Conference U-S-Hey: UTSA Road Runners


When WKU officially became a member of Conference USA at the beginning of the month, I wanted to run a series of pieces that would give you guys a preview of and some insight into the different schools around the conference. And, while the month is coming to a quick end, we have finally gotten started with it!

Over the past few weeks, I’ve developed some relationships with some other CUSA blogs on twitter, and reached out to several of them to see if they’d like to give their two cents to us about their favorite team. Below is the words of Jared Kalmus, one of the founders of, a site devoted to covering the University of Texas – San Antonio Road Runners. Here is, in Jared’s words, a bit about him and how the site came to be:

"I graduated from UTSA in 2014 so I was fortunate enough to watch the program’s birth, from the first practice on up. We started this site to fill a gap in the coverage since UTSA didn’t have any unofficial blogs covering it in 2011. It has been a blast to help connect UTSA fans and build a tight-knit community. Conference USA’s fans have been a great addition to this blog, both through the website and on twitter. I know WKU will help take it to the next level. On behalf of the UTSA family, welcome to Conference USA."

A fair warning – his intro was very long, but very detailed and good. And the perfect primer for football season that is right around the corner.

“When getting to know UTSA, there are two UTSAs that you must become acquainted with.

There’s the UTSA that was founded in 1969, occupying a wooded patch of acreage far removed from the city’s developed core inside of the 410 Loop. The university mostly served locals that were seeking a convenient option to further their education in San Antonio without paying private school tuition at Trinity, St. Mary’s, or the University of Incarnate Word. Sitting so far away from the city center and with little student housing to offer, the university became known as a cluster of Brutalist cement buildings, surrounded by an even more off-putting swath of blacktop to contain the parked cars of the university’s thousands of commuters. Lacking student interest and suitable facilities, the university didn’t even sponsor a sports program until 1980.
That university is no more. Today, UTSA is an emerging research institution with a diverse student body totaling over 28,000. While a sizeable portion of UTSA’s student body still contains locals that commute from their home, the majority of the university is made up of students from the Houston area and south Texas that live in student-housing apartments near UTSA’s campus. University planners predicted the city’s growth phenomenally, as the university now sits in one of the city’s most bustling intersections. UTSA now features an additional downtown campus, an endowment of nearly $110 million, and 17 NCAA Division I sports including (finally) football.
In hind sight, it’s a bit amazing to think that a university of this size, in a Texas city this large could live without a football program, but so it was for 42 long years. Considering Texans’ hysteria for football, it was difficult for UTSA to make in-roads in regards to student involvement due to the student body’s reluctance to devote themselves to a school that did not field a football team. Before Rowdy, UTSA’s beloved feathered mascot, picked up a football, it was common to see Texas Longhorns and Texas A&M Aggies apparel on campus. Most students treated UTSA as a stepping stone to a more prestigious university, with swarms of each freshman class utilizing UT’s coordinated admissions program to take classes at UTSA before transferring to Austin after a year in San Antonio. As one could imagine, UTSA used to be a pretty desolate place.

As of 2014, UTSA’s stature has grown so much that they have ended their participation in the CAP program with UT, a sign of the rapidly-growing number of applicants the school receives each year. In the mid-2000s, the university had an acceptance ratio of over 95%. This number is expected to drop below 70% this year as UTSA becomes more and more selective with its admission standards in the hunt to become recognized as Texas’ fourth Tier One research university.
A key ingredient in UTSA’s continued success is the advancement of its young but impressive football program. UTSA would formally announce its program in 2009 before hiring BCS champion Larry Coker to coach the squad. The start-up program would sign its first signing class in 2010 before embarking on a grueling practice season in which the program opted to spend its first year honing its skills against itself in a rented high school stadium instead of trotting out a young and inexperienced squad to the slaughterhouse. While most start-up programs tend to focus on recruiting JUCO athletes and transfers, Coker focused on signing primarily high school talent, a move that has paid dividends as the program heads into the 2014 season with more seniors on its roster than any other program in FBS. [ed. note – UTSA was picked to finish third by the CUSA coaches last week. Just another dividend that going after high school talent has paid off.] UTSA would play against mostly FCS and Division II opponents in its first season in 2011, setting NCAA records for the highest single-game attendance for a start-up program (56,743) and average home attendance for a first year start-up (35,521).

The 2011 inaugural campaign ended with a 4-6 record, showing both great promise and immense growing pains ahead. In an unprecedented fashion, UTSA would go from playing the likes of Bacone College and Minot State (real schools, I assure you) to a full Western Athletic Conference schedule in just one year. The Roadrunners would go on to shock the WAC by finishing with an 8-4 record, with all four losses coming to bowl-eligible programs. Coker and his squad continued to build on that success in 2013 by upgrading conferences once again, this time moving east to the more geographically-friendly Conference USA. Predicted by most pundits to finish dead last in the conference, UTSA would once again shock prognosticators by finishing just a hair shy of a ticket to the conference championship game. While UTSA’s seven wins against FBS opponents would have been enough for any other program to pack their bags for a bowl trip, UTSA was barred from accepting a bowl invitation due to cloudy NCAA legislation prohibiting transitioning FBS members from doing so.
Even though UTSA missed out on bowling last season, it’s hard to see the Roadrunners as anything less than a legitimate conference championship contender in 2014. UTSA returns more experience than any other team in the country and is beginning to see its recruiting efforts pay off with increasingly athletic recruiting classes filing in to the program each year. With just two real question marks on the roster—UTSA will have to replace wonderboy quarterback Eric Soza and figure out a three-man position battle at rover safety—it’s safe to say that the Roadrunners are primed for a march through Conference USA play this season. Before doing so, UTSA must tackle one of the more difficult out-of-conference schedules in FBS by facing Houston in their stadium opener, Arizona at home, Oklahoma State in Stillwater, and New Mexico at home.
For those that have not watched a UTSA football game yet, they’re a program that plays a smart, gritty form of football. The offense employs a multiple set, often lining up in a power formation, a five wide set, and a traditional spread all throughout a single series. Offensive Coordinator Kevin Brown likes to feature speed over size at the skilled positions and will seek to keep defenses honest with a keen focus on the screen game and play action. The defense lines up in a 4-2-5 formation that hinges around a “Dawg” safety, often an under-sized linebacker that has the speed and ball skills to drop back into coverage. Defensive Coordinator Neal Neathery rarely blitzes and tends to allow his secondary a sizeable cushion with little press coverage.

Three things to watch for UTSA this season:

1.) Is Tucker Carter for real? The 6’3” quarterback has been patiently waiting for his turn to inject the Roadrunner offense with some much needed arm strength. While the former Texas UIL 5A state champion and Southwestern Junior College Football Conference Offensive Player of the Year is surprisingly mobile, he will look to stay in the pocket for longer than three-year starter Eric Soza did. UTSA can certainly be successful with just average play from Carter but a hot start from the redshirt senior could turn this season into something truly special for Roadrunner fans.

2.) Is the improvement in the secondary for real? For three years the secondary has been the obvious weak point for this team, with standout free safety Triston Wade being the shining exception. That all changed late in the 2013 season as first-year cornerback coach Jeff Popovich gained Oklahoma transfer Bennett Okotcha back from suspension and nominated Crosby Adams as a consistent starter, lending a new swagger and physicality to the position. Okotcha provided immediately stability to the cornerback position and helped the secondary as a whole elevate their play. While the secondary only lost an injury-plagued strong safety, it will be interesting to see if the unit can continue their improvement from last year, especially with talented younger athletes such as Chase Dahlquist, Nate Gaines, and Aneas Hendricks waiting to fight for playing time.

3.) Will the leadership step up? Former quarterback Eric Soza was clearly the heart and soul of this Roadrunner program until he exhausted his eligibility and left for a graduate assistant position at Houston. Late in close ball games, the Roadrunners could always count on Saint Soza to come through with some heroics, such as his gutsy improvised shovel pass to David Glasco to cap a 99-yard game-winning touchdown drive against New Mexico. This team clearly returns a lot of veterans and leadership but will vocal leaders such as Nate Leonard and Cody Rogers be able to fill the void that Soza’s graduation leaves?

Top Five UTSA Athletes, Ranked by Myself
1.) Ashaad Mabry, DT
2.) Triston Wade, FS
3.) Scott Inskeep, OG
4.) Bennett Okotcha, CB
5.) Kam Jones, WR

Best Places to Read about UTSA Athletics
1.) (Rivals)
2.) (Free fan board)
3.) (Scout)
4.) (Express News Beat Writer, Jerry Briggs)
5.) (Official)”

Thanks to Jared for sparing the time to put this together, and hope you guys enjoyed learning a bit about the Road Runners.