Frank Wilson has gone from good recruiter and position coach but unknown head coach to guiding UTSA to a bowl game in his first season. Wilson put the UTSA rebuild on hyper drive. So what does he do for an encore? That plan starts coming together this spring, actually tomorrow as UTSA takes the field.
Here's what we'd like to see from the 'Runners.
Wanted: Two Tackles
In 2016 Gabe Casillas and Jevonte Drummond made every start at right and left tackle respectively. They've both used up their eligibility. UTSA needs two find bookends for the 2017 campaign.
Reed Darragh is a good place to start for one of the two slots. Darragh has 35 games under his belt including fifteen starts. He started all twelve games as as sophomore in 2015, and started once in 2016 at guard. The senior from Buda is listed as a guard/tackle combo but should move outside again full time in 2017.
Mammoth 6'7 300 pound JC transfer Josh Dunlop arrived on campus in January via Dodge City CC. Dunlop will be counted on to hold down the other spot.
After Dunlop, two redshirt freshmen, Josh Oatis from Mississippi and Georgetown East View's Zach Pare are listed on the spring roster. Growing and developing your own line talent from the prep/high school ranks is a huge step for a program. Building an assembly line of young, up-front talent saves a program from needing to hit on a JC player or grad transfer at a make or break position. The Roadrunners would love to see some of the redshirts grow up quickly.
Just in case and due to need, Keeyon Smart from Kilgore arrives in the summer and should push for a spot on the depth chart. The Roadrunners are an injury, or worse two, from having massive inexperience on the edge of their offensive line.
Running back depth
The Roadrunners had a pretty good one-two combination in 2016 with Jarveon Williams and Jalen Rhodes combining to give UTSA an on again/off again rushing attack. Williams is gone, leaving as UTSA's career leader in rushing yards.
Rhodes returns after putting up over 800 yards in 2016 and averaging a team best 5.3 yards a carry. Someone will need to step into that second running back spot to give the Roadrunners much need depth and carries.
Brett Winnegan has been used primarily as a kick returner during his UTSA career. Winnegan will be limited in the spring due to a wrist injury, but he might be a nice change of pace back. Tyrell Clay, a 5'9 thumper out of Corpus will get a look this spring as well. Expect the Roadrunners to use Rhodes sparingly over the next month or so to keep in him healthy and let some of the other backs get a look.
In the FBS world, true freshman running backs can come in and really contribute. Maybe the best option is highly regarded Florida freshman B.J. Daniels, but he won't arrive until the summer.
Swiss Army Knives
UTSA returns all but four starters on offense, among those losses are fullback Andrew King and the lightly used tight end Trevor Stevens. OC Frank Sceflo wants to use both a fullback and a tight end in his offense as pass catchers and lead blockers. Neither of those positions is easy to recruit, quality tight ends are hard to come by. Sadly most high school squads don't employ fullbacks. We hope that changes under the Trump administration.
The answer at tight end might be senior Shaq Williams who caught thirteen balls and two touchdowns in 2016. JC transfer Robert Ursua will also get a look. Williams might be ideal for Scelfo's pass game because he can flex out to the slot and become a matchup problem. But his blocking isn't developed or physical enough to rely on. Ursua is one of three tight ends the Roadrunners signed in February.
At fullback the answer will be more difficult. Halen Steward could start in the fall, but he's still out with a knee injury that cost him 2016. Steward was expected to play a larger role in 2016, though King filled in admirably. Unless the Roadrunners move someone from another position or have a Joel Makovicka type walk-on waiting in the wings, fullback could be an empty slot this spring.
UTSA loses the ultra productive Michael Egwaugu and uber athletic grad transfer Jordan Moore, two of three starting safeties from 2016. Egwaugu, Moore and Nate Gaines started every game at safety in UTSA's 4-2-5. Free safety Gaines' elbow injury will keep him out of the spring. Add to that Chase Dahlquist's leaving the program and frontline/two-deep contributors are in short supply. UTSA will employ an entire new starting group at their Football Fiesta.
A good place to start is C.J. Levine, a rising junior out of Port Arthur, who saw action both at safety and on special teams. If Levine can take hold of one of the strong safety positions coming out of the spring that would be a welcomed development. Another key will be whether Carl Austin takes advantage of reps to either solidify himself as the backup free safety or perhaps earn himself a starting gig.
Darryl Godfrey will also look to become a bigger contributor after appearing in 23 games the last two seasons. Andrew Martel has proven himself a decent thumper on special teams should get a look as well.
With Louisiana Tech and USM losing some major contributors and UTEP, North Texas, Rice and UAB in various stages of rebuild, UTSA looks to be an early favorite to sit atop CUSA West when December rolls around. The Roadrunners have the returning talent to justify those expectations, now Wilson and crew have to manage the press clippings. Football teams are built outside of plain view, in the weight room and in spring and summer drills, when the work ethic and character of a team come together. Plenty of frontrunners get caught believing they're own hype and lose six months of key development. Ask 2015 Ohio State.
UTSA snuck up on teams last year, in 2017 the target will shift and the Roadrunners will carry a bullseye in CUSA. Can Wilson keep his team in hunting mode? Can he turn the sleeping giant into a CUSA power? We're about to find out.