Texas State first-year coach Everett Withers has watched films of the 2015 season.
Although what he saw wasn’t his idea of a disaster or horror movie, the Bobcats’ 3-9 story doesn’t rate as a feel good type, either.
In some ways it might be called a series of educational films, because Withers, who took over this past winter for retiring Dennis Franchione, learned something during the viewings.
“We have to get better,” said Withers, who spent the past two years as head coach at James Madison. “We were 3-9. Usually, when you’re 3-9 you look like 3-9. We have to be better.”
Texas State’s quest for improvement already has begun. Withers gave his players an orientation of his expectations during the past eight weeks. Now, he’s looking to see more progress during spring training drills, which began this week.
“There’s a bunch of things we want to accomplish in spring practice,” Withers said. “There are areas where we want to say either thumbs up or thumbs down. We just finished our eight-week cycle, which we call the first quarter of our journey. We felt like our guys did a lot of growing as a football team. They have a better understanding of our expectations as a staff.”
Going into the 15 days of workouts, which includes the spring game on April 9, Withers says all positions are open, even those where players return. He also hinted the official depth chart may not be known until the week of the season opener against Ohio. In the meantime, the Texas State coach’s No. 1 object is establishing leadership.
“That’s a big area right now,” Withers said. “We need to find out who our leaders are. We’re still searching for that. I think that’s a big part of a successful program.”
While putting together players in the right positions, an area getting plenty of attention is the offensive and defensive lines.
Offensively, the Bobcats have several players capable of providing that security, including Ryan Melton, Giuliano Cattaneo, Felix Romero, Willie Williams and Tryston Mizerak.
On the defensive side, Dallas McClarty, Karee Berry and Jeff Banks return.
“We have to find an identity to our offensive and defensive lines,” Withers said. “In the age of the spread offense and going real fast, you still win championships with what’s up front offensively and defensively.
“This is a huge area of finding out who our line guys are going to be. We’re going to try to find five and then trying to find six, seven and eight. After that, we’ll look for some guys from our recruiting class who can come in and help us.”
Finding playmakers and creating at depth all positions is another priority, especially at quarterback. Last year’s starter Tyler Jones returns. The Bobcats also have candidates in Connor White, Blake Peterson and L.G. Williams.
Who will be the No. 1 QB remains to be seen, at least for the time being.
“We need depth at quarterback,” Withers said. “We need competitors. It is really important to have more than one guy. Our quarterback is going to have to be a runner. He has to be able to do something with his legs. Hopefully, we’ll have a better idea at the end of spring.”
Withers has a unique approach to spring training. While most teams end their drills with the spring game, Texas State has three more days of workouts after the contest.
“We’ve done this at others places I’ve been,” Withers said. “After the spring game we can look at where we need to get specific on things we need to correct.”
The Bobcats have a heavy workload during the next few weeks, but at least they’re farther along because of what was accomplished beforehand.
“The first quarter was more instilling expectations and getting kids to understand our core values,” Withers said. “We wanted them to understand our foundation in the program and how we work. A lot of people go straight into football and strength and conditioning. Our deal was to lay the foundation before we got onto the football field.
“The second quarter is about football philosophy, about what we want to do offensively, defensively and on special teams. We want our kids to understand how we practice and focus.”