For Texas State Football, the 2020 season was reminiscent of the previous five years: Underwhelming. The Bobcats finished the year 2-10 overall and 2-6 in the Sun Belt.
Even with a historic losing streak looming over their heads, the team has regained their optimism for the upcoming 2021 season. By focusing their offseason on roster depth and injury prevention, Head Coach Jake Spavital says the Bobcats are geared toward success.
“I think we’ve gotten a lot bigger, a lot longer, and I think we’ve got more depth than we ever had since I’ve been here,” Spavital says. “[It is] a very promising deal for our program.”
One of the team’s offseason priorities was to get bigger players, specifically at the offensive and defensive lines. Spavital discovered most Group of Five teams lack size in the trenches and believes he has made progress on that front.
“The profile of our offensive line is completely different,” Spavital says. “We now have eight guys over 280 pounds. When I got here in 2019, I thought we were one of the smallest teams in America … ‘Big people beat up little people.’ It’s important to have size, especially in this game upfront.”
One of the additions to the trenches is graduate offensive lineman Liam Dobson, a native of Ottawa, Canada. Dobson played three seasons at the University of Maine and was selected third overall in the 2021 Canadian Football League Draft.
With aspirations of playing in the NFL, Dobson thought it would be best to use his fourth year of eligibility at a Division I FBS school, prompting him to sign with Texas State.
During the offseason, a big topic of discussion within the team was a three-person quarterback competition between sophomore Brady McBride, junior Tyler Vitt and freshman transfer Ty Evans.
The trio took a similar number of practice reps throughout fall camp, but all three quarterbacks found the competition to be healthy; they bonded off the field over rounds of golf and the video game Rocket League.
McBride will start the season opener. This will be his second-straight opening day start, making him the first Bobcat quarterback to do so since 2015-16.
McBride took the majority of the snaps last year with eight starts, throwing for 1,925 yards, 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions with a 1-7 record in starts.
The lone victory was a 47-45 thriller against the Arkansas State Red Wolves on Nov. 21. In the contest, McBride went 32-45 for 443 yards and tied the Bobcats' single-game record for passing touchdowns (five).
He says he got more comfortable as last season went on, allowing him to settle into his role and perform to the best of his ability.
"At the end of last year, I was just trying to control what I can control and kind of just got out of my head," McBride says. "Really settling in college football and playing there; that helped a lot."
The Bobcats will kick off the season on Sept. 4 as they host the Baylor Bears, being Texas State’s lone Power Five matchup this season. Spavital finds the game to be an exciting opportunity for both his team and the greater San Marcos community.
“Just having another Power Five team to come to Texas State, to come to San Marcos, it’s gonna be great for our community, especially a quality program like Baylor,” Spavital says. “It’s gonna be a great challenge for our program.”
With two years of head coaching experience under his belt, Spavital is sporting a 5-19 record. In 2020, the Bobcats lost four games by only one score.
Despite the lack of wins, especially in close games, he believes the team has improved behind the curtain.
“I think we changed the profile of our team,” Spavital says. “The record may not speak for itself, but we’ve done a lot of great things that we see as a program. You look at last year, you look at COVID, you see all the issues that occurred and all the ups and downs, but we got a lot of quality experience last year. A lot of opportunity for our kids to get better. We had a lot of gut-wrenching losses last year that I do think are going to play huge dividends for our program moving forward.”