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Football searches for bowl selection in 2023

Texas+State+redshirt+senior+wide+receiver+Julian+Orteaga-Jones+rounds+up+the+team+and+chants+encouraging+words%2C+Saturday%2C+April+1%2C+2023+at+Bobcat+Stadium.++
Carly Earnest
Texas State redshirt senior wide receiver Julian Orteaga-Jones rounds up the team and chants encouraging words, Saturday, April 1, 2023 at Bobcat Stadium.

With college football season nearing for Texas State, the upcoming season marks the beginning of a new era. With a new head coach roaming the sidelines, a multitude of off-season transfers and a competitive culture, the Bobcats are aiming toward a first-ever bowl selection in program history.

In early December 2022, the head coach reins were passed to G.J. Kinne after the firing of Jake Spavital.

Kinne is fresh off a 12-2 season as a head coach at Incarnate Word where he led the Cardinals to an FCS postseason run, falling just short in the semi-final round.

Kinne and his coaching staff spent just one year at Incarnate Word, proving that they’re capable of winning right away. When Kinne chose to make the move from Incarnate Word to Texas State he brought a handful of players and coaches with him. Most notably, he brought over the architect of the nation’s most high-powered offense in 2022, offensive coordinator Mack Leftwich.

Leftwich was recently selected to the 30 Under 30 list by 247sports consisting of 30 of the best up-and-coming Division I assistant coaches under the age of 30.

“He’s a superstar,” Kinne said. “You average 52 points a game, obviously you’re going to carry yourself a little bit differently.”

For junior defensive end Ben Bell Kinne will be his third different head coach in three years. Bell said Kinne and his coaching staff have come and transformed the culture of the team.

Junior defensive end Ben Bell has been around three different coaching staffs in his three-year collegiate career and has an enthusiastic take on Kinne and his youthful staff.

“You can just tell the hunger in the coaches’ eyes,” Bell said. “You feel that belief. You can really tell the coaches want to win.”

For a program that has endured the types of struggles that Texas State has over the past several years a fresh start is a vital first step to becoming a consistently winning program.

Kinne recruited a total of 55 new players to suit up in maroon and gold this fall, which means position battles have been in full swing since the start of fall practices.

With as much new talent as the Bobcats have, they are experiencing what is certainly the best problem to have as a program, deciding who is the best at each position.

“It’s probably going to be a game-time decision on a lot of those guys,” Kinne said. “The best players are going to play, period.”

For a roster like Texas State’s that is full of talented and promising players finding the best one can be a difficult task.

With returners like junior wide receiver Ashtyn Hawkins, redshirt senior wide receiver Julian Ortega-Jones and a revamped offensive line, the entire Bobcat offense looks like it could potentially be the strength of the team, unlike last season.

Hawkins was recently placed on the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award preseason watchlist and is coming off an explosive season in 2022. His deep threat ability will benefit the run-pass option that Leftwich likes to run.

“We’re counting on him this fall,” Kinne said. “If you make that many plays, you’re a leader.”

The offensive line has seen a pair of Oklahoma transfers in redshirt senior Brey Walker who has played in 41 games in the Big 12, and redshirt junior Marcus Alexander.

They also added five Incarnate Word linemen from the 2022 Cardinals. One of those five linemen AP FCS All-American redshirt senior offensive lineman Caleb Johnson is pleased with the level of the competition.

“Everybody wants to start,” Johnson said. “But it’s really good to have the battles and go against somebody that you know you’re going to have to outwork because it makes you better.”

For Texas State expectations for the 2023 season is to outwork the rest of the Sun Belt Conference in order to achieve victories.

“We just want to put our head down and work,” Bell said. “I feel like if we do that then we can get to a conference championship, we can get to the bowl game.”

Texas State will begin its season on the road against Baylor at 6 p.m. on Sept. 2 at McLane Stadium in Waco, Texas.

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