Well, things didn’t go according to plan for UTSA fans this fall. The Roadrunners finished 3-9, with wins coming in a sequence over Texas State, UTEP, and Rice. Woof.
Let’s take a gander at the 2018 Roadrunners, starting with the good news.
What Went Right
For UTSA, youth was served. The Roadrunners, out of necessity, played a ton of young players. For some of those players, when the lights came on, they showed great potential. Brenden Brady, B.J. Daniels, Lorenzo Dantzler, DeQuarius Henry, and Bryce Rivers played well when called on. For Rivers, Frank Wilson didn’t pull the pin on his playing time until the final game of the season, he announced his intention to transfer a few weeks ago. That sounds like bad news; we’ll save that until later. Players like Spencer Burford, Kevin Davis, Jo Jo Weeks, Corey Mayfield, Tykee Ogle-Kellog, and Tariq Woolen all saw significant playing time and should be better for it.
On defense, the front seven continued as a strength of the program. Josaiah Tauaefa continued his excellence at linebackers. Tauaefa declared for the NFL draft this week. We promise that’s our last co-mingling of good/bad news. Jarrod Carter-McLin, Kevin Strong Jr. and Les Maruo all played well. The defense tried to hold the season together, but in the end, they spent too much time on the field, and too much time playing from behind.
C.J. Levine tallied 94 stops, good enough for second on the team and deserved better than Honorable Mention All-CUSA in our estimation.
Cult hero Yannis Routsas and the people’s champ Jared Sackett formed a good special teams duo. Sackett built on an excellent freshman season during his sophomore campaign.
What Went Wrong
Can we say offense and leave it at that? You’ve come to expect more from us than that, especially when it comes to typos.
To lay the egg at the smoldering dumpster fire of the Al Borges offseason hire is short sited. This offense was always going to struggle. The Roadrunners lost too much from the 2017 season including quarterback Dalton Sturm, to expect the unit to avoid a regression. Maybe not as much of a regression, but this unit was always going to struggle. UTSA games became a race to see if the opposition could get to 20, if so the Roadrunners didn’t stand much of a chance. By the end of the season, that number reduced into the teens.
UTSA’s staff failed to identify a quarterback or at least waited too late to turn to Bryce Rivers. That’s a talent evaluation issue more than a scheme issue. Cordale Grundy started most of the first half of the season, but even then, Frank Wilson seemed intent to stymy his offense by inserting D.J. Gillins in for long periods, fundamentally changing the skill set of the position for no real reason. UTSA turned to Jo Jo Weeks, then Gillins full-time, then Rivers - the quarterback carousel sped out of control and so did the season.
The offensive line allowed 36 sacks and 83 tackles for loss. Those numbers ranked in the triple digits among FBS programs. The Roadrunners went to the JUCO ranks to replenish the loss of six key line contributors from 2017. Those additions didn’t pan out in 2018. On the season UTSA averaged less than three yards a carry. A Frank Wilson team can’t win with that lack of production on the ground.
So What Now?
Perhaps the biggest issue is whether Wilson has this program headed in the right direction? The Roadrunners have won nine games in the last two years, not horrible, but the teams they’ve beaten have a combined 18% winning percentage in that time. Only Marshall, in 2017, had a winning record; otherwise UTSA victories have come against opponents with a combined 10-75 record.
The better programs in CUSA West had their way with UTSA. UAB, Louisiana Tech, and Southern Miss beat the Runners by a combined average of 37-8. UTSA did show signs of life against North Texas, but that admirable effort resulted in their ninth loss.
The Roadrunners will enter 2019 with a massive question at quarterback, huge issues on the offensive line, and the need to a running game. Defensively, UTSA loses perhaps the programs greatest ever player in Tauaefa and a three-year starter in Strong Jr. They lose two starting safeties including the productive Levine.
2019 could be another struggle unless a number of newcomers raise the level of play in the program. Still, players like Ogle-Kellogg, Brady, and Daniels seem to have decent upside and UTSA continues to bring in athletic, physical defenders. It may not be enough.
Checking Our Work
In the preseason we set out our prediction for UTSA’s 2018 season, sad to say, we did pretty well. We predicted four wins, with victories over the aforementioned Texas State, UTEP, and Rice. We thought they might be able to nip either FIU or North Texas at home, and while UTSA played perhaps its best game against the Mean Green in the finale, they couldn’t pull off a W in either game.