The Texas State football team will bring back an experienced defense in 2010. Texas State sports information photo.
Moving to a new phase of life without their record-setting quarterback, the Texas State football team began fall drills Sunday, definitely with their most experienced team in Brad Wright’s four years as head coach, and perhaps, with their most talented.
The Bobcats return 38 lettermen and 22 players who started games from last season’s 7-4 team that finished third in the Southland Conference with a 5-2 league record. The Bobcats finished last year ranked in national polls for the second straight year, coming in at No. 24 in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) coaches final poll and No. 25 by The Sports Network.
A good amount of experience returns to the defense, which has been this team’s bugaboo for years.
Marcus Clark, a four-year starter who led the team with 95 tackles last year, returns at linebacker. He is joined by linebacker Bryan Iwuji, who finished second on the team last year with 67 tackles. Juniors Adley Eshraghipour and Ron Jackson will anchor the defensive line.
In the secondary, Darryl Morris and Derek Lopez are returning starters, joining senior Drenard Williams in a three-man rotation at cornerback. Kenneth Hampton and T.J. Miller also return as starting safeties from last season.
“I was proud of the tempo the guys carried through the practice, especially when you watch the defensive side of the ball,” Wright said Sunday after the team’s first practice. “We have a bunch of players who know what they are doing and that is a whole lot different from it was like a year ago.”
Offensively, the Bobcats stand to be very solid up front, particularly the interior of the offensive line. Senior D.J. Hall is a preseason All-American by many reckonings, center Steve Kenney has received some preseason mentions, and Winston Ruelas is an experienced senior at the other guard. The two tackles are junior Michael Chambers and senior Jason Hannan, who was a part-time starter at guard last year.
Wide receiver Da’Marcus Griggs, another preseason All-American, comes back from a record-setting season during which he caught 80 passes for 969 yards and eight touchdowns. The other starting wide receiver, Daren Dillard ranked second on the team with 43 catches for 643 yards and six touchdowns.
The caveats are to be found in the offensive backfield. At quarterback, the Bobcats are replacing Bradley George, who almost single-handedly drove them to the Southland Conference title last year without help from a defense or a running game.
The school’s all-time leader in passing yards, total yards, passing attempts, completions and touchdown passes, George took the Bobcats to four straight wins last year down the stretch and almost made it five, but he threw an interception deep in opposing territory while bidding for a late touchdown in a 30-27 loss to McNeese State. It was the first interception George had thrown in 210 passes.
George’s graduation will bring a new quarterback to the scene. At the team’s annual preseason media day last Saturday, Wright said the job will fall to sophomore Tim Hawkins, who won praise from the coaches for his performances as the scout team quarterback in 2008, then took some snaps last season when the Bobcats wanted an option look. However, Wright also said Tyler Arndt, a freshman from Cuero, and Andy McCloud, a transfer from Texas-El Paso, also will receive playing time.
“Offensively it is all about the quarterback, and I think that Tim Hawkins showed glimpses of being a real good one today,” Wright said after the Bobcats worked out for the first time Sunday. “He just needs to get some reps and experience. When he does, he is going to be a good one for us. It also is just a matter of time before the young guys are there too.”
On the practice field, Hawkins has shown coaches that he can play the game a number of different ways. But experience is not his strong suit. Hawkins is the team’s third leading returning rusher, carrying the ball 20 times last season for 165 yards. He also threw only nine passes last year, completing five.
The running back situation is even shakier. Karrington Bush, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards in his first two seasons, ended last year with 385 yards after sustaining a knee injury in the middle of the year. Without Bush, the Bobcats rushed for all of 288 yards in their final four games.
Now, Bush is barely in the discussion, short term. He’s still rehabilitating from his knee injury after a tumultuous spring during which he struggled to remain academically eligible and was arrested by San Marcos police on charges of assault causing injury/family violence.
Sophomore Frank Reddic enters the preseason practices as the top running back after carrying for 206 yards and six touchdowns last season. Wright also was impressed with the play of redshirt freshman Dexter Imade during spring practice.
But the Bobcats still have two months to upgrade their running back situation, one way or another, before they start the Southland Conference season on Oct. 9 at Southeastern Louisiana.
For a team that returns 22 starters after coming within two plays of winning the league, the Bobcats have some pressing questions. At the league’s media days, the coaches picked Texas State third, and the sports information directors picked them to finish fourth.
And while they do have a couple months to develop answers and reliability at quarterback and running back, they will need to solve those matters definitively. The league schedule gives them the opponents with the least pedigree — Southeastern Louisiana, Nicholls and Northwestern State — in the first three weeks. Then, they go to league favorite Stephen F. Austin, return home against Central Arkansas, and close out the season on the road at McNeese State and Sam Houston State.Email | Print