By: Steven Lassan | 5/7/12, 12:48 PM EDT
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You can read the entire UTSA preview in Athlon Sports' 2012 National College Football magazine, available for purchase now at the Athlon Sports store.
HEAD COACH: Larry Coker, 4-6 (1 year) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Kevin Brown | DEF. COORDINATOR: Neal Neathery
New offensive coordinator Kevin Brown, promoted when Travis Bush left for Houston after last season, has nine returning offensive starters for UTSA’s first year in the WAC from a balanced unit that averaged 26.6 points per game. It starts with quarterback Eric Soza, who passed for 2,148 yards with 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions. The dual-threat junior was second on the team with 285 rushing yards.
Soza has plenty of familiar faces to target as the Roadrunners welcome back their top seven receivers, including Kam Jones, Brandon Freeman, Kenny Harrison and David Morgan. That quartet accounted for nearly 65 percent of UTSA’s receiving yardage in 2011. Jones, a sophomore, led the team in receptions (39), receiving yards (578) and all-purpose yards (881). Morgan averaged 16.5 yards on his 13 catches and scored two touchdowns.
Up front, the Roadrunners have six linemen who started at least one game last season. Tackle Drew Phillips, center Nate Leonard and guards Scott Inskeep, Cody Harris and Payton Rion combined to start 45 games.
Their ground game returns five of its top six rushers. Evans Okotcha rushed for a team-high 326 yards (on an impressive 6.5-yard average) and four touchdowns and is expected to share time with David Glasco II to help increase the ground production.
UTSA’s 4-2-5 defense put up quality numbers against a schedule that did not include a single game against an FBS opponent. The Roadrunners allowed 21.4 points and 338.5 yards per game. Now, they get a chance to see how they measure up against teams from the WAC.
UTSA’s defense also forced 21 takeaways last season and converted those turnovers into 12 touchdowns and three field goals. Five of the six defensive linemen in the spring two-deep started at least three games last season, including end Marlon Smith, who had a team-high eight sacks, 10 tackles for a loss and seven pass breakups. However, Smith was not on the team's roster in early June and his status for 2012 is uncertain.
Senior Brandon Reeves and junior Steven Kurfehs are set to start again at linebacker after finishing first (69) and third (61) on the team in tackles, respectively. Four returning starters return to an experienced secondary.
Sean Ianno protected his starting job in the spring, but the sophomore has room to improve. He made 31-of-31 extra points but only 11-of-18 field goals. Kristian Stern is slated to handle the punting duties after averaging 40.9 yards per attempt in limited duty last season. The Roadrunners have a big-play threat in the return game in Harrison, who averaged 26.8 yards on 19 kickoff returns with a long of 41 yards.
Former BCS national championship-winning Miami (Fla.) coach Larry Coker helped lead UTSA to a 4–6 mark in its first year while playing as an FCS Independent. The Roadrunners don’t count as an FBS opponent until 2013 — when they are expected to join Conference USA after a one-year stop in the WAC — and won’t be a full-fledged FBS member or eligible for a bowl until 2014.
Last season, UTSA played tough at eventual FCS national runner-up Sam Houston State before losing 22–7, and beat FCS member Georgia State 17–14 in overtime. Start-up programs traditionally face a tough road, but UTSA is already making some steady progress. Still, it’s a stretch to believe the Roadrunners will be any kind of a threat in the WAC in their first (and only) season in the league.