2017 College football rankings: No. 128 Buffalo – Orlando Sentinel

The Texas State Bobcats are No. 129 in the Orlando Sentinel 2017 preseason college football rankings. The Bobcats are in the midst of a rebuilding period, with coaches working to overhaul the roster and steadily become more competitive in the Sun Belt.

No. 129: Texas State

Coach: Everett Withers (2-10, entering second season; 27-23 overall)

2016 record: 2-10 overall, 0-8 Sun Belt; last in Sun Belt

Look back: Everett Withers took over a tough job rebuilding the Texas State program last season following the retirement of Dennis Franchione after going 20-28. The players on the roster could sense Franchione was on his way out and Withers, who had past success leading James Madison, had to shake up his roster. Withers was blunt in his assessment of the program, often saying the team wasn’t good enough to play at the FBS level last season. The flaws were obvious, with the overwhelmed Bobcats going 2-10 overall and winless in Sun Belt play.

“I love these guys,” Withers told the San Antonio Express-News this spring, highlighting the difference between last year’s Bobcats and this year’s team. “Are we more talented? No. But I like being around them. They’re good people, and they have a better care for each other than a year ago. I want my son to be around them. I want families to be around them. I didn’t like those guys last year. I didn’t bring my kids over here because I didn’t want them to be infested with what was going on.

“No disrespect to last year’s group; they didn’t know us; they didn’t know the expectations. We came in here swinging at them last year. We came here absolutely swinging at everybody in the athletic department because our standards were high.”

Offensive starters returning: 8

Offensive starters lost: 3

Defensive starters returning: 7

Defensive starters lost: 4

Key losses: QB Tyler Jones, OT Ryan Melton, C Giuliano Cattaneo, G Felix Romero, LB Teron Fitzgerald, CB Brandon McDowell, S Javante O’Roy

Top returnees: RB Stedman Mayberry, WR Tyler Watts, WR Elijah King, TE Gabe Schrade, OG Aaron Brewer, DE Ishmael Davis, DE Jordan Mittie, LB Gabe Loyd, LB Bryan London

Strengths: Mississippi State transfer Damian Williams transferred to Texas State and is the Bobcats’ top quarterback option. He passed for four touchdowns during the Bobcats’ spring game and is adapting to Withers’ system. He’ll get some help from 2016 team captain Gabe Schrade, a strong tight end who started all 12 games last season. Running back Stedman Mayberry, versatile offensive lineman Aaron Brewer and receiver Tyler Watts also will provide support.

The linebacker unit is one of the team’s strongest position groups, with Gabe Loyd and Bryan London leading the unit.

Weaknesses: Texas State ranked No. 124 out of 128 NCCA-recognized teams last season with 18.6 points per game and No. 125 in scoring defense, giving up 41.1 points per contest. The team’s sole win over an FBS opponent was a 56-54 triple overtime victory at Ohio in the season opener. While the team surely has improved during the offseason, Withers has clearly stated Texas State still has considerable work to do before it can chase a bowl bid. Outlook: Texas State lacks the talent, size and depth to regularly compete at the Sun Belt level, but he certainly has the program moving in a positive direction. The roster is loaded with sophomores who will need time to develop. Williams is sure to help improve the offense, but he only has one year of eligibility and Texas State will need to keep working to develop a long-term solution at quarterback.

2017 Schedule

Sept. 2 Houston Baptist

Sept. 9 at Colorado

Sept. 16 Appalachian State

Sept. 23 UTSA

Sept. 30 at Wyoming

Oct. 7 Louisiana Monroe

Oct. 12 at Louisiana Lafayette

Oct. 28 at Coastal Carolina

Nov. 4 New Mexico State

Nov. 11 Georgia State

Nov. 18 at Arkansas State

Nov. 25 at Troy

Iliana Limon Romero, ilimon@orlandosentinel.com

Orlando Sentinel college insider Matt Murschel ranked all 128 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the country entering the 2015-16 season. The Sentinel staff takes a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. 130 to our projected No. 1 team.

No. 130 UAB

Coach: Bill Clark (6-6, entering fourth season; 6-6 overall)

2016 record: None (6-6 record in 2014, the program’s last season before it was briefly shut down)

Look back: UAB returns to competitive football for the first time in more than two years after the program was briefly shuttered due to financial concerns. The public outcry following school’s decision led to a fundraising campaign that generated more than $43 million. The school reinstated the football program in 2015, but NCAA rules required the Blazers to go through a training and preparation adjustment period. UAB is finally clear to resume play in 2017.

Offensive starters returning: None

Offensive starters lost: None

Defensive starters returning: None

Defensive starters lost: None

Key losses: None

Top players: QB A.J. Erdley, RB Kalin Heath, RB Donnie Lee, WR Collin Lisa, LB Shaq Jones, LB Fitzgerald Mofor, LB Tevin Crews, CB Darius Williams.

Strengths: UAB finished the 2014 season with the fourth-best offense in Conference USA, averaging more than 33 points and 431 yards.

The team generated more than 600 yards of total offense during the spring game, with a majority of that total (326 yards) coming from the run game. Kalin Heath led all rushers with 79 yards on 13 carries for a 6.1 yards-per-carry average.