Texas State Football Coach Jake Spavital along with running back Brock Sturges and DB DeJordan Mask were all smiles at the Sun Belt’s opening press conference on Thursday afternoon.
The 2021 Texas State Bobcats are looking to rebound after their rollercoaster ride of a 2020 season. A program that’s struggled to win more than three games in recent years, the maroon and gold are looking to begin a new era coming off of a rocky 2020 campaign.
It was a year that was snakebitten by COVID-19 and the strict guidelines mandated by both the country and the Sun Belt Conference. The Bobcats were a disciplined unit off the field, meeting guidelines and expectations, playing a full twelve game season. However, on the field they proved to be an inexperienced group that week in and week out struggled with discipline and making plays down the stretch of games. It’s something that Junior DB DeJordan Mask feels is a thing of the past.
“I think it all comes down to discipline, if we go back and watch the film, all of the small things that made us lose the games (last year), it all comes down to discipline,” Mask said. “I feel like we’re a more disciplined team this year, so I feel like we’ll be straight.”
While Texas State managed to play all twelve of their games last year, the program couldn’t polish the new aspects of their offense throughout all phases of their season. As they improved week to week, time and reps weren’t on their side heading into the year. They brought in a new dimension for their offense with Brady McBride under center, along with a three-headed rushing attack of Jahmyl Jeter, Brock Sturges and Calvin Hill.
While their offense was fresh and sported a new look, their defense also went through a similar makeover. Giving Freshman, Sophomores, and transfers like DeJordan Mask (SO), Zion Childress (FR), Tory Spears (TR) significant playing time. The Bobcats weren’t able to give their new group ample opportunities on the practice field or in the coaches room for development like they’d hope for. So trial by fire has been their main method of instruction on the field.
In 2020, Coach Spavital and his staff did a commendable job keeping his team on the field all while navigating through the COVID-19 pandemic that hit the country hard, back in March of last year. With clearer skies ahead, Spavital is embracing this new world post-COVID with he and Sun Belt Commissioner Keith Gill endorsing vaccinations for the entire Sun Belt Conference.
“We have the vaccine available for all of our kids. And we have a lot of educational classes, a lot of doctors are coming through, a lot of dialogue within our program,” Spavital said. “You look at our athletic trainers on how we were really the first team to finish the season without any hiccups in our season last year. We listen to the medical professionals as best as we can and they’re gonna put our student-athletes in the best position possible.”
On the field, Spavital has embraced a new physical approach when it comes to the play along the line on both sides of the football. It was a running joke at the presser about how much the third-year Coach loves Canadian offensive lineman, but Spavital spoke on how getting grittier in the trenches was a must going forward.
“I think we’ve increased the profile of our O-line and D-line a lot, in 2019 (in Spavital’s first season with Texas State) I thought we were an extremely small team, I thought we got pushed around at times, and we had to put an emphasis on getting bigger guys up front,” Spavital said. “Now, with the addition of putting a bigger emphasis on the trenches, I think we’ve increased a lot and I think when people play us they’ll see that we’ve improved a lot from a profile standpoint.”
In addition to bringing in a much more physical presence along the line, Spavital also looked to add depth and experience throughout this roster. He told us that coming into the year, the Bobcats would only have four Seniors on their roster. After bringing in several transfers, and the eligibility freeze due to COVID, the program will have nearly 20 Seniors on the team by week one.
Experience is something this Bobcats sorely lacked last season. Without any prior late game reps on a much larger competitive stage, the team sputtered in many games down the stretch. The inexperienced program lost four games last season by seven points or fewer, as well as two additional contests by just ten.
Running back Brock Sturges spoke on why he believes this group that lost six games by 10 points or fewer, can now bounce back and close out those winnable games in their favor.
“Last year, it was a lot of guys’ first time playing at this level. I think the experience and the team comradery that we’ve been doing over this offseason will help us win those close games,” Sturges said. “Knowing that we can depend on the brother next to us, I think that will push us through.”
Texas State’s portion of media day concluded with a question to Coach Jake Spavital about his outlook on the program and whether or not he feels pressure to contend for the Sun Belt Championship soon. Spavital (5-19) has yet to lead this group to more than three wins in a season, but despite the win-loss record, the program has seen growth in its culture and confidence moving forward.
“The things that we worry about is what we can control on a daily basis. That’s the only thing that we worry about,” Spavital said. “You can’t make everybody happy, there’s going to be a lot of different opinions of what people think of us or what the expectations are, but at the end of the day, we’ve got to show up and put the work in. That’s what we do at Texas State.”
The Texas State Bobcats begin their 2021 season, opening up at Bobcat Stadium against the Baylor Bears on September 4th, 2021. The game will take place at 6 p.m. (CST), with the broadcast available on ESPN+.