Offensive Post-Season analysis
Our man Dan McCarney is doing a post-season series with the UTSA coaches, getting a little bit of insight into how the coaches felt each unit performed, while also giving his own thoughts. I felt like this was a good opportunity for me to type out my two cents. It’s nice to have quotes from coaches to peer into as well. Before we hop in, I need you all to click on this link to read Dan’s entire post. It’s several thousand words on UTSA football that’s NOT about recruiting. And it’ll make you a smarter fan. Hallelujah.
Consistency was the biggest shortcoming, not just from game to game but throw to throw. But considering he was starting for the first time, with a supporting cast that had even less experience, Soza’s rookie year has to be considered a success.
Couldn’t agree more. Statistically, Soza was pretty great this year. A 124 QB rating is upstanding for a first-year starter in Division 1 football in my book. Compare that to Louisiana Tech’s freshman starter Nick Isham at 112.8 and no-experience sophomore starter Clayton Moore at Akron with a 96.3 rating (ouch!). Eric also made his presence felt with his feet, scampering for three touchdowns and rushed for 409 yards before sacks are applied. Soza struggled with the easy stuff: wide-open screen passes, swing routes, holding on to the ball. Soza excelled at the hard stuff: managing a team primarily made of freshmen, navigating a vast and deep playbook, identifying defenses, and avoiding pocket pressure. Give me that in a rookie year and I’ll have a damn good quarterback after a few years of coaching. Bush went on record as penciling in Soza as the 2012 starter, a move that I’m in favor of. Conque will be redshirted, and neither Simmons nor Polite have shown enough to be able to put up a serious contest to a position that Soza handled quite well in the inaugural campaign.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment on the entire team, let alone the offense, was the inability to establish a clear-cut starter here. Granted, dominant tailbacks are hard to find, and it wasn’t easy to operate behind a set of young and undersized blockers that rarely controlled the line of scrimmage.
The running back position was indeed a huge disappointment, and just goes to show that Rivals and Scout ratings do not mean a damn thing once a recruit steps onto the college gridiron. When he wasn’t stricken to the sideline due to suspensions, assumed featureback Chris Johnson failed to get anything going in the backfield. In fact, Johnson didn’t reach the endzone until his last game of the season against Georgia State. While the talent is still there, Chris struggled to adopt to the college game. Hopefully in 2012 we’ll see a return to his hard-hitting, nose-down style. A beefed-up offensive line will go a long ways to help.
Likewise, heralded recruit Tevin Williams was nearly a no-show this season despite a solid showing against Southern Utah (49 yards, 1 TD). Tevin’s last touch of the year was a two yard loss against Sam Houston. I hope I’m wrong, but I think #6 has a ways to go before he’s reclaiming his Euless Trinity glory. 2011 should have been a redshirt year for Williams.
On to the more positive notes; Evans Okotcha was a godsend for UTSA in Year One. Okotcha laid some brutal blocks on defenders, broke a million tackles, and was generally the only sure thing in Soza’s backfield. David Glasco fell off a bit towards the latter half of the season, but five touchdowns for a freshman is nothing to scoff at. One thing I’m looking forward to seeing next year is how Bush continues to use Brandon Armstrong. Armstrong did some big things this year when he got his paws on the ball and tore up a slow Minot defense for a 100+ yard game. I’m a fan of undersized running backs (did you know LaMichael James is just 5’8? A friend of a friend met him at a party and said he was the smallest dude in the room) and the way they can slip through the trees for big gains. While many will push for a recruiting effort to shore up the running back position, I’m confident that there is an internal solution waiting to happen. Remember that these kids are just that– 18 and 19 year olds. An extra year of development could lead to a big break out from this talent pool.
Tabbed as the deepest and best all-around position for the Roadrunners, the group largely followed through on that promise. A run of injuries made almost no dent as Freeman and especially Jones established themselves as perhaps the two most consistent playmakers.
Beyond that duo, Harrison was a versatile threat, and Bush regrets not creating more opportunities for Monroe. He said he was also pleased with Holmes and Wanamaker, whose seasons were marred by injuries. The Roadrunners hope redshirts Sean Hesler and Kenny Bias, both of whom have speed to burn, can make an immediate impact.
I agree to a certain extent. Sure the receivers corps was deep and talented, but there was also areas to draw concern. Drops were a constant moderate hindrance to the offense (how much of that befalls Soza remains to be seen) and the ‘Runners failed to develop a legitimate deep threat. Again, Soza may share some blame in that. The receivers unit boasted my personal offensive MVP, Kam Jones. With 881 all-purpose yards, Jones contributed at least 88 yards of production to each game. Kam was used in a variety of roles, from deep routes to slip screens and wildcat quarterback duties. Just pure explosiveness and speed. Kam had only three touchdowns, but was tackled within the three yard line several times. He also had a touchdown called back due to a penalty in the McNeese game. I suspect Jones will be every bit as large of a factor against WAC defenses. Kenny Harrison and Brandon Freeman were huge surprises to me this year with Harrison bring sheer speed to the offense via wide receiver options and kick returns. Freeman turned out to have some of the best hands on the team and was a season-long favorite target for Soza. Redshirted receivers Sean Hesler and Kenny Bias are both sleepers that could play a role next year, as Bush points out in Dan’s article. My question is how is Bush going to distribute the ball to this many playmakers?
With three players, only one on scholarship, there isn’t much room for analysis here. The two main figures are Moeller and Morgan. Combined, they’d be a hell of a player. But as it stands today, Moeller is more of a blocker/dirty worker, while the sure-handed Morgan is a good receiver who is still learning how to mix things up in the trenches.
As Dan said, there’s not much to discuss here. Morgan gave a nice boost to the offense with his ability to get up and grab the high ball. If he manages to put on about 40 pounds by the time he graduates I can see the kid having a shot at playing on Sundays. There were a lot of complaints about Bush not getting the ball to Morgan enough, but I didn’t see a problem. UTSA doesn’t run the type of offense where you hit your tight end with ten touches a game.
I was pleased with all of them, knowing obviously we aren’t the strongest or the biggest right now. For who we were up against, and what we asked them to do, they exceeded my expectations. There were times we got outweighed, there were times we got outquicked (SP), but they fought their tails off on every play.
I for one was extremely impressed with the offensive line collective. To field an offensive line with five freshmen is a monumental task and the outside observer would have no idea that this was the case. While UTSA never blew their opponents off the line of scrimmage for four yards and a cloud of dust, Soza was generally free from defensive linemens’ grasps, running backs weren’t being hammered in the backfield, and (to my eye) there were very few blown assignments. In this case, simply being average is something to take great pride in. Major credit goes to offensive line coach Jim Marshall. With the infusion of some true FBS size and the full-time addition of Patrick Hoog and Chance Vernon, the offensive line may very well be a strong point of the offense next season in the WAC, a conference that features some undersized linemen here and there.
Ianno wasn’t perfect. (See: South Alabama.) But for the most part he was a revelation, a walk-on who ably filled a position that has caused an incalculable amount of heartache to any number of teams over the years. (See: Boise State.)
In addition to being relatively consistent on field goals, he also did a solid job on kickoffs, perhaps the least glamorous job in the game but one that has a critical, if subtle, impact.
When you go back and compare today’s UTSA team with the one that lost to McMurry, Sean Ianno is the principal improvement. With a young team that can afford no margin of error to win ball games, it is crucial that the special teams play be excellent. After Ianno was granted sole possession of the kicking game, opponents started to become pinned within their own twenty and the Roadrunners were able to drill some fairly lengthy kicks. I am extremely comfortable with Ianno moving forward and hope he is rewarded for his effort with a scholarship.
Whew. Thanks for sticking with me. Be back soon with defense.
A UTSA alumnus that has been cast away to Austin, Jared enjoys live music and a craft beer. He thinks four verts is the best play in football but loves a QB sneak on fourth and inches. Twitter