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UTSA Showcases Depth in 2017 Spring Game

For the first time in program history the Roadrunners finally appear to have solid depth along the offensive line.

Head Coach Frank Wilson’s Roadrunners wrapped up their 2017 spring season with a successful spring game played in front of an energetic crowd of around 4,000 fans. With the Alamodome unavailable for use, UTSA hosted the spring game at Dub Ferris Stadium, a large high school facility less than two miles from the UTSA campus.

The scrimmage saw the first and second string offense and defenses face off against one another in full contact play with a few seven-on-seven sessions and redzone/overtime situational drills featured. If you subscribe to the notion that great teams have closely contested scrimmages without a clear winner then it’s hard to top today’s scrimmage that ended with a 56-56 final.

Both the offense and defense looked relatively polished overall as there were less mental mistakes than one would typically expect from a spring scrimmage even with both sides missing key players (Jalen Rhodes, Marcus Davenport, Austin Pratt, Nate Gaines). While there wasn’t a clear star of the afternoon, several players cemented their status as expected starters.

Two of the largest story lines of the spring have seemingly found optimal resolutions. UTSA’s offensive line looked markedly improved throughout the duration of the scrimmage thanks to the addition of two new offensive tackles. Sophomore junior college transfer Josh Dunlop manhandled his competition at left tackle thanks to his agility and 6’7” wingspan. It’s just one practice but Dunlop showed future all-conference potential.

Dunlop was bookended by redshirt freshman Josh Oatis at right tackle. While he doesn’t have Dunlop’s elite reach, Oatis flashed impressive nimbleness, often stretching the field to pick up additional blocks at the next level. It’s big news that UTSA seems to have amply replaced their two lost starters along the offensive line but it’s incredibly encouraging that they have done so with a sophomore and freshman that will be around the program for several years.

The emergence of Dunlop and Oatis has afforded UTSA depth in the trenches that they’ve never enjoyed before. UTSA will have experienced options on the second unit such as Juan Perez and Reed Darragh. The unit will also be boosted by the additions of Zach Pare and Austin Pratt who sat out the spring game due to injury.

Following the graduation of Jared Johnson the Roadrunners needed to find a backup quarterback. Just like the offensive line, UTSA seems to have found their best option in an underclassman. Bryce Rivers, a lefty out of San Antonio, seems to have a firm grasp on the backup quarterback position after just four weeks of college football. The true freshman was an early enrollee, and has already grasped the playbook and the speed of the college game. It doesn’t hurt that he’s already put on 15 pounds of muscle as well.

Rivers was very poised and comfortable under center, finishing the scrimmage with 179 passing yards and one touchdown pass. He was efficient, highly accurate, and flashed a stronger than expected arm. I think Rivers will prove to be too talented to redshirt. His potential is a very good sign for the UTSA offense moving forward.

Starting quarterback Dalton Sturm didn’t turn in a great performance but his playmaking ability was on full display throughout the scrimmage. Sturm was a bit too ambitious with his throws, leading to two interceptions and two near picks. The senior will need to continue focusing on picking up easy yardage through short route check downs rather than forcing balls into unsafe windows in search of a homerun play.

UTSA looks to be in very good shape defensively. Sophomore Eric Banks earned the start at defensive end in place of an injured Marcus Davenport while junior Darryl Godfrey replaced injured safety Nates Gaines in the starting secondary. Even without two all-conference talents on the field the defense showed their ability to create havoc and give passing games hell.

Mostly playing out of a 4-2-5 formation, the Roadrunners didn’t show much difference from what we saw last season. UTSA blitzed liberally and played handsy lock-down man defense on the outside. Cornerback Teddrick McGhee was playing inspired football in the early going, making a perfect jump on a hitch route to pick off Dalton Sturm. McGhee would later go down with a knee injury but it didn’t seem to be anything too threatening.

UTSA’s defensive line was stout as always, led by starters Kevin Strong, Baylen Baker, Eric Banks, and Solomon Wise. Kevin Strong was arguably the best player on the field, making his presence felt with a boisterous bull rush on passing downs. Solomon Wise, noticeably much larger than in his freshman season, drew eyeballs as did freshman DeQuarius Henry. Both Henry and reserve defensive tackle King Newton created defensive scores after scooping up fumbles and returning them for touchdowns.

With the spring season wrapped up the UTSA coaching staff will turn their focus to the spring evaluation period where the coaches will be able to travel the country visiting talented athletes at their high schools. This process will kick off on Monday when the staff will conduct their “San Antonio Storm” as they visit over 100 high schools in the San Antonio area. The Roadrunners will be back in action for fall camp in preparation of their season opener against Houston on September 2nd.