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CFF Targets - Bobcats WR going NUCLEAR in 2023?
Texas State's latest hire has my attention on this WR for 2023
Once again, I have to give a shoutout to Nate Marchese (@CFFNate) for his article on coaching changes in the Sun Belt. It was his section covering Texas State that served as inspiration to make this article.
A few days ago I wrote an article about the University of North Texas’ (UNT) new hire, and detailed some of the impacts he would have on the offence. Today we will stay in Texas, and examine a similar storyline, this time we’re a little further south.
Texas State is located in San Marcos, which is an area located between Austin and San Antonio toward the southern border of the state. In Austin, there is Texas’ flagship school — The University of Texas, and in San Antonio there is ascending Group of Five (G5) school UTSA. Unlike UNT, the Bobcats have several legitimate reasons for why they can’t succeed consistently, and yet, this offseason the administration decided to make an aggressive hire which could have immediate ramifications for multiple Bobcat players in 2023.
Coaching & System
The Texas State Bobcats hired former Incarnate Word (IW) head coach G.J. Kinne this offseason, and his track on offence has my attention. In 2022, IW scored more than 31 points in all regular season games and went over 50 points six times. His QB threw 60 TD passes and ran in another 11, amassing over 5300 total yards along the way. The Cardinals saw two receivers go over 1000 yards — Taylor Grimes (1255) and Darion Chafin (1244). Grimes is 5’11, 188 pounds while Chafin is a classic large-bodied boundary receiver at 6’3 and 195 pounds.
Prior to joining IW, Kinne was the co-OC at UCF in 2021. In that season the lead receiver for the Knights, Ryan O’Keefe, finished the season averaging 19.2 FPG (1-ppr). O’Keefe was targeted 114 times, and reeled in 84 receptions for 812 yards and 7 TDs, while also rushing for over 270 yards and another score on 16 attempts.
Kinne’s track record of dual usage for his WRs goes back to his time at Hawaii. In 2020, he used (RB/WR) Calvin Turner Jr. in both capacities to the effect of 33 receptions for 546 yards and 6 TDs, and 331 yards and 4 scores on 60 rushing attempts (that’s nearly 900 yards and 10 scores in only 9 games). During that season, Turner also returned 12 kicks for 324 yards and an additional score. Evidently, Kinne did everything he could to get the ball in Turner’s hands as much as possible. While the relevancy of the special team’s usage depends on the format you play, the general notion that Kinne clearly desires to get his playmakers the ball as much as possible is a good sign.
It should be noted that Kinne is only 34, and just recently began his coaching career. He appears to be a young up-and-coming star in the collegiate ranks, and that excites me for the Texas State offence in 2023. In particular, there is one player I have my eye on.
WR Ashtyn Hawkins (5’10, 170)
When I wrote the feature on North Texas, I remarked that it was ironic that the Mean Green — despite being surrounded by talent in the immediate vicinity — have a roster full of players who call Houston home. Now we have a south Texas program located in San Marcos, and yet I am featuring a player — Ashtyn Hawkins, who is a native of the Dallas metro, not far from UNT’s campus.
Hawkins, a true rising junior, has been an effective player from the slot for the Bobcats the last two seasons. The former Desoto High standout averaged 17.4 FPG in 2022, where he produced 587 yards and 7 TDs on 56 receptions (74 targets) in 9 games.
Kinne has a stellar track record with WRs in his short coaching career but as CFFJared (one of the best in this industry, by the way) pointed out to me on Twitter, the production at IW under Kinne primarily funnelled through the boundary receivers, and Hawkins primarily plays the slot.
That’s something to consider, however, I am going to bank on the staff morphing its system around getting the ball in the hands of its best playmaker. When looking at IW’s player stats last season, it is clear that Kinne likes to get his guys the ball often, as the Cardinals had a 1000-yard rusher and two 1000-yard receivers. Obviously, being a successful offence helps with that but you don’t get results like that without some serious volume funneling either. Another thing to note is that Hawkins (5’10, 170) has a similar build to IW’s 2022 leading receiver Taylor Grimes (5’11, 188). In addition, recall that Kinne had Calvin Turner in 2020 when he OC’d Hawaii, Turner operated as a swiss-army knife but when he was lining up as a receiver, it was often as a slot player. Whether its Hawkins lining up out wide some, or the staff morphing the offence toward the slot, I like Hawkins’ chances at being the focal point of this offence in 2023.
Something else to consider is that Hawkins briefly entered the portal at the end of the 2022 season. When Kinne was hired, he apparently managed to persuade him to buy into his plan for 2023. I take that as a good sign for the usage of Hawkins in this offence. Reportedly, Hawkins garnered offers from App State, Arkansas State and Utah State, among others while in the portal. Those are three solid programs, and so once again I will reinforce my view that Hawkins must have heard something he liked. This is a player with a potential NFL future, but as he plays at a small school, he will need impressive stats to land on NFL radars this time next year should he decide to declare early. I imagine that notion is not lost on Hawkins.
The first concern is what I already mentioned above, that is Kinne’s track record at IW favoured boundary WRs while Hawkins is primarily a slot player. I think the above section covers my thoughts on this. I will add that in CFF, there is never a player that comes without risks. In this game, it’s merely a matter of deciding which risks you’re willing to concede. If it turns out Hawkins isn’t the focal point next season, then so be it, I am happy to be wrong on that. Given the information currently at my disposal, I think the argument for why he will be the focal point is a strong one, and is enough to outweigh the risk.
The second concern is the QB position. It remains to be seen who the starter will be in San Marcos next season. Some of the candidates include Arkansas transfer Malik Hornsby (6’2, 185), North Carolina State transfer Ty Evans (6’3, 210) and Baylor transfer CJ Rogers (6’3, 200). None of these players have significant experience and so it’s tough to assess what the passing situation will be like. Hornsby has the biggest name of the bunch, and fits Kinne’s preference as a dual-threat QB. Still, we likely won’t know much about the potency of the passing game until the season kicks off, so CFF managers will be taking on some risk when drafting Hawkins.
Obviously, I am optimistic about Hawkins’ prospects in 2023, and so I feel I would be comfortable taking him with a mid round pick (fifth-ninth round range). I do not typically draft WRs in rounds one through three, so even a sixth round pick is on the higher end of the WR spectrum for me. Your draft philosophy may be a bit different, so adjust accordingly. If there are reports about one QB taking the offence over in spring than the calculus changes some; but, as we are currently walking blind in this situation, I think a mid round grade is enough of a discount to reflect the risks associated with Hawkins’ profile.
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