Based off of UTSA's spring practices, it's safe to assume that UTSA will be transitioning to a modern up-tempo offense this fall. Due to UTSA's general ineptitude on offense in 2014, the Roadrunner coaching staff is wise to experiment with a new approach. Here are a few differences UTSA fans can expect to see from the offense in 2015.
Short WR Rotation: This will be the easiest change for fans to pick out. UTSA will likely still play a large number of wide receivers but the guys that are on the field to start a drive will likely stay there until the drive ends. In the past UTSA receivers have admitted to frustration at being pulled off the field after a big gain. With the Roadrunners moving to a no-huddle offense, wide receivers will be able to work their way into a groove with their quarterback. I like Kerry Thomas, Kenny Bias, Aaron Grubb, Greg Campbell and JaBryce Taylor to receive the majority of snaps for the wide receiver unit this fall with guys like Aron Taylor and Larry Stephens still getting plenty of opportunities.
Slimmer Offensive Line: UTSA's offensive linemen were going to be on the slim side this year regardless due to their young age but this should become the new norm for UTSA's offense. Offensive linemen in a hurry-up offense are asked to constantly be on the move. There's simply no spot for a 330 pound behemoth to labor slowly up the field after a down-field completion. To give you an idea of how much the offensive line weights for a power run offense and a no-huddle offense can differ, Wisconsin's offensive linemen average 314 pounds while Oregon averages just 298 pounds. UTSA averages just 286 pounds on the offensive line right now.
Less Formations: With the offense trying to decrease the amount of time afforded to the defense in between snaps, expect to see less formation shifts from the offense. Major formation shifts (ie Trips Left Strong Right to Power I Double Tight) requires several personnel substitutions from the sideline. That takes time to execute and UTSA's offense will want to avoid such lengthy procedures. Instead we'll likely see UTSA shift from four-wide sets to pistol or other one-back formations with versatile athletes like Triston Crossland moving from slot receiver to tight end on the fly.
One Cut Receiver Routes & Quick Read Rush Plays: Elaborate route trees and complex rushing play design goes against the basic tenets of the uptempo offense: Use the defense's fatigue against them. Run fast in straight lines. Over time, the defense will have a hard time keeping up. When the free safety is winded, a wide receiver beating a cornerback by just a step on a slant route can turn into a 60 yard touchdown. Same goes for running backs-- limit dancing in backfield. Trust your linemen to get the jump on winded defensive linemen after a quick snap. Just read and shoot.
Defense off Balance: UTSA's offense was plagued by any number of issues last year but one under-reported detriment was predictability. The Roadrunners were a target in 2014 instead of a novelty. Opposing defenses were familiar with UTSA's roster and schemes. Defensive coordinators used that familiarity to blanket the UTSA offense with defensive substitutions and shifts. Speeding up the offense allows UTSA to prevent a defense bringing an extra linebacker on the field to stifle a gash in the run game or swap a defensive tackle for an edge rusher when UTSA decides to air it out. Nipping these small adjustments in the bud can make a big difference over the span of a full game or season.
Increased Number of Plays: Did you know UTSA was one of the slowest offenses in the nation last year? Only 22 FBS offenses ran less plays than UTSA in 2014. The Roadrunners averaged just 68.8 plays per game in 2014. As a frame of reference, the national median is 73.9 and Baylor ran over 90 plays per game. Not only did UTSA run a low number of plays, they did so at an uncomfortably slow pace. UTSA was ranked 96th in the nation in offensive pace, logging just 2.53 plays per minutes. Executing a higher number of plays per game at a faster rate will put more pressure on opposing defenses and likely translate to increased scoring for the Roadrunners.