2012 UTSA Preview
CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - UTSA Roadrunners
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What the Roadrunners might lack in wins in their first and only season in the WAC they should make up for in upside.
Head coach: Larry Coker
2nd year: 4-6
8th year overall: 64-21
Returning Lettermen: 55
Lettermen Lost: 7
Ten Best UTSA Players
1. LB Steven Kurfehs, Jr.
2. DE Marlon Smith, Sr.
3. LB Brandon Reeves, Sr.
4. SS Nic Johnston, Soph.
5. QB Eric Soza, Jr.
6. DT Richard Burge, Soph.
7. WR Kam Jones, Soph.
8. TE David Morgan, Soph.
9. OT Drew Phillips, Soph.
10. C Nate Leonard, Soph.
Sept. 1 at South Alabama
Sept. 8 Texas A&M-Comm.
Sept. 15 at Georgia State
Sept. 22 NW Oklahoma State
Sept. 29 at New Mexico St
Oct. 6 OPEN DATE
Oct. 13 at Rice
Oct. 20 San Jose State
Oct. 27 Utah State
Nov. 3 at Louisiana Tech
Nov. 10 McNeese State
Nov. 17 at Idaho
Nov. 24 Texas State
This is a true redshirt season for the burgeoning program. It's only renting space in the WAC for one season before moving on to Conference USA, and it's not even eligible to go bowling and isn't even an FBS program quite yet. However, the offense should be entertaining, the defense experienced, and the fan base nuts for a team.
Even though the results weren't very good and the wasn't a marquee game on the slate, the fans came out in droves last year, giving Conference USA a glimpse of what might come starting next year. Former Miami head coach Larry Coker has a team loaded with veterans with 23 starters returning, and best of all, this is still going to be a very, very young team with only three projected senior starters.
No, the talent level isn't quite up-to-snuff, but the schemes should be good enough to at least make the team competitive in WAC play. The offense will run a spread attack that does a little of everything, but will mostly revolve around the running game and quarterback Eric Soza, while the defense has several nice prospects who either didn't quite work in other places, were under the radar, or are projections. Even so, Coker and his staff have done a nice job of piecing things together to form a potentially tough group that will be ultra-aggressive and will get all around the field, but will be in for an inconsistent season as it tries to deal with life in the FBS.
And that will be the big problem for a team, a program, and a fan base that's getting its feet wet. Last year's team took a lot of lumps with the coaches going with underclassmen and freshmen whenever and wherever possible, and this year will see yet another learning curve as the speed of the game and the opposing talent will be night-and-day different. Last year's team was blown out by UC Davis, Sam Houston State and Southern Utah, while big wins came against Bacone, Northeastern State and Minot State. The schedule is full of awful teams again, but at least there are FBSers to deal with this time.
It's going to take a while for Coker to make the program competitive, but the support is there, the fans will show up, and there's a good plan in place. There's nothing to lose this season, and the burgeoning team should play like it.
What to watch for on offense: The running back by committee approach. The Roadrunners are loaded with veteran rushing options, including at quarterback, but it's not like any one back took the bull by the horns and was the main man for the ground game. Quarterback Eric Soza could turn out to be the team's most dangerous runner, but the hope is for Evans Okotcha, who led the team with 326 yards and four scores, to take on a bigger role. Even if he's great, UTSA will get production from several spots.
What to watch for on defense: The linebackers. UTSA only uses two, but they're good ones who should be excellent to playmakers to build around. Senior Brandon Reeves led the team with 69 tackles with six sacks, while Steven Kurfels came up with 61 tackles with a sack at the team's Hawk position along with tying for a team-leading two picks despite missing almost four games. They're both very smart and very active, and they're going to have to be behind what should be a leaky, but veteran line.
The team will be far better if … the rushing game works on a regular basis. UTSA lost to McMurry after coming up with its second-best rushing day on the year, but that was one of the few issues when the ground attack did a good job. The Roadrunners were held to under 100 yards rushing three times and lost all three games, and ten of the 16 rushing scores came in the four wins with seven coming in victories over Bacone and Minot State. UTSA has to be consistent on the ground and has to do a good job of controlling the clock, but that might be a problem for an offense that had a tough time pounding away on the midrange lower-level teams.
The schedule: UTSA is trying to make its first year in the big leagues easier by scheduling a slew of non-FCS teams. The problem is that several of the teams aren't easy. The Roadrunners needed overtime to beat a bad Georgia State team and it lost to McNeese State. The road game at South Alabama to kick things off isn't going to be a sure-thing, either, but Texas A&M-Commerce and NW Oklahoma State will be. Five of the last seven games are at home including the regular season finale against Texas State.
Best offensive player: Junior QB Eric Soza. The Roadrunners are set at quarterback with Soza the leader and playmaker to work the offense around. While he threw a few too many interceptions at bad times, he's a strong runner and a decent enough passer to balance out the offense. Great when on the move and improvising, he can do a little of everything for the attack. More than anything, though, he's a veteran leader who should be the main man for the attack for another two years.
Best defensive player: Junior LB Steven Kurfehs. He missed a little time hurt and was suspended for a bit, but he was still the team's top defensive player and produced in a big way whenever he got his chances. The walk-on transfer from East New Mexico is 6-3, 225 pounds and quick, but his biggest asset is his ability to be in the right spot at the right time on a regular basis.
Key player to a successful season: Sophomore DT Richard Burge. The defense did a nice job overall against the run and was solid when it came time to get into the backfield, but life is about to get a whole lot tougher against the better running teams. The defensive interior is supposed to be a plus helped by sophomore Ashaad Mabry – who originally signed on at Oklahoma State – and Burge, an active 6-4-270-pound run stopper who always has the clock punched and is always pushing to get into the backfield. If he can hold up like he did last year against the run, making 31 stops, he could be an anchor for the next three seasons.
The season will be a success if … The Roadrunners with five games. There are enough winnable games against lower-level teams like Texas A&M-Commerce, NW Oklahoma State and McNeese State to build a base, but it would be a huge step forward to get a win or two in WAC play. This young but experienced team should start to shine in 2013, but it has to prove that it's getting better.
Key game: Nov. 24 vs. Texas State. While the two new WAC programs are going in separate directions – with the Roadrunners going to Conference USA and the Bobcats off to the Sun Belt next season – it will still be a good game to see where each one is at by the end of the season. There's an outside shot the game will be for a winning season if everything breaks the right way, and while the fired up UTSA fan base will be in it no matter what, it could go through the roof if the team is going into the offseason with seven wins and closing out hot.
2011 Fun Stats:
- 1st Quarter Scoring: UTSA 59 – Opponents 29
- Kickoff Return Average: UTSA 23.4 yards – Opponents 16.2 yards
- Penalties: Opponents 85 for 714 yards – UTSA 63 for 632 yards
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