Photo by Gerald Castillo
King: What targets in the spring game could mean for the 2019 season
Texas State will have a new opening-day starter at quarterback.
That’s not a question anymore as Willie Jones III transferred away this offseason. That leaves new head coach Jake Spavital with a glut of options to fill the spot with, chief among them junior transfer Gresch Jensen and sophomores Tyler Vitt and Jaylen Gipson.
The team will also have a new leading pass-catcher this season, as tight end Keenen Brown entered his name into the NFL Draft. During the Bobcats’ Maroon & Gold Spring Game last Saturday, I kept track of who each of the signal-callers targeted during their time on the field, whether the pass was completed or not, to get a sense of which receiver could see their role expand with a new quarterback in 2019.
Here are the top-five most-targeted receivers from Saturday:
T-1st: Mason Hays, senior wide receiver, seven targets
Hays had arguably the biggest play of the spring game, leaping above sophomore defensive back Jarron Morris to snag a 68-yard bomb from Jensen. The senior ended the day catching three of his passes for a team-leading 82 yards, including a five-yard touchdown two snaps later.
The Longview native was a starter at wideout for the Bobcats at the beginning of his sophomore year, but suffered a season-ending injury four games in, finishing with nine receptions for 148 yards a score. He struggled to return to form in 2018, reeling in the same amount of balls for just 122 yards and no touchdowns.
If Hays can continue making big plays, like the one he and Jensen connected on at the spring game, the receiver could be in store for his best season to date.
T-1st: Hutch White, senior wide receiver, seven targets
White appeared to be the go-to guy for Jensen at the Maroon & Gold game, with all but two targets directed at him from the former Fullerton Community College signal caller. Jensen’s five passes to White were the most among any quarterback-receiver combination.
White is consistently one of the nation’s best punt returners (32nd in yards per return in 2017, 20th in 2018) and Texas State found ways to put his speed to good use last year in the slot. He concluded the season with 298 yards and two touchdowns on 34 catches (second-most on the team).
Spavital will likely continue to capitalize on White’s abilities. The senior from Kerrville only caught three passes for 14 yards on Saturday, but is in line for a steady diet of work as the Bobcats’s projected starting slot receiver.
3rd: Javen Banks, sophomore wide receiver, six
The Wichita Falls Hirschi graduate got looks from all three of Texas State’s quarterbacks and produced two first downs with two receptions for 31 yards.
Banks flashed potential as a deep threat in his freshman season, grabbing 10 passes for 161 yards – a 16.1-yard average. His longest play of the year came against South Alabama on Sept. 15, 2018, when he blazed the Jaguars with a 42-yard touchdown from Jones III in the first quarter.
That trend held up in the spring game, as both of Banks catches’ went for double-digit yards. To solidify his role, Banks will need to show more consistency in his sophomore season.
T-4th: Jah’Marae Sheread, redshirt freshman wide receiver, five targets
Sheread received a redshirt after appearing in just three games last year but was prolific with his opportunities, racking up six receptions for 53 yards.
He showed sure hands on Saturday, nabbing all five of his targets for 11 yards. At 5-foot-7, the Houston native figures to provide depth for the team at the slot receiver position behind White.
T-4th: Anthony D. Taylor, senior running back, five targets
The senior from Denton was one of the standouts of the Maroon & Gold game, gaining 72 yards and a touchdown on nine carries in the ground game. But Taylor’s target share suggests he might have more to offer in the passing department, too.
Taylor was second among Bobcat running backs last season in receiving, seizing eight balls for 63 yards, trailing just junior converted receiver Caleb Twyford. Most of his looks on Saturday came when the defense pressured the quarterback, who needed to dump the ball off to somebody.
He only caught one of his passes for seven yards and he probably won’t see an expansive receiving role in the future. But if Taylor can provide value as an always-open target, it could lead to more time on the field for the big back.