NCAA Football Preview - Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners
By Lucas Gulotta, Associate College Football Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
2012 SEASON IN REVIEW: Texas-San Antonio has one of the youngest programs in the nation as 2012 was just its second year in existence. Coach Larry Coker didn't take long to deliver a winning season to the Roadrunners' fans, as he guided the team to an 8-4 overall record last year, including a 3-3 mark in the Western Athletic Conference.
The Roadrunners won their first five games of the 2012 season, but South Alabama and New Mexico State were their only FBS opponents during that stretch and the Jaguars were in their inaugural season since reclassifying from the FCS. UTSA then lost four in a row convincingly as it fell at Rice (34-14) and to the WAC's top three finishers, San Jose State (52-24), Utah State (48-17) and Louisiana Tech (51-27). Coker's team salvaged its season by defeating McNeese State, Idaho and Texas State en route to a winning record.
Coker was hired to start the program from scratch after two seasons away from coaching. He was the head coach of Miami-Florida from 2001-06. During his tenure with the Hurricanes, Coker tied Walter Camp for the best record by a college football coach through his first 32 games (31-1) and led the 2001 team to a perfect 12-0 record and the national championship.
OFFENSE: UTSA outplayed its opposition on both sides of the ball in its first season as an FBS program as it averaged 390.2 total yards of offense and 31.2 points per game. The ground attack was especially productive, racking up 159.2 yards per outing. David Glaso and Evans Okotcha finished first and second on the team with 537 and 450 yards, respectively. Senior quarterback Eric Soza also contributed in the rushing attack with 364 yards in 10 games. Glaso, Okotcha and Soza were responsible for all but two of the team's 21 rushing scores.
Soza was an adequate passer as well, completing 166-of-282 pass attempts for 2,085 yards with 20 touchdowns to only three interceptions. He threw two- thirds of his picks in the regular season ending win over Texas State and produced 14 total touchdowns over the final four games.
"After every game we try to figure out something that we can improve on," said Soza at the C-USA Media Day. "Going into spring ball we had some things on offense we wanted to correct and try to utilize to our advantages. Through the summer we've been working hard just trying to get better."
The Roadrunners have plenty of options in the passing game. Okotcha was the team's leading receiver in 2012 with 349 yards on 24 receptions. UTSA never really established a consistent rotation which led to 18 different players recording at least one catch with 12 of them making a catch for a touchdown. Junior wideout Kam Jones has been a contributor since arriving in San Antonio as he comes into 2013 with 901 yards on 62 career receptions.
UTSA's offensive line brings back four players with significant experience with Nate Leonard, Scott Inskeep and Cody Harris all gearing up for their third year as starters. Junior tackle Josh Walker (6-3, 290) is the fourth veteran on the blocking unit as he has started 12 of the last 15 games on the left side.
DEFENSE: The Roadrunners were understandably a much better team against their inferior competition in 2012. They held their first four opponents to an average of 247.8 yards per contest, but allowed 445.8 yards per game over the course of their final eight games.
"I think that we have some depth on defense which is really a plus for us," said Coker. "We have some awfully good position guys at linebacker and in our secondary. We have a good solid defense coming back."
The defensive backfield will be one of UTSA's strong points, as Nic Johnston, Cody Berry and Triston Wade will all be return to their starting roles. Wade and Johnston are the top two leading tackles among returners, respectively. Junior cornerbacks Darrien Starling and Crosby Adams are going to have to step up their play to help the Roadrunners fix their coverage issues. They gave up over 320 yards passing in each of their final five games with 14 touchdowns allowed through the air during that span.
Senior linebacker Steven Jurfehs showed he can be a playmaker last season by amassing 71 total tackles, 5.5 for loss, a team-high 4.5 sacks and a fumble return for a touchdown. The front four features a pair of quick ends in Will Ritter (6-1, 235) and Cody Rogers (6-0, 245). Junior nose tackle Richard Burge is a run stopping specialist on the interior.
SPECIAL TEAMS: There is no question junior Sean Ianno is UTSA's best option at place kicker. Ianno has connected on 21-of-31 field goal tries including a 51- yarder during his two seasons as a Roadrunner. Junior punter Josh Ward is expected to be the starter again despite averaging less than 34 yards per punt in 2012.
Kenny Harrison played a small role in the passing attack in 2012 as a sophomore with 124 yards and two touchdowns on 19 grabs. He also racked up team-leading totals in kick return yards (326) and punt return yards (208, one TD).
OUTLOOK: The Roadrunners have a much more difficult journey this season after scheduling some formidable opponents for their non-conference slate. The new league schedule will present some challenges as well due to the C-USA being a much deeper conference than the 2012 WAC.
UTSA will start its season out on the road at New Mexico and will be a huge underdog the following week when it hosts Oklahoma State at the Alamodome for its home opener. The Roadrunners then play a pair of away games at Arizona and in their first-ever C-USA tilt, at Texas-El Paso. Five of their last eight games are at home, including their regular season finale versus Louisiana Tech. Unfortunately, UTSA will still have to play both Tulsa and Marshall, two of the C-USA's top teams, in unfriendly surroundings.
Another eight win campaign is going to be next to impossible for Coker and company thanks to the conference realignment. The Roadrunners are a team with loads of potential as their coaching staff appears to be building the program from the ground up extraordinarily fast, but they will require some time to adjust before any conference championship trophies end up in display case.
"I think the next step for us is we need to be bowl eligible and we need to go to a bowl," said Coker. "I want that for this team, I want that for these players. They bought into a vision when they came to UTSA when we had nothing. I want to see those players go to a bowl game and take that step and I think we can do that."
08/19 09:32:41 ET