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2021 Texas State Football Preview

Texas State Football
Thursday, September 2, 2021

Looking Back

It’s now been six seasons since Texas State had a winning record. Six seasons since the Bobcats won more than three games overall. Six seasons since the maroon and gold won more than two games in Sun Belt play.

Some or all of those trends might have ended in 2020 if not for the COVID-19 pandemic. The offense took major strides averaging 27.7 points per game, a 9.3-point increase from 2019. And Texas State seemed to have a favorable schedule with a slate that included seven home games and no Power 5 opponents.

However, a home game with Ohio and a road trip to New Mexico State were both canceled and replaced with road games against ACC opponent Boston College and one of 2020’s breakout teams in BYU, which finished the year ranked No. 11. The Bobcats lost both games.

The defense was also hammered with season-ending injuries and constant contact-tracing protocols that kept top players sidelined for weeks at a time. As a result, the unit gave up 38.2 points per game, the team’s worst mark since 2016.

It all added up to another 2-10 season for the program, with six of the losses being decided by 10 points or less. This year, head coach Jake Spavital’s third with the team, is about proving that the growth is real and that the setbacks were flukey byproducts of an extremely odd year — and not the other way around.

Looking Forward

1. Texas Transfer State

Spavital has almost completely flipped the maroon and gold’s roster since being hired on Nov. 28, 2018. At the Sun Belt Football Media Day, the head coach said that his goal was to have 70-75 new players in the program by the time he began his third year and he’s accomplished the feat mainly by tapping into the NCAA’s transfer portal.

The eligibility freeze that came in response to the pandemic made transfers especially appetizing to Spavital. For example, someone like quarterback Ty Evans, who redshirted the 2019 season and did not play in 2020 at NC State before transferring to Texas State, still has four seasons still to play despite entering his third year of college ball. The head coach has repeatedly stated the importance of balancing out the classes of the roster and punctuated his stance by only signing two true freshmen.

Many transfers routinely make immediate impacts upon arriving at Bobcat Stadium. Spavital will bank on that again in 2021.

2. How much will continuity help the offense?

Texas State revamped its offensive line in the offseason, but its skill position starters remain mostly unchanged. Spavital’s main emphasis in upgrading the unit was to improve its depth, not necessarily its top-end talent.

The Bobcats largely leaned on newcomers in 2020, which was also Spavital’s first season calling plays for the team and Jacob Peeler’s first year as offensive coordinator. Those who are returning should be much more comfortable in their roles, including the coaches. 

There’s another leap to be made. The offense can reach new heights with more consistent play

3. Can the defense rebound?

Spavital said at the end of the season that 10 players suffered season-ending injuries this year requiring surgery, missing a combined total of 68 games. Another 34 games were missed due to non-season-ending injuries. And 18 Bobcats had to sit out 25 games due to COVID-19 protocols for a grand total of 127 missed games among the team.

The defense was impacted the most, specifically in the secondary, which turned into a weekly game of musical chairs. The team targeted transfer DLs and DBs in the offseason, hoping to avoid another “terrible” situation. Any improvement by the group would help Texas State turn some of its close losses into close wins.

“I mean, we had guys that were starting on an ESPN game against BYU that'll probably go scout team this year,” defensive coordinator Zac Spavital said. “It's good in a lot of reasons.”

14 Bobcats to Watch in 2021


Brady McBride

QB | RS-SO | 6-foot | 200 pounds

2020 stats: 173-282, 1,925 yards, 17 TDs, 7 INTs

Notable: Texas State hasn’t had the same opening day starter in consecutive seasons since Tyler Jones in 2015-16. The team also hasn’t had a QB start all 12 games since Damian Williams in 2017. McBride could be the one to change that. He ended 2020 throwing for eight scores and no picks and has ridden the momentum all offseason.

Calvin Hill

RB | RS-FR | 5-foot-8 | 188 pounds

2020 stats: 101 carries, 528 yards, 5 TDs

Notable: The Bobcats’ leading rusher is a big-play threat every time he touches the ball. He broke off runs of 10 or more yards in all but one game in 2020. His biggest play of the year came against the No. 14 team in the country, taking a pass for 53 yards against Coastal Carolina. He’ll lead a committee that features senior Caleb Twyford and sophomore Jahmyl Jeter and Brock Sturges.

Marcell Barbee

WR | JR | 6-foot-2 | 195 pounds

2020 stats: 40 catches, 584 yards, 10 TDs

Notable: Barbee was one of just 11 players in the nation to catch double-digit touchdowns and was named to the 2021 Preseason All-Sun Belt Second Team. Now having gone through a full offseason with the program, he’s hoping to show that he’s more than just a red zone target.

Javen Banks

WR | JR | 6-foot-2 | 175 pounds

2020 stats: 16 catches, 299 yards, 4 TDs

Notable: Banks began the 2020 season mainly playing on special teams, but worked his way into a starting role as Texas State’s premier deep threat. The junior led the team averaging 18.7 yards per catch and caught touchdowns in each of the last four games of the season, three of them coming from at least 40 yards out.

Nico Ezidore

DL | JR | 6-foot-2 | 285 pounds

2020 stats: 66 tackles, 13.0 TFLs, 3.5 sacks

Notable: Ezidore should benefit from a deeper and healthier defensive line. The Preseason All-Sun Belt Second Team selection mostly lined up on the interior of the line in 2020. But with bigger bodies now available to the Bobcats, Ezidore will be better utilized on the outside where he can use his speed.

Caeveon Patton

DL | SR | 6-foot-2 | 300 pounds

2020 stats: N/A

Notable: Patton missed all of last year recovering from a back injury and recently revealed he also tore his pectoral muscle a week before having his back operated on. He’s stayed constant in his rehab, though, and is now back to full health. A two-year starter before the injury and a team captain this year, Patton’s leadership is invaluable to the team.

Markeveon “Binky” Coleman

LB | SR | 6-foot-2 | 230 pounds

2020 stats: 34 tackles, 2.0 TFLs, 2.0 sacks

Notable: Coleman waited in the wings for years waiting for his moment in the spotlight, backing up former Texas State linebackers Bryan London III and Nik Daniels for most of his career. The 2020 season was supposed to be his year but was quickly derailed by an offseason ACL tear that forced him to miss four games and limited him even when he returned to the field. The team captain is still atop the depth chart heading into 2021 and Zac Spavital said he’s in the best shape of his life.

DeJordan Mask

DB | SO | 6-foot-1 | 190 pounds

2020 stats: 49 tackles, 0.5 TFLs, 5 pass breakups

Notable: The secondary’s attrition woes constantly displaced Mask. A true nickelback, Mask was forced to play corner and safety throughout 2020 and never got consistent time at either spot. With a deeper unit, Mask should be a force at his favorite position. He’ll also be a factor in the return game.

Seamus O’Kelly

P | SO | 6-foot | 175 pounds

2020 stats: 57 punts, 2,336 yards, 41.0-yard average

Notable: O’Kelly showed improvements across the board in his second season, raising his average punt distance by 2.9 yards. He landed a Sun Belt-high 18 punts inside the 20-yard line, gave up only one touchback and was an Honorable Mention on last season’s all-conference team.

Seth Keller

K | SO | 5-foot-9 | 175 pounds

2020 stats: 8-9 FGs, 32-33 PATs

Notable: Keller was a pleasant surprise in 2020, taking over as a starter in the third week of the season. He showed impressive accuracy early and earned Jake Spavital’s trust, connecting on all five of his field goals from 40-plus yards out and accomplishing the rare feat of scoring a touchdown as a kicker, running the ball into the end zone from the 12-yard line on a trick play.


Rontavius “Toe” Groves

WR | JR | 5-foot-11 | 185 pounds

Notable: Groves caught 41 passes for 474 yards and four touchdowns across four years at North Carolina. He’ll compete with junior wide receiver Chandler “Tweeder” Speights for one of the starting slot receiver roles and also get the first crack at punt returning duties.

Liam Dobson

OL | GR | 6-foot-3 | 330 pounds

Notable: Dobson is one of three Canadian imports Texas State brought in on the offensive line, joining Kyle Hergel and Liam Dick. The Maine transfer was taken third overall in the 2021 Canadian Football League Draft but elected to stay in San Marcos instead to improve his NFL draft stock. Dobson will line up at right tackle and has elite athleticism for his size — he’s confirmed he can dunk a basketball.

Nick McCann

DL | GR | 6-foot-2 | 310 pounds

Notable: McCann appeared in 36 games across four seasons at Texas Tech and will be one of the most experienced players on the Bobcat defense. He injured his ankle at the team’s spring game in April and missed part of fall camp recovering from surgery, but still came back in time to win the starting job at nose tackle.

Michael LoVett III

CB | SR | 6-foot | 188 pounds

Notable: LoVett is one of many incoming defensive backs who will be in Texas State’s rotation. The New Mexico transfer played in 15 games and made 22 tackles across two seasons and has risen to the top of the depth chart at corner in training camp.

2021 Game Predictions

Sept. 4 vs. Baylor

Last Meeting: Baylor 34, Texas State 27 (Sept. 15, 2007, in Waco)

Breakdown: Baylor’s taken every game in this series (all of them in Waco) but the last two games were each decided by seven points. The Bears went 2-7 overall in 2020 and the Bobcats could surprise if its roster additions pan out in the first week. It’ll be challenging for the maroon and gold, but not impossible.

Prediction: Baylor 34, Texas State 27

Sept. 11 at Florida International

Last Meeting: N/A

Breakdown: The Panthers made three consecutive bowl appearances from 2017-19 but went winless in 2020. The Bobcats win if they see the latter version of the team, but may struggle if they see the former.

Prediction: Texas State 24, Florida International 14

Sept. 18 vs. Incarnate Word

Last Meeting: Texas State 48, Incarnate Word 17 (Oct. 1, 2016, in San Marcos)

Breakdown: The Cardinals boast one of the best offenses in the FCS but also one of its worst defenses. The Bobcats should have their highest-scoring game of the season.

Prediction: Texas State 49, Incarnate Word 17

Sept. 25 at Eastern Michigan

Last Meeting: N/A

Breakdown: Like the maroon and gold, the Eagles underperformed in 2020, posting a 2-4 record. This will be an important game for both teams as they head into conference play. Expect a close contest.

Prediction: Eastern Michigan 24, Texas State 21

Oct. 9 vs. South Alabama

Last Meeting: South Alabama 30, Texas State 20 (Oct. 17, 2020, in Mobile, Ala.)

Breakdown: One of the most low-key competitive series in the Sun Belt, five of the teams’ six meetings have been decided by 10 points or less. The series is currently tied at 3-3, with the home team winning every matchup. The Bobcats should be able to keep that trend going.

Prediction: Texas State 30, South Alabama 24

Oct. 16 vs. Troy

Last Meeting: Troy 37, Texas State 17 (Oct. 10, 2020, in Troy, Ala.)

Breakdown: The Trojans lead the all-time series 10-1 and most of their wins have been by a wide margin. Troy will be hungry to return to a bowl game this season and need this game to get there.

Prediction: Troy 35, Texas State 20

 Oct. 23 at Georgia State

Last Meeting: Texas State 37, Georgia State 34 (Sept. 21, 2019, in San Marcos)

Breakdown: If 2019’s double-overtime thriller is any indication, this game should be one of the most fun to watch all year. The Panthers are the only team in the Sun Belt the maroon and gold are above .500 against in the Sun Belt. Texas State has to pull out the stops to keep it that way.

Prediction: Texas State 31, Georgia State 28

Oct. 30 at Louisiana

Last Meeting: Louisiana 44, Texas State 34

Breakdown: The Ragin’ Cajuns are perennial conference championship contenders and are currently ranked No. 23 in the nation. Texas State is not yet on the same level as the reigning co-champions.

Prediction: Louisiana 27, Texas State 17

Nov. 6 vs. Louisiana-Monroe

Last Meeting: Texas State 38, Louisiana-Monroe 17 (Sept. 19, 2020, in Monroe, La.)

Breakdown: ULM was one of the two teams the Bobcats beat in 2020, snapping a four-game losing streak for the maroon and gold in the all-time series. The Warhawks likely won’t be much better in 2021.

Prediction: Texas State 38, Louisiana-Monroe 14

Nov. 13 vs. Georgia Southern

Last Meeting: Georgia Southern 40, Texas State 38 (Nov. 14, 2020, in Statesboro, Ga.)

Breakdown: The Eagles lead the all-time series 4-1, though three of their wins have been decided by three points or less. The Bobcats will have the motivation to get over the hump this season after how last year’s game ended.

Prediction: Texas State 27, Georgia Southern 20

Nov. 20 at Coastal Carolina

Last Meeting: Coastal Carolina 49, Texas State 14 (Nov. 28, 2020, in San Marcos)

Breakdown: The Chanticleers should still be viewed as one of the top teams in the NCAA and are currently ranked No. 22 in the AP poll. The maroon and gold will likely struggle again on the teal field at Brooks Stadium.

Prediction: Coastal Carolina 42, Texas State 14

Nov. 28 at Arkansas State

Last Meeting: Texas State 47, Arkansas State 45 (Nov. 21, 2020, in San Marcos)

Breakdown: Arkansas State had the second-worst passing defense in the nation last year and was also running the offense with two different quarterbacks. Neither should be the case again in 2021 under new head coach Butch Jones, hurting the Bobcats’ chances at back-to-back wins.

Prediction: Arkansas State 41, Texas State 35

Predicted Record: 6-6 (4-4 Sun Belt)

Best-Case/Worst-Case Scenarios


The defense recuperates from last season’s tumble and the offense looks even more dynamic with a bigger O-line and a deeper bench. Texas State beats the teams it’s heavily favored against and picks up multiple wins against teams it lost to in 2020 by slim margins, leading to the Bobcats’ first bowl appearance.


The offense remains inconsistent, with no quarterback establishing a permanent residence behind center. The defense struggles again, even with its new additions. The maroon and gold fail to get over the hump and remain in the dweller of the Sun Belt.

Final Say

Texas State has the pieces to be a bowl contender in 2021. The team needs a lot for it to happen, though. The newcomers have to fill their roles as expected and the roster as a whole needs to stay healthy. Neither of those is a sure thing.

But the program can no longer settle for being a competitive two- or three-win team. Jake Spavital has confidence.

“The expectation is to win,” the head coach said. “I think we finally got some depth and it's time to go win some games.”

San Marcos Record

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