While things have mostly been mum out of UTSA's fall camp, Roadrunner fans were treated to an up close and personal look at a new era of UTSA football. Unfortunately there wasn't a full scrimmage but a short 11 on 11 period and several rounds of positional drills provided a telling look at how certain players and position units are progressing.
As previously reported, the quarterback position is pretty much settled. Blake Bogenschutz was miles ahead of the other quarterbacks, flashing his quick release and confident poise in order to strike receivers all over the field. Bogie was nearly flawless throwing into the endzone in an outer shell drill, delicately placing the ball over the outside shoulder on fades and forcing the ball into tight zones on slant routes. When the team entered a 11 on 11 scrimmage Bogie threw his first three passes for 20+ yards with one touchdown included, all within one minute.
Surprisingly, Austin Robinson saw the majority of snaps with the second team. In my humble opinion even walk-on Dalton Sturm looked more proficient than Michigan transfer Russell Bellomy, though the former Wolverine did run one series with the ones. Highly regarded true freshman Manny Harris looked far away from ready to step in under center due to some wobbly passes. Harris ended the practice with two interceptions on deep balls.
It's really hard to get a feel for the running back position with limited contact in a practice setting but I think the position went about as expected. Jarveon Williams looked exceptional, especially out of the backfield. True freshman Brett Winnegan looked ready to contribute this season and fellow freshman Jess Anders showed freakishly quick feet while running through ladders.
The wide receivers were really, really fun to watch. Even with anticipated starters Kenny Bias and Aaron Grubb out with injury, the position as a whole had great success slipping through coverage. Kerry Thomas was clinical in his routes while Greg Campbell used his speed to find himself open frequently. JaBryce Taylor was also as good as advertised.
In my opinion the offensive line was a mixed bag. With several starters out the line's depth was sharply tested. While it held up stronger than in the spring, a frequently collapsing pocket left a lot to be desired. On the upside the left side of the line looks to be quite strong, as Kyle McKinney and Reed Darragh had solid performances.
Sparked by some great production from true freshmen, the defensive line was the surprise of the day. Marcus Davenport was visibly bulked up and enjoyed a great practice alongside Jason Neill. Josiah Tauaefa was the next most impressive defensive end in my eyes. The high motor that he showed in his high school film carried over to the next level and he was able to out-muscle JUCO transfer Gabe Casillas despite a three year age gap.
Brian Price lead the group at defensive tackle, looking really refined in positional drills. If he stays healthy throughout the season then the Runners should be fine in the middle of the defense. True freshmen Baylen Baker and TJ King both played really, really well in the absence of Vontrell King-Williams and Kevin Strong. At 6'5", 285 pounds, Baker was an absolute force. He even managed to come down with an interception, placing himself in consideration for the Piesman Trophy.
King was anticipated to play defensive end, and is still listed as so on the roster, but the former Louisiana Tech commit might have grown out of the position. He looked like a natural in the interior and may force his way into some early playing time on pass-rushing situations.
Similar to the running backs, linebackers are hard to get a read on in a minimal contact setting. Marcos Curry and Lakel Bass both had solid reps with the ones. I think it's likely that those two and Drew Douglas will take about 90% of snaps at LB this season.
Bennett Okotcha looked as dominant as ever to lead a physical bunch at cornerback. N'keal Bailey and Aneas Henricks had the best day out of the rest of the group. Trevor Baker was held out of practice due to injury but expect the competition there to rage throughout the season. Walk-on CB Deandre Williams made the most of his reps by tracking down an interception on a deep pass. Freshmen corners JaCorie Jones and JaColbie Butler also looked like very talented athletes.
To wrap things up, the safeties looked solid but not exceptional. Mauricio Sanchez was all over the field from the Rover slot, creating some pass break ups. Michael Egwuagu was great as usual, showing his range by tracking down carries to the D gap. Gage Hadlock was able to get some run in with the twos thanks to injuries and proved to be a solid option in the secondary. Sophomore Nate Gaines showed his athleticism frequently but still has some development left before the graduation of current Seattle Seahawk Triston Wade won't hurt the program sorely.
Practices are now completely closed for the rest of the preseason so take these nuggets and hold them close to your chest as we'll receive nothing but coach speak until September 3rd. Let's hold out hope for some regular depth chart updates.
While Friday's open practice was just a small glance at the program's progress, it was enough to relieve many of my fears for this young team. If the offensive line can get healthy quickly then this team has the weapons to play spoiler throughout a rebuilding year and avoid a two year stretch of sub-.500 football.