UTSA Roadrunners 2016 Preview and Prediction
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#123 UTSA Roadrunners
C-USA West PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Frank Wilson, First Season | OFF. COORDINATOR: Frank Scelfo | DEF. COORDINATOR: Pete Golding
Frank Wilson comes over from LSU looking to turn around an UTSA program that has seen its win total decline each season since 2012, bottoming out at 3-9 in 2015. The former running backs coach for the Tigers, Wilson will probably stick to the same game plan for a Roadrunners team that ran the ball fairly well last season. The defense, however, is a far cry from what Wilson saw during this time with the Tigers.
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Previewing UTSA’s Offense for 2016
With an unsetttled quarterback situation and a returning 1,000-yard rusher — coupled with a new head coach who was heavily involved in one of the strongest rushing attacks in the SEC — expect the ball to stay on the ground at UTSA in 2016. Even before former LSU running backs coach Frank Wilson became head coach in January, the Roadrunners ran the ball over 50 percent of the time last season (despite trailing at halftime eight times), and there is no reason to expect that number to swing in the opposite direction. Running back Jarveon Williams is the team’s marquee player after battling his way to 1,042 yards and eight touchdowns last season despite late-season injuries that finally resulted in him missing the season finale.
Three starters return on the offensive line, which found much more success run blocking than pass blocking in 2015 (44 sacks allowed). The starting QB slot won’t be decided until the fall, as returnee Dalton Sturm will try to hold off Jared Johnson, a graduate transfer who earned 2015 Southland Offensive Player of the Year honors at Sam Houston State. Both Sturm and Johnson can do some damage on the ground as well.
There is talent at wide receiver, led by Kerry Thomas Jr., but the questions are, who will try to throw him the ball, and whoever that is, will he have the time to throw it?
Previewing UTSA’s Defense for 2016
Wilson plans on keeping UTSA’s 4-2-5 alignment — at least for one more season based on the returning personnel. The Roadrunners’ defense experienced a significant drop-off in every major category from 2014 to ’15 and hopes to reverse that trend with a strong defensive line and experienced safety corps.
End Marcus Davenport has all-league potential if he can add some weight and strength to his 6'6" frame, and Kevin Strong Jr. leads a very deep rotation at the tackle slots. Michael Egwuagu and Nate Gaines return as two of the three starting safeties after combining for six INTs (including two pick-6s). The third safety looks to be Andrew Martel, who missed last season due to injury and was extremely impressive in the spring.
Linebacker will be an issue as the staff hopes a playmaker emerges from among Marcos Curry, La’Kel Bass and Anthony Hickey. The Roadrunners will be breaking in two new cornerbacks.
Previewing UTSA’s Specialists for 2016
Both kicking specialists return, but that is not necessarily good news. Daniel Portillo was just 1-of-7 on field goals beyond 40 yards, and he missed five extra points in his first season as starter. The punting picture was better; Yannis Routsas’ average of 39.0 yards per kick was unspectacular, but he had only 21 of his 63 returned and had a respectable 37.0-yard net with 17 punts inside the 20. The team looked at a few walk-ons in the spring, but Portillo and Routsas held onto their jobs. The kickoff and punt return duties are up for grabs after Derrick Dick's decision to transfer to Sam Houston State after spring practice.
Wilson replaces Larry Coker after six years as an assistant at LSU, where he had a reputation as a strong recruiter. The Roadrunners have slipped down the Conference USA pecking order after a stunning 6–2 debut in 2013, finishing 3–5 the last two seasons. It will be difficult to climb this season as the defense does not appear to be strong enough to make up for an offense that will likely struggle in the passing game again. The key will be the development of the offensive line, especially in pass protection, because any sort of passing attack will open things up for the talented Williams. The kicking game also must improve if UTSA wants to steal a game or two against more talented foes.