This morning I realized that UTSA kicked off their spring season on the first official day of spring. Well played, Coach Coker. The team will work out 15 times this spring (NCAA-mandated limit) with scrimmages on 3/23 at Judson’s D.W. Rutledge Stadium and on 4/6 at Harlandale Stadium. This year’s spring game will be on 4/14 at Dub Farris Stadium. All of those scrimmages will be open to the public so be sure to come out and check out the team.
Today’s practice saw the Roadrunners’ units run through positional drills in shorts and helmets, capped by a 7-on-7 drill and wind sprints to end the practice. Media members were allowed to watch a select portion of the practice. Kenny Bias seems to have greatly progressed as a receiver, as he escaped coverage all morning and impressed those in attendance. If Bias is able to find consistency then UTSA will have one of the tops receiving corps in Conference USA. Bias seemed to always be open during his freshman season but he struggled with his route running and catching. Bound to always be one of the fastest men on the field, if Kenny can refine his technical skills he could be an absolute dynamic target for returning QB starter Eric Soza.
I’ve got my eye on:
1.) John Simmons – The former New Braunfels stand out quarterback made the transition to wide receiver for his senior year– a very smart move as he would have been pigeon-holed by Tucker Carter and Zach Conque this year. No one is expecting Simmons to come out and steal the show from Jones, Harrison, Bias, Freeman, etc. but his size, speed, and knowledge of the offense makes him a very intriguing prospect.
2.) Brendon Brinkmann and Robert Singletary – UTSA sorely missed its lone pass-rushing threat Marlon Smith in 2012. While the secondary was shaky, any secondary will be beat when the opposing quarterback has six seconds to sit in the pocket going through his reads. Brinkmann and Singletary have the length and athleticism to get to the quarterback. Even if only one of the duo is able to amass five sacks on the year then it will be a huge step forward for the Hard Hat Defense. Brinkmann is just a freshman and only played one year of defense in high school but the former basketball player is listed at a staggering 6’7″, 255 pounds. Singletary is listed at 6’2″, 250 pounds and played quite well on special teams while at Baylor.
3.) Jordan Gray – Loyal readers of this here blog will know of my heavy interest in Jordan Gray. While he’s a smart kid and a physical specimen, Gray has never been able to find a position that fits him. He primarily played at quarterback at Fort Worth’s Trimble Tech before grayshirting at UTSA where he would become a tight end. He’s now made the move to right tackle. At 260 pounds, Gray still has some growing to do but if he shows good technique on the line and finds his way up to at least 275 pounds by fall he’ll be a huge asset on a young offensive line direly lacking depth. I think he’s game for it.
4.) Bennett Okotcha – Honestly, I think the success of UTSA’s defense falls on the shoulders of this Oklahoma transfer (brother of UTSA halfback Evans Okotcha). With the dismissal of last year’s top pass defender Erik Brown, UTSA is going to need a guy that can at worst contain each team’s best receiver. Okotcha has all of the tools to be that guy in 2013. While the cornerback position received a nice infusion of talent this offseason none have the raw athleticism and size that Okotcha has. Bennett has gone two years without seeing live game action, but practiced against Oklahoma’s stellar stable of receivers in 2011 before transferring to UTSA. That experience is nothing to scoff at.
5.) Zach Conque – While Eric Soza is cemented as UTSA’s starting signal caller, the competition for the back up job will be vicious. We all know what Tucker Carter is capable of (a lot) but Conque is still growing into his body and adjusting to the college game. Conque has the strongest arm in the program and the best size of any quarterback in program history. I think he will be an all-conference talent at some point in his career, the question is how soon?
1.) How will Jeff Popovich assimilate himself into the program?
Reports out of practice this morning had Popovich beaming energy, sprinting across the field to congratulate players and even partaking in sprints with the team after practice. I’m a big believer in youthful energy on a coaching staff I don’t think there’s a unit that needs that more than the cornerbacks. If Popovich is able to push the right buttons on guys like Darrien Starling and Crosby Adams the position might actually become a strength for the Roadrunner defense.
2.) Will the offensive line avoid injury?
I think we are all very comfortable with the first five offensive linemen on the squad (Walker, Harris, Leonard, Hester, Inskeep) but past that the supporting cast is iffy. Guys like Cody Cole and Payton Rion could be dependable replacements but the drop off from their respective starters is precipitous. And there still isn’t a legitimate option at back-up tackle currently on scholarship. The health of Walker and Hester is crucial to the line’s success.
3.) Are all of the safeties going to be able to find playing time?
The depth and talent at the safety positions at UTSA are extremely impressive. The current starters are Johnston, Berry, and Wade but returners Brian King and Charles Wort impressed last season. Mauricio Sanchez struggled with injury in 2012 but started most games in 2011. JUCO transfer Tevin Broussard might have the highest upside of any player in the UTSA secondary. Really any of the guys listed would do great as a starter but there just aren’t enough spots to go around. I could see guys like King and Sanchez providing huge contributions on special teams and in back-up roles while others like Gage Hadlock and Joseph Lizcano become slowly phased out of the program.
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