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Curtis Luper, Jeff Traylor, Craig Naivar Among Realistic Candidates To Fill UTSA Head Coach Position

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With Larry Coker out, UTSA Athletic Director Lynn Hickey declared that the search for a new head coach would take no longer than 12 days. Aside from the Roadrunner Faithful's dream candidates, Underdog Dynasty surveys the applicants that are a little more within reach.

Could UTSA draw a coach from the Crimson Tide?
Could UTSA draw a coach from the Crimson Tide?
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

UTSA moving on from Coker was two things: inevitable and necessary.  Though how it happened caught most folks off-guard, the house had to be swept clean with both coordinators out and a 7-17 record over the last two years.

Don't get me wrong, the milestones that were set are great to admire, but they're pretty distant from today.  UTSA had an inaugural coronation for the ages, the most impressive in collegiate history in fact, and two winning seasons that would have dubbed UTSA the fastest program to earn a bowl birth if it weren't for the NCAA's bogus reclassification clauses.  Alas, a 1-5 home record has dropped the once record-breaking Alamodome crowd to less than 20,000 people, and the only way Athletic Director Lynn Hickey can get those seats filled again is with change.

Everyone except Hickey seems to think of the program as broken.  The opinion is that UTSA is in full rebuild mode and anyone that takes the job is going to have to suffer through "two or three losing seasons", with mounds of dirty work cut out for them.  And apparently the school can't afford anyone worthwhile, either.

Well, beyond the typical selling points for UTSA (San Antonio is the country's 7th largest city, collegiate football in Central Texas, UTSA is the only team in the state that plays in a domed stadium, etc.), the gig offers more than plenty of upside.

So what if the new guy doesn't get his own recruits on the field for two or three years? He'll inherit a 1,000-yard rusher in Jarveon Williams that finished 28 yards shy of Conference USA's top five backs.  He'll also get Dalton Sturm, a dual-threat quarterback that completed 60% of his passes, recorded a 126.2 QB rating, and added another 361 yards rushing that placed him second in conference among quarterbacks.  Not bad considering he didn't start until halfway through the season.

As for the defense, UTSA's 'Hard Hat D' racked up 14 interceptions (tied for the third most in C-USA), eight fumble recoveries, and 22 sacks.  Safeties Michael Egwuagu and Nate Gaines are two of the fiercest in the conference, combining for 6 interceptions with Egwuagu's four leading the conference rankings.  He'll get them both, and any coach would love to have that caliber of play in the secondary.  Although a poor pass rush allowed the better offenses on the schedule to pick apart UTSA's coverage, the Roadrunner defense is the team's best asset and it is one of the best units in C-USA.  Oh, and that defensive tackle that tore apart C-USA lines, Kevin Strong, is just a freshman.

All said, the position should entice every coach, rebuild mode or not.

According to Hickey, several coaches from across the nation have already reached out to the program.  Fans have their fingers crossed in hopes of landing a Hollywood-hire of the likes of TCU's Doug Meacham or Houston's Major Applewhite, both household names here in Texas.  The thing is, both coaches would be leaving programs in a much better place than UTSA -- teams with Top 10 aspirations and expectations.

Two months ago Meacham interviewed to be the head coach at rival North Texas, but withdrew after being named one of the final candidates.  Just yesterday he turned down the position at Texas State because they "could not agree on a financial package."  Roadrunners can cling to the possibility that he still desires a head coach position and sees the perfect opportunity in San Antonio (granted UTSA can afford him).

Some of the names we at Underdog consider to be a little more within the school's reach are Craig Naivar, Tony Levine, Curtis Luper, KC Keeler, and Jeff Traylor.  Also, as first reported by ESPN's Joe Schad, Mel Tucker.

Craig Naivar - assistant head coach, co-defensive coordinator, and safeties coach for Houston - Naivar is a defense and special teams coach, coordinating units for 16 years straight at Sam Houston State, Rice, Texas State, and Kentucky before arriving in Houston.  He's also spent 6 seasons as a safeties coach.  Seeing as he's spent time in Central and Coastal Texas, he would be good for recruiting local talent.  We all know the "from chumps to champs" story Houston has written since the opening of TDECU Stadium, and we also all know how quite the opposite has happened for UTSA (A Tale of Two univerCities, by Buck Harvey).  It would be great to land one Houston's guys to rewrite that same novel 200 miles west.

Tony Levine - former head coach, Houston - In three seasons at Houston Levine went 21-17 and led the Cougars to consecutive bowl appearances in his last two seasons.  He started his career by coaching special teams, tight ends, and wide receivers at Texas State, Auburn, and Louisville before spending two seasons with the Carolina Panthers.  Kevin Sumlin brought him to Houston as his special teams coordinator in 2008.  The Cougars finished #1 in total offense in one of Levine's years at Houston and #2 in another.  More than anything else, Roadrunner fans want a revamped offense -- one that can start some fireworks.  For that reason alone he is a prime pick, even if he's been away from the game for a year.  Not to mention, that Houston team everyone's been raving about?  His recruits.  Fun fact: he hired Meacham from Oklahoma State to be on his staff in Houston.

Curtis Luper - running backs coach, TCU - Luper has been at TCU for three years, where he started as the wide receivers coach in 2013.  TCU has the third best offense in the country, averaging 564 yards a game.  Prior to TCU, he spent four years at Auburn as running back coach and recruiting coordinator, including the 2010 national championship season.  That definitely gets recruits excited.  His consistency in recruiting top prospects led Rivals to name him one of the top 25 recruiters in the country and top 10 in the SEC when he was at Auburn.  He also spent three years as running backs coach at Oklahoma State, where OSU led the Big 12 in rushing each year.  He may not have direct experience as a coordinator but the recruiting pedigree is top-notch.

KC Keeler - head coach, Sam Houston State - Keeler is 22-9 over two seasons at SHSU.  He's been a head coach since 1993 and has a career record of 196-83-1.  He's amassed eight conference championships and one national title as head coach.  But none of these accolades resonate with fans because they didn't happen at the FBS level of play, only the FCS (formerly Division I-AA) and Division III levels.  He definitely knows what he's doing, but is Keeler the caliber of coach that can be successful at this level?  It's definitely not a sexy hire, and fans will likely boo-hoo over such a move, but he's been successful at all of his stops so far.

Jeff Traylor - running game coordinator and tight ends coach, TexasHigh school football royalty, Traylor was the head coach and athletic director for 15 years at Gilmer High School in East Texas where he won 12 district titles, enjoyed 11 ten-win seasons, coached in five state championships, and captured three undefeated-season state titles.  They won 87% of their games in that time frame, 87 percent!  He is highly decorated as a coach and those kinds of accomplishments carry a lot of clout around here.  Every football player that has played 3A ball in Texas over the last 15 years knows his name and is all too familiar with it.  Our buddies over at Burnt Orange Nation reported that he's interviewing for the Texas State job, but obviously that's out the window. With nothing certain in Austin, Traylor may be looking to get out while he can; why not take over baby-brother UTSA?

Mel Tucker - assistant head coach and defensive backs coach, Alabama - The true Hollywood hire.  Currently the assistant head coach and defensive backs coach for the heavily-favored-to-win-it-all Alabama Crimson Tide, Tucker has been coaching defenses since 1998 on both the collegiate and professional levels.  He coached defensive backs at Michigan State, Ohio State, and LSU, and was the defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Chicago Bears.  We all know Alabama is the best defense in the country, imagine what that sort of gritty gameplan could do for UTSA.  Rumor has it that he's going to join Kirby Smart's new staff at Georgia. Smart recently accepted Georgia's head coaching job, but both coaches still have one more game for Alabama.  This is more of a longshot than any other candidate, but why not go for it?  UTSA will have to fork over some serious cash to compete with the SEC's prices, though.

Roadrunner Nation, cross you fingers, because there's absolutely NO telling who is going to step in and lead the program.  According to Lynn Hickey's press conference on Tuesday there are only 12 days until a new coach is announced, max.  Cross your fingers, but don't hold your breath.