Photo by Lance Winter
Confident Bobcats head to Rutgers for season opener
Everett Withers has gone up against Rutgers three times during his coaching career.
The third-year Texas State head coach faced the Scarlet Knights twice while at North Carolina. Withers, as defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach, saw the Tar Heels defeat Rutgers, 17-13, in 2010, and, 44-12, in 2008. During his stint as defensive backs coach with Texas, the Longhorns defeated the Scarlet Knights, 38-21, during the 1999 season.
Withers made the Bobcats aware of his 3-0 record against Rutgers, and when Texas State takes the field for the season opener against the Scarlet Knights in Piscataway, N.J., he’d like to keep the record unblemished.
“The way I look at this game is we want to go beat a Big 10 school,” Withers said. “We’d love to go win the opener. My goal is to find out a lot more about our team next Saturday at 11 a.m. Hopefully by 2:30 p.m. or so, 3 o’clock we’re healthy and we know about our team as we move closer to our conference schedule. So, that to me is the most important thing. I’m excited to just go watch our team play. I really am.”
Texas State is as confident as it’s been during Withers’ tenure in San Marcos. Withers called this year’s training camp without a doubt the best training camp they’ve had here.
“The two previous camps there’s always been something that’s set us back with off-the-field something because of guys being not bought in to what we need to be bought in,” Withers said. “We didn’t have that at all this camp. We probably grew closer this camp than maybe any camp I’ve ever been a part of. It’s been a lot of fun to be around these guys.”
Now heading into the first game of the 2018 campaign, the Bobcats recognize the challenge Rutgers presents. But Withers is familiar with Scarlet Knight head coach Chris Ash.
“I know Chris well,” Withers said. “Chris hired (current Texas State offensive coordinator) Zak Kuhr away from me when I was taking this job to be the running backs coach at Rutgers. He also hired Drew Mehringer, who’s now at Texas, away when he got the job at Rutgers. I know Chris is a defensive guy. Their talent level right now in the secondary is really good. He’s done a really good job in the secondary. They have some depth issues up front on the defensive line.
“They’re going to be big and physical on the offensive line. They’re going to use a lot of what we call ‘12 personnel,’ two tight ends, two wide receiver sets. They’ll be not as much of a spread as we are. They’re going to be a little bit more conventional, try to run the ball. But a young quarterback (freshman Artur Sitkowski), you have to take care of that young quarterback by being able to run the football. We expect run and play-action pass, and take shots down the field with a young quarterback. But try to protect him. Obviously, they think a lot of the freshman (Sitkowski) to name him the starter at a Power 5, Big 10 school.”
On defense, Withers knows the Bobcats will have to play simple in order to stop Rutgers’ pro-style offense and give themselves the chance to pull off the upset.
“Anytime you play a team that’s going to motion and shift a bunch, you have to be really simple on defense and understanding that people motion and shift are usually doing that to window dress about four or five plays,” Withers said. “... For us, what we’ve got to do is be simple. I always say defensively, you’ve got to stare all of the motions and shifts down. You can’t be running back and forth with the motions and shifts because you’ll forget about what you’re supposed to do.
"So, we’ve got to be really simple on defense, I think, and line up and be sound, protect the edges of our defense, leverage the football and tackle well, and not give up home runs. That’s really it: Don’t give up the big plays, leverage your defense and tackle well. If you do those three things on defense against a power-run team, you’ve got a chance.”