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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

Portal chaos leaves Bobcats with unproven quarterbacks

Carly Earnest
Texas State redshirt freshman quarterback P.J. Hatter (6) participates in pre-game warmups before the ULM game, Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023, at Bobcat Stadium.

After notching the first bowl victory to cap off its most successful season in program history, the Texas State football team enters the spring without a proven quarterback on its roster.

Redshirt sophomore T.J. Finley transferred to Texas State from Auburn University in July, and was named starting quarterback for the 2023 season. Finley started all 13 games, throwing for 3,439 yards, 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

After verbally committing to return to Texas State for the 2024 season, Finley left the program via the NCAA transfer portal one day after the team announced the signing of former University of Arizona quarterback Jayden de Laura. Days after announcing his departure from the program, Finley committed to Western Kentucky University.

Finley was the third quarterback to leave the team following the bowl game in December. Redshirt sophomore C.J. Rogers, who spent the 2023 season as the team’s third-string quarterback, was the first to leave, followed by redshirt junior Malik Hornsby, who was Finley’s backup and played sparingly in seven games as a dual-threat option.

Hornsby committed to Arkansas State University in the portal, where he will transition to wide receiver, while Rogers has yet to find a new team.

With all three gone, de Laura appeared as the likely candidate to be named as the starting quarterback for the Bobcats next season. However, he withdrew from Texas State after an article published by The University Star about the quarterback’s civil lawsuit stemming from a sexual assault that occurred when he was in high school.

Texas State lost its top four quarterback options in the span of two months, and now, in February, the Bobcats find themselves without a proven quarterback.

Currently, Texas State’s top option is redshirt freshman P.J. Hatter. Hatter played in one game in 2023, the week three matchup against Jackson State. He took the final snaps of the game in the 77-34 win but did not have a true opportunity to showcase his abilities.

Hatter graduated from Westfield High School in Houston and was a late addition to Texas State’s 2023 recruiting class. As a senior, Hatter threw for 2,841 yards and 43 touchdowns. Hatter originally committed to Jackson State before flipping to Texas State late in the recruitment process.

Despite Hatter’s limited game experience during the 2023 season, Head Coach G.J. Kinne has praised his talent and work ethic.

“P.J. Hatter, we knew he was good,” Kinne said. “You see the production at Westfield. He’s a quiet guy, but [he] just works. He may be the hardest worker we have in [the quarterback] room. [He’s] a dynamic runner. As good a runner as Malik. P.J. may be a better runner than Malik.”

Even though he hardly saw the field, Hatter had the opportunity to become acclimated to Kinne’s and offensive coordinator Mack Leftwich’s offense and the offensive coaching staff. This likely will give him an advantage over any incoming quarterbacks.

Texas State’s other option is true freshman Brad Jackson. The 5 feet 11 inch quarterback was rated as a three-star prospect according to 247sports and was one of the first members of the team’s 2024 recruiting class. After spending three seasons at Cypress Creek High School in the greater Houston area, Jackson transferred to Ronald Reagan High School in San Antonio for his senior year.

During his senior year, Jackson threw for 2,435 yards and 28 touchdowns, leading the Rattlers to an 11-1 record, a district championship and a playoff berth. Jackson committed to Texas State over offers from Louisiana-Lafayette and Sam Houston University.

“I loved [Jackson’s] production in high school, talking about his stats, both throwing and running,” Kinne said. “We had him in camp, and I thought his ability to throw the ball, his arm talent and his touch were probably the best we saw in camp all year. [He has] great leadership. Great touch on the ball, great production, great arm strength, can make all the throws.”

Jackson joined Texas State as an early enrollee and participated in the team’s practices leading up to the First Responder bowl game. While his time with the team was limited, it gave him a headstart in learning the offensive system, which should be beneficial in the upcoming quarterback competition.

The transfer portal is currently closed but will reopen following the end of spring practices in April. Kinne elected to dip into the portal late in the offseason last year to sign a quarterback. Time will tell if history will repeat itself, but as of now, Hatter and Jackson will be competing to see who will be taking the opening snap in the week one matchup against Lamar University.

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