Texas State football coach Dennis Franchione didn’t have a lot of answers Monday at the team’s annual preseason media day. Then again, he had only practiced the team seven times.
From the drift of Franchione’s remarks, almost nothing is settled with this team. The only players he named definitively as starters were defensive tackle Blake McColloch and cornerback Craig Mager. Franchione named several other players who “have their flashes” or “have done well.” Franchione added that ” I could probably go through and list some others, but we have a lot of things still up in the air.”
Thus, the team still is fairly early in its process of establishing a starting lineup for Aug. 31, when the Bobcats open their season at Southern Mississippi.
“I think the worst things we can do as coaches is to not let competition thrive right now and to prejudge things,” Franchione said. “I think we are trying to keep an open mind and let the position battles take care of themselves because guys come in less ready or more ready sometimes. Everything is still up in the air for us.”
Despite all of that uncertainty, Franchione said he is quite pleased with the leadership coming from his most experienced players. It might even be taken as a test of that leadership that Franchione is going public with so few starters. As always, the players are the team. So, pronouncements by coaches ought to be a secondary concern, if that.
“Our leaders need to continue to make sure they are driving the train more than me or the coaches,” Franchione said.
All that said, Franchione added that the team is working well on the practice field. Continuity helps, of course. The Bobcats are in their third year of Franchione’s program.
“I had made the statement earlier in the week after I think we had finished our third practice, and I said that it felt that we had just finished practice 18 more than practice three,” Franchione said. “It was like an extension of spring practice, even though we finished spring practice four months ago. I felt like our older guys retained what was taught and had more understanding of things, which was really, really good. They were confident enough to teach the new guys. So, from that standpoint, I feel pretty good about things.”
Of course, everyone wants to know who will play quarterback. So does Franchione. The presumptive frontrunner, based on experience, is senior Tyler Arndt, who goes all the way back to Brad Wright’s final season coaching the Bobcats in 2010. But the Bobcats have others in the mix — true freshman Tyler Jones from Stephenville, redshirt freshman Jordan Moore from Katy and senior Duke DeLancelotti from San Clemente, CA.
Naturally, all of the quarterbacks have their specific merits and demerits. However, said Franchione, no one has emerged to the extent that the coaches are saying any of them is the best.
“Whichever one runs out for the first snap at Southern Miss, they’ll have a belief system in him,” Franchione said. “And if the backup comes in, then they’ll have a belief system in him … Somebody has to take the first snap. That doesn’t mean they’ll take the second snap, so we’ll just see how it goes. The only thing I can tell you for sure today is we are going to play with a quarterback. Who it is remains to be seen.”
As much as imparting skill and techniques to the players, Franchione said physical and mental toughness will be unmistakably important for the Bobcats as they head into the Sun Belt Conference. As he analyzes the Sun Belt, Franchione said, there is “not a lot of room or separation between the top and the bottom.” Thus, the games within the league stand to be tightly contested.
“A lot of the games last year were fairly close games that could have been decided in the fourth quarter,” Franchione said of the Sun Belt. “So, we have got to be ready to ring the bell come fourth quarter by becoming mentally and physically tougher.”
Of course, the Bobcats are playing in their third league in three years when they kick off in the Sun Belt. To that extent, continuity has not been present under Franchione’s program. Even by the fluctuating reality of college football these days, that’s a lot of change.
In 2011, Franchione’s first year, the Bobcats still were nominally a member of the Southland Conference, though they were ineligible for the league championship because they began increasing their scholarship allotment past the playoff-level limit of 63 and toward the bowl-level limit of 85. Last season, the Bobcats moved over to the Western Athletic Conference, finishing 4-8 overall in their first season of bowl-level football.
“I don’t know anybody that’s been in three conferences in three years,” Franchione said. “We are going to learn about these teams.”
Doubtless, those teams also will learn a lot about the Bobcats. For now, the Bobcats still have a lot to learn about themselves.Email | Print