Frank Wilson's fighting Roadrunners made history with a bowl birth in 2016. All in all a pretty good season and certainly one that surpassed a lot of expectations, including out own.
Final Analysis looks at UTSA's 2016 season.
We harp on this because it's critical, what's the identity of a program? In other words, beyond the "core values" and marketing, what does a program do well? What do they do that makes them special, potent, or hard to deal with? If a program isn't intentional about what it wants to do, it's just hoping things go right and hope ain't a strategy.
UTSA's offensive identity, at least what's developed so far, is interesting. One could argue UTSA could have taken a "shortcut" and gone the pace and space route, spreading teams out, zone reading, etc. Wilson has opted not to go that route. We like that. Styles make fights and UTSA has a developing style that is unique.
Wilson brought in a veteran college and NFL hand in Frank Scelfo. Scelfo's offense early on is definitely more of a classic pro-style. The Runners employ those greatest of all unicorns, a fullback and a tight end. However, what Scelfo does, or seems to want to do, is closer to the shift that New England made a few years ago, going to a no huddle, three wide sets almost exclusively. Unlike the spread teams, personnel and matchups matter. Rather than searching for grass or space, UTSA tries to create favorable matchups by making players and units do things they aren't comfortable with. The Roadrunners like open spaces too.
The results have been mixed. As UTSA exploded against Southern Miss, they struggled against an inferior Rice team. UTSA ran for negative yards against Colorado State and 270 at Middle Tennessee State. Still, UTSA improved forty spots in scoring offense, from 104th in 2015 to 64th this season. Fourteen teams made a bigger jump in points per game from last year to this year.
Defensively, one of the most underrated hires in the country was Pete Golding at defensive coordinator. Golding had never been a coordinator at the FBS level, yet his unit jumped from 101st to 55th in total defense from 2015 to 2016. The biggest difference, UTSA stopped the pass exponentially better this season than last, roughly 50 yards per game.
Golding and his staff have worked to maintain flexibility in their approach. They run a base 4-2-5 but also mix in odd man front concepts with 3-4 and 3-3-5 looks. It helps that UTSA is a bit ahead of some of its of conference counterparts in terms of line depth and talent. Golding can thank Larry Coker for that.
We can't wait to see how UTSA evolves in year two of Frank Wilson's rebuild.
We know that they lost their quarterback midway through, but still, beating a good Middle Tennessee State team in Murffreesborough is a big deal. UTSA didn't just beat the Blue Raiders, they boat raced 'em - got out quick, didn't look back. UTSA beat a CUSA East favorite in their own barn. Sorry, barn may be offensive to MTSU fans. We don't mean an actual barn like the house most of you live in, we mean a barn like football stadium. Way nicer than the shed you live in. Moving on.
We said it at the time and it's still true, UTSA would look back at 2016 and ask themselves how they ever lost to UTEP at the Dome. We still have no idea. Ultimately, the loss didn't matter, UTSA still made a bowl game, but dang, that's one that got away.
Answers we have...
Jalen Rhodes, the rising junior from Rowlett, proved to be a nice complement to the established Jarveon Williams. Chances are Rhodes carries a lot more of the load in 2017. He's got the elusive "lean" that you want in a back, he finishes runs well. He's also a bit of a thumper which we like.
Between Kerry Thomas, Josh Stewart and Brady Jones, the Roadrunners return a ton of skill talent on the edge. Stewart, Thomas, and Jones went 1,2,3 in receptions and yards in 2016, they are all slated to return. Add to that Marquez McNair and the top four pass catchers come back in 2017.
We like the interior combination of Stefan Beard, Austin Pratt, and Kyle McKinney on the offensive line. Beard especially is an athletic guard with a mean streak. No unit improved more than the offensive line in 2016. Watch the Colorado State and New Mexico games back to back, it's almost unrecognizable.
UTSA's front seven returns almost fully intact on defense. Kevin Strong at defensive end really flashed in 2o16. Josiah Tauaefa turned in one of the most dominant linebacking performances in the state. He's got a frame that can put on good with without sacrificing his plus athleticism. 115 stops from a redshirt freshman, and oh that hair. His linebacker mate La'Kel Bass was second on the team in stops in 2016 and provides a real run stopper inside.
Answers we need...
Both starting tackles, Jevonte Drummond and Gabriel Casillas have used up their eligibility, so the Runners will need to find replacements on the edge of the offensive line.
UTSA also loses a real playmaker in Michael Egwuagu. From his strong safety position he quarterbacked the back half of the defense and provided sound run support as well. The Runners also lose Jordan Moore at the other safety position. Moore transferred in from LSU via TCU and he'll be missed.
Both fullbacks on the 2-deep were seniors. While fullback isn't a hugely productive spot, a solid hand at the position expands what UTSA can do exponentially.
Lastly there's the issue of Dalton Sturm, we've written about Dalton a number of times in 2016, we need some answers in terms of what kind of player Sturm's going to be. Sturm is a plus athlete with the arm strength to make almost all the throws the offense requires still his productivity and more importantly his efficiency took a nose dive the last six to seven games. The question will be, which Dalton Sturm is going to show up in 2017?
CUSA hasn't released it's 2017 conference slate yet, but UTSA starts its out of conference schedule with two brutal appointments, Houston at home and at Baylor. From there UTSA gets Southern (and hopefully the Human Jukebox) in the Dome and travel to a rivalry for the new Millennium, vs Texas State.
9/9 @ Baylor
9/23 @ Texas State
*Disclaimer: It's recruiting, this will all change. 17 year olds are fickle, odd, often times dumb, humanoids. This list is accurate as off the date of posting. We apologize that we lack a crystal ball or a sorting hat to deal with the changes or make them permanent. Regardless, everyone loves your team, and your recruits are so much better than everyone else's. Never forget that.
For the first time in UTSA's brief history, the Roadrunners are leading CUSA. Actually for the first time, they're in the top half of the league according to Scout's list.
The jewel may be quarterback Frank Harris out of Schertz Clemens. A true dual threat, ultra productive local kid with offers from a lot of in-state and out of state schools including a few power 5s. He's the type of kid that UTSA needs to keep local. When you pull a kid from West Orange Stark you know you're getting a plus athlete who comes from a winning culture. Morris Joseph Jr. is that kind of kid. A lot of Wilson's 24 commits have Power 5 offers and if Wilson can hold on to those kids, i.e. Harris, Tariq Woolen, Tay'lor Perry that would be huge.
Wilson's ties to Louisiana and Mississippi are paying dividends for the Roadrunners as well. You can also see the John Chavis/LSU influence as Wilson and Golding have gone out and recruited a number of tall rangy defensive backs, including two from the JC ranks signed in December.
|Year||Rank||Conference Rank||Average Rating|
|Scout Rank||Name||Pos||Pos Rank||Ht||Wt||40 Time||School|
|NR||J.J. Smith||S||6'2"||195||Mississippi Gulf Coast|
|NR||Tariq Woolen||WR||6'5"||205||Fort Worth, TX|
|NR||Anthony Smith||RB||5'11"||195||Keller, TX|
|NR||Dominic Pastucci||OT||6'5"||275||Pflugerville, TX|
|NR||Josh Dunlop||OT||6'7"||300||Dodge City|
|NR||Morris Joseph Jr.||DT||6'1.5"||270||5.4||Orange, TX|
|NR||Robert Fuentes||DE||6'4"||200||San Antonio, TX|
|NR||Brian Thomas||OT||6'4"||275||Baton Rouge, LA|
|NR||Keeyon Smart||OT||6'5"||305||Kilgore College|
|NR||Javaris Steward||OLB||33||6'2.5"||235||Denton, TX|
|NR||Michael Goff||TE||6'3"||230||San Antonio, TX|
|NR||Vance Vallair||S||6'2"||178||Beaumont, TX|
|NR||Chance McLeod||TE||6'4"||230||Victoria, TX|
|NR||Donovan Perkins||ILB||6'0"||225||4.54||Zachary, LA|
|NR||Frank Harris||ATH||6'1"||176||4.76||Schertz, TX|
|NR||Dadrian Taylor||RB||6'1"||163||Shiner, TX|
|NR||Bryce Rivers||QB||6'3"||202||San Antonio, TX|
|NR||Kenderius Glenn||S||6'0"||185||Meridian, MS|
|NR||Demarco Guidry||ILB||6'1"||210||La Marque, TX|
|NR||Javontavius Mosley||CB||6'0.5"||164||4.79||Tyler, TX|
|NR||Robert McKnight||RB||5'9"||175||Bossier City, LA|
|NR||Taylor Perry||CB||5'9"||160||Crosby, TX|