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Five UTSA freshmen to watch for in the 2017 season

The Roadrunners have accumulated major talent in their past two recruiting classes. Expect to see several of them make immediate impacts.

NCAA Football: New Mexico Bowl-New Mexico at Texas-San Antonio Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports

With fall camp in full spring and season previews starting to trickle out across the country, much attention has been paid to UTSA’s wealth of riches returning from last season’s bowl team. Returning standouts such as Jalen Rhodes, Dalton Sturm, Marcus Davenport, and Josiah Tauaefa will certainly be instrumental in determining UTSA’s success this season, but new names will also contribute. Head Coach Frank Wilson has quickly stockpiled exciting young talent that should certainly see the field immediately in San Antonio. Here are five freshmen (both redshirts and true freshmen) that should play serious snaps for the Roadrunners in 2017.

Running Back - BJ Daniels

Probability to see starting snaps: 30%

A large and bruising back out of the Sunshine State, Daniels will most likely immediately become UTSA’s second-string running back. Standing at 6’2” and over 205 pounds, Daniels is a perfect fit for the punishing run game Offensive Coordinator Frank Scelfo is seeking to implement for the Roadrunners. Daniels is extremely physically mature for a freshman and shouldn’t have any trouble applying the truck stick against Conference USA defenses despite his young age. I’m willing to bet that Daniels ends up as the running back on C-USA’s 2017 All-Freshmen team.

Wide Receiver - Tariq Woolen

Probability to see starting snaps: 20%

I simply don’t see any way the coaching staff could keep a kid with Woolen’s caliber of talent off the field. Sure, UTSA is returning all of their prominent pass catchers from last season but Woolen’s size (6’5”, 205 pounds) and speed (21.59 200 meters dash) presents a threat that is rarely seen at the Group of Five level. Expect to see Woolen stretch the field early and often as he develops into UTSA’s leading pass catcher in the 2018 season.

Defensive Back - Samuel Barnes

Probability to see starting snaps: 20%

One of the top recruits to sign with a C-USA program last year, Barnes has all the tools to contribute immediately at either cornerback or safety. While Barnes was a standout at cornerback in high school and was recruited as such, he’s currently listed as a safety on the roster. I do think safety is Barnes’ most natural fit as an athlete and he should be able to see early playing time there given the graduation of starting safeties Jordan Moore and Michael Egwuagu

Offensive Tackle - Josh Oatis

Probability to see starting snaps: 70%

A 2016 signee out of Gulfport, Mississippi, Oatis grew into a monster following his redshirt year. Despite tipping the scales at 6’4”, 315 pounds, Oatis is surprisingly nimble and able to block in space on both pull blocks and in pass protection. Oatis is currently battling season veteran and offensive line utilityman Reed Darragh for the starting right tackle slot. I’m not sure if Oatis will win that battle over a senior to start the season but given the nature of trench warfare I think it’s likely that at the worst we’ll see Oatis step up as a starter to fill in for a potential injury somewhere down the road this season. That being said, I’m not counting him out as a 12 (13, 14?) game starter as a freshman.

Quarterback - Bryce Rivers

Probability to see starting snaps: 10%

Count me in the camp that sees true freshman and early-enrollee quarterback Bryce Rivers as a lock to hold down the QB2 spot this season. From all indications UTSA will shy away from the quarterback rotation that was employed last year but I still think it’s likely that Rivers will see a good amount of snaps as UTSA seeks to develop a quarterback of the future. If UTSA takes care of business against less talented foes then Rivers should be able to get some game-time reps to build his confidence for 2018.

Honorable mentions

  • Joshua Booker-Brown - Immensely athletic linebacker that could see playing time immediately as a pass rushing specialist.
  • De’Marco Guidry - Big-bodied back that might grab a few carries per game if the cards fall in his favor.
  • Morris Joseph Jr. - A prep-level stand out, Joseph has the athletic potential to cause some havoc along the defensive line.
  • Jaylon Haynes - While listed on the roster as a defensive end, Haynes has the size and quickness to serve as a reserve at nose tackle in case of injury or position change.