In just 3 years, UTSA has built themselves into a respectable power in Conference USA. From a start up program now entering it's 4th season under Head Coach Larry Coker, the Roadrunners are ready to contend. Armed with five preseason All C-USA First Team players, this years squad looks to continue making improvement and push for a potential bowl berth for the first time ever.
The Roadrunners run a multiple set offense and will need to replace quarterback Eric Soza who led the squad with 2,719 yards passing while adding 369 yards on the ground. In those 369 yards rushing were a team leading 7 touchdowns. Tucker Carter is the team's leading candidate to replace Soza and lead under the helm. Luckily whoever wins the starting role at quarterback will have a full stable of options at WR. UTSA returns their top five receivers including Kam Jones who led with 345 yards and a touchdown. Though there is no go-to receiver on this team, last year the catches were distributed evenly giving the UTSA plenty of options. Returning at running back will be last year's starter, David Glasco II who had 5 touchdowns on 95 carries. Leading the way on the offensive line is preseason First Team All-CUSA guard Scott Inskeep. The 4-year starter was named to the Lombardi Award watch list last season anchoring a senior heavy unit.
On defense, this squad is loaded with both seniors and experience. Among them is the team's leading tackler and preseason First Team All-CUSA safety in Triston Wade. Wade led the Roadrunners with 94 tackles to go along with two interceptions. Wade was also recently named to the preseason watch list for the Jim Thorpe award, given to the nation's top defensive back. Having a safety make top plays in the 4-2-5 scheme is a sure sign of success. Up front, four seniors anchor the defensive line where players like defensive end Robert Singletary wreak havoc in the backfield. Singletary tied for the team lead in sacks with fellow defensive end Codie Brooks each with five.
Special teams is where this team excels and that will win many ball games. Kicker Sean Ianno, punt returner Kenny Harrison, and long snapper Jesse Madrano all landed on the preseason All-CUSA First Team. Keep an eye out on Kam Jones in the kick return department. Jones averages a whopping 39.5 yards per return.
With the departure of second leading tackler and NFL prospect Steven Kurfehs, look for Drew Douglas to step in and lead this linebacker unit. Linebacking core will be raw when it comes to starts but having three safeties in the 4-2-5 will erase those concerns. With 51 starts between them, the safety group will be key in determining this team's success.
The Bottom Line: UTSA has been on an upward trend for a few seasons now and looks to continue improving. For UTEP to win this matchup, the Miners need to keep the Roadrunner offense off the field and not allow big plays. Last year, UTEP got down 25-10 early and never recovered. Judging from last season, the UTEP offense is not one to pile on the points. With that said, the defense will need to shoulder the load and be the backbone in this game if a Miner victory is in reach. An interesting fact, UTSA has ended it's three year transitional period and will now be eligible for a bowl game for the first time ever. Look for that incentive to fuel the fire of this young and hungry program as it continues to climb the ranks of the FBS.