The Texas State Bobcats had a winning record in 2023 for the first time in nine years, finishing 8-5 and capping the season with the program’s first bowl win, a 45-21 win over Rice in the First Responders Bowl. Even with that success, there was the inevitable attrition that befalls teams in the transfer portal era.
Quarterback T.J. Finley (Western Kentucky), receiver Ashtyn Hawkins (Baylor), and running back Donerio Davenport (Louisiana Tech) are a few of the key contributors who won’t be back for the Bobcats. Still, there are plenty of others set to return that were paramount to the Bobcats’ success last season.
Texas State Bobcats’ Top 10 Returners in 2024
10) Lincoln Pare, RB
Lincoln Pare didn’t take a single snap for the Bobcats last season after tearing his ACL over the summer. However, the former Arkansas State transfer led the Bobcats in rushing in 2022 (722 yards) and remained a vocal leader on the sideline while he recovered.
With senior Jahmyl Jeter exhausting his eligibility and four other Texas State running backs entering the portal (Calvin Hill, Josh Berry, Damarius Good, Davenport), Pare will be heavily involved in the rotation.
9) Josh Eaton, CB
After three seasons at Oklahoma, Josh Eaton started eight games for Texas State last season, leading the Bobcats in pass breakups with eight. Now a redshirt junior, Eaton was one of the most difficult cornerbacks to throw at in the Sun Belt last fall.
With the team’s other starting corner (Kaleb Ford-Dement) graduating, Eaton’s experience on the boundary will be crucial for first-year defensive coordinator Dexter McCoil.
8) Kaleb Culp, S
Kaleb Culp was one of 10 players who followed G.J. Kinne from Incarnate Word to Texas State, playing 30 games for Kinne and McCoil with the Cardinals. That experience was pivotal last season, as Culp played in all 13 games with nine starts, recording 81 tackles, 1.5 tackles for a loss, and five pass breakups.
He also tied for the most fumble recoveries in the country with four, including a scoop-and-score in the regular season finale. With Shawn Holton, the other starting safety, graduating after the 2023 season, the Bobcats will need Culp on the backend.
7) Tavian Coleman, DT
In a 4-2-5 base defense, there was a heavy rotation of different defensive linemen throughout the season, but one constant remained all year — Tavian Coleman.
He started all 13 games on the interior of the defensive line, amassing 27 tackles, 7.5 for a loss, and 3.5 sacks, with two blocked kicks. After playing his first two seasons at Trinity Valley Community College and the 2022 season at Utah State, 2024 will be his senior season.
6) Dan Foster, LB
After 30 games in four seasons at Marshall, Dan Foster transferred to Texas State last season and immediately jumped into the starting lineup. He started all 13 games last season, finishing fifth on the team in tackles with 52, 3.5 tackles for a loss, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and three quarterback hurries.
With team captain and Bobcats leader in tackles Brian Holloway declaring for the 2024 NFL Draft, Foster’s experience in the middle of the defense is needed, especially if McCoil uses the same 4-2-5 scheme as last year.
5) Kole Wilson, WR
Another Incarnate Word transfer, Kole Wilson started all 13 games for the Bobcats last season, tying for the team lead in receiving touchdowns (eight) while finishing second in receptions (66) and third in receiving yards (727 yards).
He registered 1,163 all-purpose yards throughout the season, including 367 yards and a touchdown on 10 kick returns. With Hawkins off to Baylor, Wilson’s role in the offense will be increased next season despite leading the Bobcats in targets last year (99).
4) Ben Bell, DE
Ben Bell is just the second player on this list that head coach G.J. Kinne inherited, joining the Bobcats in the portal before last season. He was a LB as a sophomore in 2022 but converted to DE last season and saw his numbers explode. He was named to the All-Sun Belt Second Team, recording 57 tackles, 16 tackles for a loss, 10 sacks, six quarterback hurries and a forced fumble.
Bell’s 10 sacks are the most at the FBS level by a Bobcat, breaking the record (eight) set by his brother, Levi Bell, the year prior. Suffice to say, the Bobcats are welcoming this senior back with open arms.
3) Joey Hobert, WR
Another All-Sun Belt Second Team selection, Joey Hobert led the Bobcats in receptions (76) and receiving yards (895) while tying for the team lead in receiving touchdowns (eight) despite missing two games.
Amazingly, those weren’t even career-high numbers for Hobert. As a sophomore at Utah Tech, he had 90 catches for 1,258 yards and 16 touchdowns in 11 games. He was on the 2023 Biletnikoff Award Watch List and should be on it again for his senior season with the Bobcats.
2) Nash Jones, LT
If it weren’t for a foot injury in the second game of the season costing Nash Jones seven games, there’s a good chance he’d not be on this list of the Bobcats’ top 10 returning players and would be preparing for the 2024 NFL Draft.
Jones is one of five Incarnate Word offensive linemen who transferred to Texas State, but Jones has said he turned down Power Five offers to come to San Marcos so he could play for Kinne.
1) Ismail Mahdi, RB
Ismail Mahdi led the nation in all-purpose yards last season with 2,169 yards – 1,331 rushing, 275 receiving, and 503 on kickoff return. He had 10 rushing touchdowns, one receiving and a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Southern Miss.
He was named First Team All-American on CBS and Second Team All-American on ESPN, The Athletic, Phil Steele, and the FWAA. Additionally, Mahdi took home CFN 2023 First-Team All-Sun Belt honors.
His return to Texas State for the 2024 season should see him continue his game-changing, play-making ways.
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