Last week UTSA suffered a physical beat down at the hands of Southern Miss. The Roadrunners were outright dominated in the trenches as Nick Mullens had all night to target receivers while poor Dalton Sturm was failed by his offensive line, subjecting him to hit after hit after brutal hit. The pocket pressure was so bad that UTSA was forced to utilize a blocking back on third down, something we haven't seen from the Roadrunner offense in a while.
The complete break down of the offensive line wasn't a major shock. They've been struggling all year even before starting guard Kyle McKinney and starting center Juan Perez went out with injuries. True freshman Clayton Woods was thrown into the fire at center while junior Cody Cole and senior Zach Hester saw some of their first substantial game action in quite some time.
While the coaching staff and administration are attributing the 1-6 record to injuries, the truth is that a failure to recruit, develop, and retain meaningful depth is the real plague on this season.
Injuries happen everywhere. There isn't a team in the country that will finish the season with the same depth chart that they entered the season with. Successful programs are able to identify areas where they are just one or two deep and recruit accordingly so that if injury were to occur, the impact wouldn't be so devastating.
UTSA has been able to find a bit of success in that regard by acquiring transfers from both fellow four-year institutions as well as junior colleges, offensive line outstanding.
While the transfers have helped, ideally a team would be able to utilize high school signees that have been in the system for several years to fill gaps as they should be more physically developed and comfortable with schemes. This difference is most notable in the trenches as there is a staggering strength difference between a 23 year old 300 pound man and a 19 year old 300 pound boy.
Looking back at UTSA's recruiting classes shows us that the Roadrunners' lack of depth can be traced directly back to several recruiting failures in 2012.
The 2012 class should be full of seniors that are either able to win games for this team or at least provide valuable reps as a reserve when starters are unable to perform. Instead, the majority of the signings in that class either never made it to campus, were kicked off the team due to disciplinary issues, transferred to other schools, or just never really panned out in any regard.
The entire 2012 recruiting class produced a whopping two (yes, count 'em, two) 2015 starters. Out of the 23 signees, only six of them are still on the roster today. Five of them never even made it to campus. Only three of the nine transfers in the class made an impact in previous seasons. It was a complete, unmitigated recruiting disaster.
Thankfully for UTSA, the previous class in 2011 did have a few redshirts that made it to the 2015 season. Drew Douglas, David Morgan, Jason Neill, Mauricio Sanchez-- these guys are generally regarded as the pillars of this football team. That's not as many redshirts as you would like to see in a class but it's understandable given the circumstance surrounding the program at the time. I combined both classes (fifth and fourth year seniors) to see where the numbers line up today.
Out of the two classes that should build the senior leadership of the program, only 11 guys are left with just six of them being starters. While the injuries have been tough to deal with, the reality is that the program is essentially missing an entire recruiting class right now.
The responsibility to recruit and retain student athletes falls squarely on the shoulders of the coaching staff so any "woe is me" stories should fall on deaf ears. That sentiment resonates loudest at the quarterback position where UTSA is playing a sophomore walk-on. Program talking heads are right, losing Blake Bogenschutz to injury is a tough break, but they've had more quarterbacks transfer out of the program this season than they've graduated over the past three years which is a substantially more grave detriment than one injury. It's like the Roadrunners moved to a house alongside railroad tracks, only to complain about the noise from the locomotives.
Push away the hollow excuses and the truth becomes evident: the coaching staff is laying in the bed that they made on the recruiting trail years ago.