By Garrett Martin and Josh Orozco
Sports Director & Assistant Sports Director
Texas State football head coach Jake Spavital inherited a full team from former head coach Everett Withers when he was hired back on Nov. 28, 2018. Spavital brings recruiting experience from Power Five programs such as Texas A&M and West Virginia, giving him the opportunity to fill key positions and future depth needs while focusing on assessing current talent.
Texas State signed 15 players on Wednesday, Dec. 17. Now, let’s assess Spavital’s first true early signing class at the helm.
The early signing period saw five offensive lineman sign with the Bobcats including three transfers: sophomore Silas Robinson from the University of Arkansas, Alex Costilla from Tyler Junior College and Russell Baker from North Eastern Oklahoma A&M College.
The first of three transfers from Power Five schools on this list, Robinson played left tackle in high school and could continue playing at the end of the offensive line because of his long arms and his footwork.
Costilla, a San Marcos native, is the highest rated lineman to commit to Texas State. This could be one of the dark horse signings considering the connection he has to the city and what his highlight tapes show from his time in Tyler.
Baker works very well in pass protection and his physicality on the line matches any sort of threat on the opposite side of the ball.
“He’s a country kid that just wants to go play football,” Spavital said. “He loves the physical side of things, loves contact, and loves playing the game.”
OL Grade: A
Simply put, the offensive line was the heart of the problem. Spavital addresses this by finding five guys that accomplishes two separate feats: three big, physical linemen to compete for starting positions next season and two promising high school seniors to develop over time.
Texas State signed a pair of dynamic sophomore running backs on Wednesday: Oklahoma State transfer Jahmyl Jeter and Butler Community College transfer Brock Sturges.
For the second straight year, another wait-and-see approach awaits a Texas State transfer. The Bobcats will watch closely to see if or when Jeter’s waiver will be submitted and accepted by the NCAA regarding his 2020 eligibility.
Jeter’s big frame and downhill style of running matches the physical play Spavital wants from the offensive line, making Jeter one of the most interesting prospects of the early signee bunch.
While Jeter’s eligibility looms, Bobcat fans can be 110% excited about Sturges. Spavital has known about Sturges since recruiting Kyler Murray out of Texas A&M in 2014. Sturges is a well-balanced speed runner with fantastic vision.
“Very dynamic in the backfield,” Spavital said. “He can do it all.”
RB Grade: A+
These two signings alone have really buzzed the fanbase at Texas State. Getting two transfers that have over 8,000 yards of rushing offense in their careers combined is sure to ignite the Texas State running game that finished dead last in the Sun Belt Conference the last two seasons.
In the early signing period, sophomore transfer Drue Jackson from Tyler Junior College was the lone wide receiver recruit for Texas State.
Jackson provides the Bobcats with game-winning play ability. His style of play compliments the Maroon and Gold’s tempo from last season consisting of quick strikes, stopping on a dime and providing easy targets on curl and slant routes.
Jackson aims to help fill in the gap of lost production with Mason Hays and Hutch White, accounting for 31% of both total team receptions and yardage last season, graduating.
As reported by Keff Ciardello of the Austin-American Statesman, even with the addition of newly hired offensive coordinator Jacob Peeler, Spavital plans to be the primary play caller for the ‘Cats next season.
Unfortunately for Texas State, a clear “QB1” who’s been able to connect with big play targets consistently, remains to be seen. Either way, Jackson finds himself in a win-win situation based on his talent and what he brings to the table.
WR Grade: C+
Jackson is a dynamic get. He’s a three-star recruit, the third-highest rated signing in the class thus far and he’s somebody that’s going to balance the size of the receiving corps in 2020.
However, it’s worth noting that the wide receiver [and tight end] class might’ve affected by the firings of wide receiver coach Ron Antoine and tight end coach Morris Berger a few weeks ago.
As reported by Keff Ciardello, “Play-calling, offensive production and recruiting played big factors in the dismissals of Bob Stitt, Morris Berger and Ron Antoine.”
Tyler Junior College transfer Maureese Wren’s speed looks like the most natural ability that makes him stand out on tape. Spavital expects Wren to be “in the Clifton Lewis spot” next season.
What brothers Josh and John Emmanuel lack in size at the moment, the Bishop Dunne duo make up for with astounding football IQ and agility on the field. They have the athleticism to drop back into coverage and affect the passing game of opposing teams.
Spavital radiates positive energy when talking about Elkins athlete Issiah Nixon saying this was one of his favorite kids to recruit.
“[Nixon’s] a very team-player, selfless kid who wants to do anything for the team,” Spavital said. “He wants to be a team captain as a freshman.”
Linebacker is something this team needs. If Nixon is ready to do anything, linebacker is where he’ll be needed most.
LB Grade: B
It’s difficult, possibly even impossible, to assume the Bobcats can replace the defensive production from last season’s linebackers immediately. Frankie Griffin, Clifton Lewis Jr., Nikolas Daniels and Texas State’s all-time tackles leader Bryan London II were dynamic defensive players that impacted opposing offenses and how they operated. It will be a slow rebuild to match what Texas State once had, but this is a good start.
Not much noise in the quantity of players signed, but that doesn’t mean the Bobcats suffered in quality. Tory Spears from Iowa State University and Grid Isidore from Tyler Junior College provide much needed assistance in the secondary.
“We’ve got long athletic kids that we’re bringing in here,” Spavital said. “Grid fits the definition of that.”
Isidore looks like a true ball hawk. He uses his length to break up passes and make completing deep passes very difficult for quarterbacks.
Spears was the third and last player to transfer from the Power Five to sign with the Bobcats on Wednesday. At six-foot-three, his frame fits the description of what Spavital’s secondary will look like as well.
DB Grade: A-
Last season, the Bobcats ranked last in takeaways and turnover margin in the Sun Belt Conference. The effort to acquire length in the secondary is directly related to an attempt to create more turnovers while also making it very difficult to throw on the defense in 2020.
Overall Early Signing Grade: B+
Spavital and his recruiters hit the target where it counts and missed where it didn’t. The offensive line was the sorest of sore spots on an offense that ranked last in the Sun Belt and towards the bottom in division one football last season. During the 2019 season, Spavital preached a physical style of football, but abandoned the running game when it didn’t work early in games very often in the season. Expect that to be a thing of the past.
On the flipside, this class missed on quarterback, tight end, and defensive line altogether. Two things could be the reason for it:
1. Spavital and the coaches are planning to split the recruiting window into two.
2. They trust what they have currently at quarterback, tight end and defensive line.
At quarterback, sophomore transfer Brady McBride is the early favorite to win the quarterback job and junior Tyler Vitt has played each of the last two seasons.
The tight end position saw improvement, but not immense success. Spavital said before the season that tight end plays a key part in his offense and we fully expect the position to blossom even further next year.
On the defensive line, the ‘Cats are only losing fifth year senior Ishmael Davis. The coaching staff probably trusts the talent they have along the defensive line to a certain extent.
When the time comes, we’ll revisit our list, add new names and assess new grades to the list when signing day comes on Feb. 5, 2020. In the meantime, follow @KTSWSports on Twitter for more updates on recruiting and roster updates for Texas State football.
Featured image by Nathan Rarangol.
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