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The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Football gears up to “Take Back Texas” in upcoming season

Redshirt junior defensive tackle Jason Gold Jr. pushes back against a training dummy, Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2023, at Bobcat Stadium. Photo Courtesy of Texas State Athletics

With the 2023-2024 college football season around the corner, Texas State has opened practices, officially commencing the highly anticipated new era of Bobcat football under first-year-head coach G.J. Kinne.

The biggest storyline heading into camp is the ongoing quarterback battle between redshirt junior Malik Hornsby and redshirt sophomore C.J. Rogers. The two have been competing since spring practices to earn the starting spot under center.

What once appeared as a two-man competition during spring has turned into a competition of three with the late and surprising addition of former Auburn and LSU quarterback T.J. Finley in the summer.

According to Kinne offseason rust was apparent in all three of the quarterbacks during the first week of fall camp but they all managed to shake off the rust and show progression in week two.

“They’ve all had their periods, kind of had their days,” Kinne said. “[C.J.] started off a little slow and I think he responded. We had a night practice the other day and Malik had his best night. And T.J. has been very solid throughout. He operates very well he throws the ball very well. All of them need to continue to be better.”

Kinne, a former Division I quarterback, spoke on the challenges quarterbacks face during a competition to be the starter and how the three-man competition is taking shape with the season’s opening game coming soon.

“It’s hard playing quarterback when you’re battling for a job. Sometimes it’s hard to assert yourself because you’re going with the one’s then you’re going with the twos then you’re going with the threes so it’s tough,” Kinne said.

Aside from the quarterback position the offensive line is currently a big question mark as Texas State will have to replace all five starters from last year’s team.

Redshirt senior offensive lineman Caleb Johnson, one of five offensive linemen who followed Kinne and his coaching staff to Texas State from Incarnate Word, said having five open starting spots has raised the level of competition and aggression in the position group.

“You can tell guys are hungry… Nobody’s locked in, there’s no starters because everyone is new,” Johnson said. “So, it’s definitely a little cutthroat in the o-line room because we’re at each other’s necks because we all want to start.”

Kinne shared his thoughts on how the offensive line is shaping up over the first two weeks of fall camp.

“We’re starting to get guys in the right spot. We had guys going from right tackle to left tackle, left tackle to right guard, right guard to center,” Kinne said. “Upfront there’s a lot of communication. It takes a lot of chemistry up front.”

The center position has been an area of concern throughout camp thus far with several high and wide snaps. Like many positions on the roster, the starting center spot is currently up for grabs. Kinne said the competition at the center position has been narrowed down to three candidates.

“[Caleb Johnson], Chayse Dodd and Danny [Valenzuela] are the three guys working at center and they’re all battling,” Kinne said. “All three have been rotating and going with different groups. Right now [Caleb Johnson] has been going with the ones he’s just so familiar with the system and he’s so big.”

Despite having no experience at the center position Johnson said he is fully prepared to embrace the challenge if necessary.

“I got All-Conference and All-American at UIW at left guard and I came here and started in [the] spring at left guard. But I’m also playing some center too because we don’t have a center,” Johnson said. “It’s the best five on the field so whichever position I’m going to be at that’s where I’m going to be.”

One thing Kinne has stated multiple times since being hired back in December was that he would be installing the same offensive system he ran last season at Incarnate Word which led the entire nation in both points and total yards per game.

According to offensive coordinator Mack Leftwich there have been some growing pains with new players attempting to learn the high-octane offense in the first week of camp but that progress is starting to be made.

“We have a lot of guys snap one of fall camp that was their first time in this offense. So just getting them out there getting them the reps they need getting their eyes in the right spot all those little details. But you can see the progress which is encouraging,” Leftwich said.

According to Kinne, his biggest takeaway from the early stages of fall practice wasn’t from his players but rather from his coaching staff.

“I’ve got to be really hard on these coaches because we have so many new faces,” Kinne said. “Those players have to know what the standard is what we expect every day when you have that many new people. Our coaches have to do a better job of translating that onto the field. That was my biggest takeaway; the coaches have to do a better job.”

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