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2014 UTSA Defense Review

Lead by an imposing defensive line, UTSA's defense kept the team competitive in spite of an incompetent offense.

Triston Wade's hard-hitting style set the tone for UTSA's defense
Triston Wade's hard-hitting style set the tone for UTSA's defense
Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Points Allowed per Game: 25.9

Yards Allowed per Game: 369.7

Leading Tackler: Triston Wade (86)

Sack Leader: Jason Neill, Robert Singletary (3.5, tie)

Interception Leader: Triston Wade (4)

For as awful as the UTSA offense was in 2014, it's impressive how hard the defense was able to play while inheriting short fields due to turnovers and one-series possessions. The defense never pitched a shutout but it did deliver dominating performances against Houston and Southern Miss.

Starting up front, UTSA's defensive line was a treat to watch. Senior Ashaad Mabry anchored this unit with impeccable play from the one technique. By swallowing blocks, Mabry was able to free up linebackers to swoop in and make plays on the interior. UTSA will also have to replace seniors Ferrington Macon and Richard Burge but junior Brian Price looked ready to take over for Mabry next season. UTSA likely won't have a group of defensive tackles this strong for years.

Baylor transfer Robert Singletary was the Roadrunners' most impressive defensive end at a position full of stand outs. Singletary used his length and speed to terrorize opposing quarterbacks while also showing great strength by being able to protect against the run from a two-point stance. Singletary was simply unblockable in several contests this year and was instrumental in establishing UTSA's menacing pass rush.

Fellow senior and defensive end Cody Rogers was able to overcome his short stature to lead the team in tackles for loss. Rogers played with a high motor and sound technique to become the team's most improved player on defense.

While Singletary and Rogers are big losses, UTSA won't feel the sting of graduation here as sharply as at defensive tackle. Junior Jason Neill has an additional year of eligibility thanks to a medical redshirt and true freshman Marcus Davenport will continue to be a huge asset in the pass rush.

A fantastic season from the defensive line made the linebackers' lives a little bit easier this season. While Blake Terry missed most of the season due to injury, Drew Douglas and Jens Jeters were extremely solid against both the pass and the run, finishing second and third on the team in tackles with 11 tackles for loss between the two.

Many fans, myself included, expected a major step up from the cornerbacks this season after the unit came on strong for conference play last season. Oklahoma transfer Bennett Okotcha was expected to be a top cornerback in Conference USA this season but the junior failed to establish himself due to repetition of mental mistakes and technical flaws in his game.

Seniors Crosby Adams and Darrien Starling were inconsistent at best, often giving up big plays over the top. The unit's overall lack of athleticism forced the defense to provide opposing wide receivers with a large gap off of the line of scrimmage. Press coverage was extremely rare as the defense spent most plays sitting in a soft zone.

One bright spot at the position was junior JUCO transfer Trevor Baker. The 6'2" corner saw his snaps increase throughout the season as he used his height and strength to establish position against wide receivers. Baker should be the front-runner to start across from Okotcha next season unless one of UTSA's young athletes impresses in spring ball.

UTSA's safeties were a mixed bag this season. Free safety Triston Wade was as awesome as ever, playing his way into  semi-finalist recognition for the Jim Thorpe award. Wade certainly showed his flaws however as his aggressive style of play lead to many personal fouls and blown coverage assignments.

The strong safety "Rover" position continued to be problematic for the Roadrunners as Mauricio Sanchez and Brian King would take turns alternating starts. Neither of the two would really establish themselves as the starter as both would couple bouts of solid play with various errors. While the Rover position wasn't exceptional for UTSA this season, it was improved over last year. With King graduating, Sanchez will likely battle Baylor transfer Austin Jupe for playing time next season.

Lastly, UTSA's "Dawg" safety/linebacker hybrid position was able to overcome a string of injuries to starter Nic Johnston to provide solid production. Sophomore Michael Egwuagu had a tumultuous start to the season as he left the team just a few days before the season began. He would return to the team a few days later to work his way back into the good graces of the coaches. Egwaugu only started three games but he quickly filled up the stat sheet, showing his potential as a truly special player.

Fellow sophomore Chase Dahlquist moved down from the Rover position to Dawg to fill the gap left by Egwaugu when he left the team. Even after Egwaugu returned, Dahlquist's position change provided major dividends for the UTSA defense as Johnston struggled with injuries. Dahlquist has the aggression and build to excel at the Dawg position so I believe he will stick there for the rest of his career.

Overall Defensive Grade: B

Defensive Newcomer of the Year: Marcus Davenport

Defensive Most Improved: Cody Rogers

Defensive MVP: Robert Singletary

2015 Returning Starters: Drew Douglas, Mauricio Sanchez, Michael Egwuagu, Jason Neill, Chase Dahlquist, Brian Price, Bennett Okotcha, Duke Wheeler, Marcos Curry