll see if he can continue to standout.