First Look At The Texas State Bobcats

Texas State football has scuffled while others in the Sun Belt have thrived. Will 2022 be any different for the Bobcats?

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A test for the rebuilding Wolf Pack.

After opening 2022 on the road against New Mexico State, the Nevada Wolf Pack will welcome the Texas State Bobcats to Mackay Stadium to open up its six-game slate.

While Nevada prepares to write a new chapter in the wake of the successful Jay Norvell era, the Bobcats are still chasing down that first sustained success. Since jumping to the FBS ranks in 2012, Texas State has just one winning season and haven’t made much headway under the current regime towards a second. The pressure is on, then, for both teams to prove something in their early season clash.

Location: San Marcos, Texas

Conference: Sun Belt

Series History: Nevada leads the all-time series, 1-0.

2021 Record: 4-8 (3-5 Sun Belt)

Head Coach: Jake Spavital (fourth year at Texas State, 9-27 overall). Since taking over for Everett Withers after the 2018 season, progress in San Marcos has been painfully slow and Spavital’s transfer portal gambits haven’t paid off quite as hoped. However, the team’s four wins were the most since 2014 and, interestingly enough, they beat the three teams who finished below them in the Sun Belt West division.

Key Players:

Layne Hatcher, QB

If Hatcher’s name sounds passingly familiar, that’s because he split time at quarterback with Utah State’s Logan Bonner at Arkansas State in 2019 and 2020. When he had the job more to himself in 2021, the results were a little more inconsistent. A 58.9% completion rate, 2,423 yards, and 19 touchdowns with a 3.8% interception rate. With a fresh start elsewhere in the Sun Belt ahead of him and 32 career starts already behind him, however, he could bounce back and give the Bobcats exactly what they’ve lacked at the position in recent years.

Dalton Cooper, OT

One of two Bobcats recently named a preseason first-team all-Sun Belt selection, Cooper will be expected to anchor the Texas State offensive line for a third straight year at the left tackle position where, among other things, he was named a freshman All -American by The Athletic in 2020 and paced the conference’s players at the position in terms of overall PFF grading in 2021.

Jordan Revels, DE

2022 will mark Revels’s fourth year as a contributor for the Bobcats and his third as a starter, with 17 starts over the past two seasons. In that time, he’s steadily grown more disruptive, leading the Bobcats in 2021 with 7.5 tackles for loss while posting career bests with 59 total tackles and three sacks.

Javen Banks, WR

2022 will mark Banks’ fifth year with the Bobcats and he’s been a contributor to some extent the entire time. Last season marked the first time he was the team’s number one pass catcher, however, as he led Texas State with 553 receiving yards and five touchdowns on 36 receptions, so chances are he’ll continue on as a focal point of the offense.

Seth Keller, K:

Keller, like Cooper, was named a first-team preseason all-Sun Belt pick after connecting on 15-of-18 field goal attempts and nailing all 32 extra point attempts in 2021. At the moment, he also happens to hold the school record for career field goal percentage, so the junior may get plenty more chances to prove he is reliable he can be.

Overview:

Offense:

Texas State’s offense wasn’t great, no matter how you slice it. In terms of plain yards per play, the Bobcats finished next-to-last in the Sun Belt; by points per drive and available yards percentage earned, they were 92nd and 102nd. It wasn’t the worst attack in the country, but being “forgettable” isn’t much better.

Hatcher might be the frontrunner to start at quarterback, but that is not a given. Ty Evans, formerly of North Carolina State, could play his way into the role. Whoever wins the job will benefit from a running game that could be pretty good, spearheaded by: Calvin Hill (128 carries, 696 yards, three touchdowns) and: Jahmyl Jeter (91 carries, 384 yards, eight touchdowns), and a group of pass catchers that, beyond Banks, returns all but one player who had at least ten receptions last season. Marcell Barbee paced the Bobcats with 40 catches and five scores while Ashtyn Hawkins had 30.

Defense:

Perhaps coincidentally, the Bobcats defense underperformed to almost the exact same level as the offense in 2021, with just one spot of improvement in terms of points per drive allowed (2.55, 91st) and none by available yards percentage allowed (54.1%, 102nd) .

Whether that’ll change is a bit murky. Revels and sophomore linebacker Issiah Nixon are the only two returning Bobcats who had more than five tackles for loss, although a return to health from players like defensive tackle Samuel Obiang (3.5 TFLs, 1.5 sacks in six games) and contributions from transfer portal arrivals like: Myron Warren (Texas) and: Levi Bell (Louisiana Tech) could go a long way.

Further from the line of scrimmage, linebacker Sione Tupou (75 tackles, three tackles for loss) and cornerback Kordell Rodgers (seven pass breakups) provide some much-needed veteran leadership but more will be needed at other positions. The defense, for instance, only had three interceptions as a unit last year despite 37 pass breakups. Improvements in their ability to be disruptive could have an outsized impact, but that’s not a given.

Nevada may be working with a nearly new offense in 2022, but they should have enough talent on that side of the ball to exploit what looks like, on paper, a leaky Texas State defense. It may not be the prettiest game to watch, although the Wolf Pack should get it done.

Nevada 31, Texas State 27

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Story originally appeared on Mountain West Wire

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