Welcome to the first of our 2015 Opponent Q&A series installments. Let's get right to it. Today we have Joe Vozzelli, Sports Editor at the San Marcos Daily Record, the hometown paper of Texas State. We talk Dennis Franchione, an experienced spread option offense, and what the Bobcats need to do to stay in Saturday's game with the 'Noles.
TN: Tell us a bit about the Texas State program historically. What has Dennis Franchione brought to San Marcos?
JV: Texas State is a new addition to the Football Bowl Subdivision having jumped up to the NCAA's highest football classification in 2012. And in some ways, head coach Dennis Franchione has been a perfect fit for the program given his track record. He rebuilt New Mexico and TCU among others into winning programs during his career.
TN: What are the expectations around the program for the 2015 season?
JV: With one of the Sun Belt's top quarterbacks (Tyler Jones) and eight other starters back on offense, it's safe to say that the Bobcats expect big things from that group in 2015. After going to an up tempo attack last season, Texas State improved in almost every statistical category on offense and has even higher hopes for this season.
As far team goals are concerned, the Bobcats seemed poised to land their first bowl berth in program history after knocking on the door of postseason play the past two seasons. Should that happen, and Texas State contends for a conference title, the 2015 campaign will likely be deemed as a success.
TN: The Bobcats return almost everyone from a relatively good offensive unit in 2014. What does TXST like to do stylistically on this side of the ball, and which players are key to its success?
JV: Like most spread teams, Texas State is going to run the ball to set up the pass. For the most part of last season, that plan worked to perfection (238.5 yards per game) and the pieces are in place this season to witness a repeat of that scenario.
Tailbacks Robert Lowe and Chris Nutall, who are considered as co-starters, should carry a majority of the workload. The Bobcats will also mix in the option game with quarterback Tyler Jones and converted slot receiver C.J. Best.
It may seem like a no brainer, but Jones is really the one who makes Texas State's offense go. The offensive coaches, specifically coordinator Mike Schultz, will tell you that Jones' ability to run the ball is his quarterback's most underrated attribute.
TN: What will Texas State need to do offensively to have success against the FSU defense, and how do you expect them to fare?
JV: Sure, the Bobcats feature an up-tempo offense, but as counterintuitive as it may seem they need to control the time of possession. Texas State can't get away with three and outs against Florida State.
I'd imagine the Bobcats will try to use the option to confuse the Seminoles' front seven. While it's not the traditional triple option of Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech, the aforementioned combo of Best and Jones demonstrated near perfect timing last season with the option pitch.
TN: The TXST defense, on the other hand, struggled in 2014, dealing with some unfortunate injury luck. What does coordinator John Thompson like to do with this group in terms of scheme, and what are its strengths and weaknesses?
JV: John Thompson's defense is known for its multiplicity. The Bobcats' base scheme is a 4-2-5, but don't be surprised if they rotate among two, three and four-man fronts.
Injuries were a factor last season and certainly the loss of Mike Orakpo was huge. Yet, Texas State's inexperience in Thompson's scheme was the biggest detriment. Now, in year two under Thompson, the Bobcats feel more comfortable with what's expected of them. Thus, Thompson, who is known as a bit of a mad scientist because of his willingness to tinker with different formations, has been free to be more aggressive.
Going into the season, Texas State figures to be strongest on the back end with all-conference cornerback David Mims II returning for his senior campaign and a burgeoning group of safeties. On the opposite side of the spectrum, linebacker is probably the biggest area of concern with leading tackler David Mayo out of the picture.
TN: If the Bobcats are to hold the ‘Noles’ offense in check, it will be due to the play of which player(s)?
JV: That’s a hard one. Honestly, if Texas State is going to hold FSU in check and have any chance at pulling an upset, all 11 starters on defense probably need to have a career-type game.
TN: Finally, Florida State is currently favored by about 30 points. Do you feel this is an appropriate spread, and do you think the Bobcats will cover it?
JV: That numbers seems about right. I believe Texas State will cover, but barely. I'm going Florida State 49, Texas State 21.
Big thanks to Joe for his insight! Be sure to check out his work at The San Marcos Daily Record for more on Texas State.