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UTSA Football: 2018 Roadrunners Preview and Prediction

Jalen Rhodes, UTSA Football

Jalen Rhodes, UTSA Football

The UTSA Roadrunners' defense finished fifth in the nation in yards allowed but got little help from the offense. Veteran coordinator Al Borges was brought in to fix an underachieving unit that failed to reach the end zone in the 2017 season's final two games. Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of returning experience for an offense that finished 104th in the nation in scoring at 23.5 points per game.

Previewing UTSA Football's Offense for 2018

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2018 Athlon Sports College Football Preview Magazine

There will be a new starting quarterback in place, and the competition will continue into the fall.  Junior college transfer Cordale Grundy is a dual threat with a strong arm, and he is competing with Bryce Rivers, a pocket-passer who had a handful of snaps backing up three-year starter Dalton Sturm last season. Redshirt freshman Frank Harris was off to an excellent start in spring practice before tearing his ACL. Coach Frank Wilson added more competition to this battle following spring practice. SMU graduate transfer D.J. Gillins is set to join the mix this offseason and will push Rivers and Grundy for the starting job.

The offense likely will again emphasize the ground game, which ranked 40th nationally with 184.6 rushing yards per game. Senior Jalen Rhodes, who split carries a year ago but still led the team with 659 yards and five TDs, will be the workhorse. He will have two returning starters along the offensive line in front of him, plus impressive part-time starter Dominic Pastucci.

The wide receiving crew will be relatively new, though Greg Campbell Jr. and Marquez McNair, the nephew of late NFL star Steve McNair, saw significant action in 2017. The coaching staff is high on tight end Chance McLeod both as a receiver and blocker.

Previewing UTSA Football's Defense for 2018

The defense had to carry a big load last season and was up to the task, but two key pieces have departed. One is end Marcus Davenport, who is off to the NFL after a stellar career. The other is coordinator Pete Golding, who was plucked by Alabama to join the Crimson Tide's defensive staff. Still, while the unit may not be quite as dominant, look for UTSA to be strong again with five starters back.

The line loses Davenport, but three other regulars are back, and end Kevin Strong Jr. may follow Davenport as a first-team All-C-USA selection and NFL Draft pick. Juniors Eric Banks and Baylen Baker are also back, and King Newton, son of six-time NFL Pro Bowler Nate Newton, slides into the nose tackle role.

New defensive coordinator Jason Rollins will keep a 4-2-5 alignment, and junior Josiah Tauaefa will lead the small corps of linebackers. A Freshman All-American in 2016, Tauaefa was injured for portions of 2017 and should make a big impact if he stays healthy.

Returning safeties, Carl Austin III and C.J. Levine, could earn All-C-USA recognition, and reliable veteran Darryl Godfrey will become the team's third starting safety. The cornerback spot will be boosted by the return of Teddrick McGhee, who started as a freshman in 2016 and missed all of 2017 due to injury.

Previewing UTSA Football's Specialists for 2018

Both kicking spots are in excellent shape. Sophomore Jared Sackett was a Lou Groza semifinalist after nailing 19-of-22 field goal attempts, including 5-of-7 from beyond 40 yards. Senior Yannis Routsas was a Ray Guy semifinalist with a net punting average of 39.4 yards.

Final Analysis

UTSA will again hang its hat on defense. The Roadrunners may feel like they let an opportunity get away last season when a veteran group dropped four games by seven points or fewer en route to a 6-5 record. This year, three Power 5 opponents greet a rebuilding UTSA squad to open the year, so a slow start may be in the cards. However, the talent is there, especially on defense, for this team to be a factor in the C-USA race. By the end of the season, if a quarterback emerges, the Roadrunners could be dangerous.

College Football Rankings: UTSA