CFN Preview 2013 - UTSA Roadrunners
UTSA QB Eric Soza
CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - UTSA Roadrunners
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By Richard Cirminiello
One rung at a time, UTSA continues climbing up college football's ladder.
Head coach: Larry Coker
3rd year: 12-10
9th year overall: 72-25
Off. 25 Def. 23, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 8
Ten Best UTSA Players
1. QB Eric Soza, Sr.
2. FS Triston Wade, Jr.
3. LG Scott Inskeep, Jr.
4. LB Steven Kurfehs, Sr.
5. SS Nic Johnston, Jr.
6. RB David Glasco, Jr.
7. RB Evans Okotcha, Sr.
8. WR Kam Jones, Jr.
9. TE Cole Hubble, Jr.
10. LB Blake Terry, Jr.
8/31 at New Mexico
9/7 Oklahoma State
9/14 at Arizona
9/21 at UTEP
10/5 at Marshall
10/19 OPEN DATE
11/2 at Tulsa
11/16 OPEN DATE
11/23 at North Texas
11/30 Louisiana Tech
What began as a dream just a few years ago, major college football in San Antonio, has bloomed into reality in impressive time. The Roadrunners have played just 22 games—ever—yet are already on to their second conference. A year after spending a season as a provisional member of the now-defunct WAC, UTSA has made a soft landing in Conference USA, where it'll begin play in 2013.
UTSA has followed a strict blueprint for building a program from scratch, a model aided by their fertile location for recruits, Texas, and their choice for head coach, Larry Coker. Coker, best known for his six-year stint as Miami's head man, has guided the Roadrunners as both a proven teacher and a patient father figure. And his kids have responded by tirelessly laying the foundation on which future recruiting classes will perform.
UTSA was not the worst team in the FBS last season, impressive considering their limited years in business. The team went 8-4, an inflated mark that included victories over four second-rate FBS opponents. The Roadrunners are a step ahead of Idaho and New Mexico State, for instance, which is a starting point.
So what are the expectations now that the school can actually compete for a league title and a spot in the postseason? Obviously, depth and overall talent will continue to be problems until Coker & Co. can get more live bodies into the pipeline. Hey, at least experience will be abundant since the Roadrunners had no choice but to use everyone over the last two years. Only four starters have departed, leaving behind cornerstone performers, like QB Eric Soza and a slew of skill players on offense, and FS Triston Wade and LB Steven Kurfehs on D. But make no mistake about it, UTSA remains in the embryonic stages of its business plan.
UTSA is Texas' version of South Florida, a fledgling program with the leadership and the natural resources to have staying power in the competitive world of college football. Next stop is Conference USA, where the Roadrunners are aiming to prove that they're ready for another step up in weight class.
What to watch for on offense: None of the skill position players should ever be gasping for air. The Roadrunners may not have a star at running back or wide receiver, but they sure have depth and plenty of capable options. Back are last season's top four rushers, namely David Glasco and Evans Okotcha, and all 14 of the players who caught at least nine balls in 2012. Yeah, it would be nice to have a bell cow on offense, but UTSA will just have to be content to lean on uncommon depth all over the offensive depth chart.
What to watch for on defense: The impact of the transfers. Incoming players from different colleges, both two-year and four-year, have become a staple for Larry Coker and his assistants, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The staff will again lean on newcomers, such as DE Robert Singletary of Baylor, CB Bennett Okotcha of Oklahoma and CB Andre Brown of College of the Desert (Calif.), to not only beef up depth, but also compete for starting jobs in the summer.
The team will be far better if … the defense can create more takeaways. While the Roadrunners won't shut down many opponents in the fall, it can compensate with strips and picks. This is not going to be a three-and-out kind of D. UTSA will have to be aggressive and attacking, taking chances whenever it's feasible. The program's best chance for success in 2013 revolves around getting the ball back in the hands of QB Eric Soza, the most instrumental performer in San Antonio.
The Schedule: The days of playing Texas A&M-Commerce and Northwestern Oklahoma are over. The Roadrunners might be full of experience, but where are the wins going to come from? Starting out against New Mexico would be a plus if it wasn't on the road, and while UAB and Tulane might not be great, they're better than Larry Coker's club. North Texas and UTEP are other winnable games that are away from the Alamodome. Hosting Oklahoma State will at least be interesting, but that could get ugly in a hurry as could the road trip to Arizona. Four of the first six games are on the road before getting a home game against Rice leading into a week off.
Best Offensive Player: Senior QB Eric Soza. On so many levels, Soza has been a perfect fit for a program that's searching for direction and leadership in its infancy. Fueled both by his physical and intangibles attributes, the former Texas State transfer has a chance to go down as one of the founding fathers of UTSA football. In an honorable mention All-WAC campaign in 2012, he finished 166-of-282 for 2,085 yards, 20 touchdowns and just three picks, adding 364 yards and six scores on the ground. Best of all, he doesn't make many mistakes and limits forced throws.
Best Defensive Player: Junior FS Triston Wade. The 5-11, 165-pound playmaker was one of the exceptions on a defense that was light on stalwarts in 2012. In his first full season as a regular, Wade was named First Team All-WAC, flashing the versatility that this kind of an upstart program needs from its defensive backs. Rarely far from the action, he delivered 74 tackles, four interceptions, two fumble recoveries and four forced fumbles, all of which are tied or tops among returning defensive players.
Key players to a successful season: The defensive ends. The members of the defensive backfield are a year older, but they're still going to need help against the pass this season. Imports from high school and two-year colleges will only do so much between now and the opener. A quicker fix for the pass defense will be the pass rush to give opposing quarterbacks less time to throw. The ends, primarily Will Ritter, Cody Rogers and Jarron Harris, are blue-collar grapplers in need of cleaner routes to the pocket.
The season will be a success if ... the Roadrunners are not this year's team in Conference USA. What does that mean in terms of record? Oh, four wins would have to be considered a success for a school about to embark on the toughest slate of its three-year existence. If UTSA proves to be on par or ahead of the likes of UAB, Tulane and North Texas, it'll send a strong message that the future in San Antonio is encouraging.
Key game: Sept. 21 at UTEP. This might still be a reach school for the Roadrunners, but you never know how this program might respond. It has a more established two-deep and coaching staff than the Miners, and the motivation to win a first league game will be through the roof. Over time, UTSA is going to develop rivalries now that it's a member of Conference USA. UTEP has some of the ingredients to be one of them.
2012 Fun Stats:
- Rushing yards per game: UTSA 159.2 – Opponents 107.8
- Touchdowns passes: UTSA 23 – Opponents 26
- Sacks: UTEP 23 - Opponents 7
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