Coming off a rollercoaster season in which the team went 2-10 overall and 2-6 in the Sun Belt Conference, Texas State football began its first week of spring practice on March 23-27.
The football program gained more exposure last season with multiple nationally-televised games and wide receiver Jeremiah Haydel headed for the NFL Draft, but none of it was enough for the returning coaches and players who felt the team missed key opportunities for success.
Head Coach Jake Spavital's goal for the offseason was to have offensive and defensive lineman gain a significant amount of weight to provide a formidable presence in the trenches.
"That's where it's won," Jake Spavital says. "The profile of the o-line and d-line's training changed drastically here. I think they're big — they're a lot bigger...It's a violent game, it's a combative game and you got to win the line of scrimmage."
With the increased size and the addition of three new offensive linemen, redshirt freshman running back Calvin Hill says he is pleased with the depth on the offensive line.
"Last year, if one of our o-linemen went down, we were kind of reaching back, but now I don't feel like reaching back as much," Hill says. "I feel like we have a lot of depth in our o-line room. So if this tackle gets hurt, we have another step right up and do the same thing that tackle is doing."
Sophomore running back Brock Sturges and sophomore running back Jahmyl Jeter will join Hill for the second straight season. Both Hill and Sturges ran for over 500 yards with five touchdowns apiece, while Jeter ran for 329 yards and three touchdowns.
The trio of backs have a healthy competition going against one another, yet Sturges says they do not allow the competition to distract them from their bigger, common goals.
"That's just a little competition we have," Sturges says. "Who can block the best? Who gonna catch the most passes? It's all working towards the end goal, which is to win. As long as it's not, 'I wanna do good and I hope you do bad' ...It's always gonna be a competition but, at the end of the day, it's all love, and we know that coming from each other."
A quarterback competition is still in play after sophomore quarterback Brady McBride took the majority of the snaps in 2020 followed by junior quarterback Tyler Vitt.
In eight starts last season, McBride threw for 1,925 yards, 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Vitt started the remaining four games and threw for 933 yards, nine touchdowns and six interceptions.
Freshman quarterback Ty Evans, a transfer from North Carolina State University, is also in the mix. At Palmer Ridge High School in Monument, Colorado, he accumulated a 34-5 career record and 9,485 passing yards with 106 touchdowns. He was also a Nike Elite 11 quarterback in 2018.
Junior wide receiver Marcell Barbee, a fellow Coloradoan who used to go to watch Evans play in high school, is impressed by Evans' play in practice.
"[Evans] was a legend in my eyes," Barbee says. "Him coming to Texas State and playing here and just watching him in practice the past couple of days, he's starting to get the hang of things, and he's getting better."
With Offensive Coordinator Jacob Peeler returning for his second season, Spavital says there are benefits to continuity, especially in the quarterback room.
"Year two with quarterbacks — it's night and day," Jake Spavital says. "I've already got all those discussions and the technique and all the little things out of the way where they know what to do."
On the other side of the field, Defensive Coordinator Zac Spavital says injuries on defense last season forced it to change its identity. However, he says players are returning with a lot of energy.
"[Last season] left a bad taste in everyone's mouth," Zac Spavital says. "The kids are eager to change that and get back out there...It kind of gives you a little bit more energy and excitement for what's to come."
The team will continue spring practice for four more weeks, before the annual Texas State Spring Game takes place on April 24.