With only ten returning starters the UTSA Roadrunners have a lot of questions to answer on the field in 2018. In addition to the massive personnel turnover, the Roadrunners were also forced to implement a ton of changes to the coaching staff over the offseason, after a very tumultuous end to 2017.
This afternoon’s spring game gave an initial glance to the future composition of the team that will take the field for the Roadrunners in 2018. While many questions were left unanswered, here are ten observations I walked away with.
Injuries dampen the day
The only way to lose a spring game is to suffer some serious injuries to expected contributors. That appeared to be the case for UTSA as the spring game progressed however, both injuries seem to be less severe than feared. Quarterback Cordale Grundy dislocated his toe early in the game and watched from the sideline in a walking boot to end the afternoon. Starting cornerback Clayton Johnson collided with some metal bleachers in the end zone and was carted off the field but it appears that he avoided any structural damage to his legs.
Good news for @UTSAFTBL: Frank Wilson says QB Cordale Grundy only dislocated his big left toe & CB Clayton Johnson suffered a leg abrasion that will require stitches. Nothing too serious.— Carter Karels (@CarterKarels) April 14, 2018
Rivers ahead of the pack
Due to Frank Harris’ ACL injury before the spring game fans expected an intense quarterback competition but weren’t given such. Bryce Rivers appeared heads and shoulders above the rest of the quarterback unit. Rivers completed a lot of good-looking passes and avoided interceptions. He also showed some quickness with his feet by picking up a five-yard touchdown run in addition to a few other scrambles.
Cordale Grundy went just 1-6 on his passing attempts before having to leave the game with a toe injury. With Harris likely out for the majority of the 2018 season it seems that incoming freshman JoJo Weeks will have a huge opportunity to see playing time as a true freshman.
Offensive line is a major work in progress
The most pressing concern coming out of the spring is most definitely the shape of UTSA’s restructured offensive line. Mixing-and-matching offensive linemen throughout the game, the Roadrunners gave up a troublesome 13 sacks to the defense.
The run game didn’t fare much better as most of the running backs’ largest gains came after contact. UTSA’s offensive line looked sluggish, uncomfortable, and uncoordinated. Way too many snaps either fell at the quarterback’s feet or flew past his head. Simply put, there’s a lot of work left to do here.
No step back from the defensive line
To tie in with the point above, UTSA’s defensive line doesn’t look like it’s going to miss future first-round NFL draft pick Marcus Davenport as much as one would assume. Highly-vaunted JUCO transfer Lorenzo Dantzler more than lived up to expectations, totaling two sacks and a shared tackle for loss. Dantzler very much looked the part of an elite defensive end.
Baylen Baker, Morris Joseph Jr., Jaylon Haynes, Robert Fuentes, and Jarrod Carter-McLin all had at least three tackles while Solomon Wise and Jim Philistin also pitched in sacks. Carter-McLin was also awarded with the 2018 Spring Most Valuable Defensive Player award from the coaching staff.
Modern offensive scheme at last
After being subjected to former offensive coordinator Frank Scelfo’s snoozefest of an offense for two years, UTSA fans were likely thrilled by what they saw from Al Borges’ offense even if the execution was lackluster.
UTSA took 90% of their snaps from the shotgun, used run-pass options, and called plays that were appropriate for the down-and-distance the offense was facing. The Roadrunners’ offense looked normal for a 2018 football program and that’s a big improvement.
Freshmen receivers ready to break out
True freshman Tykee Ogle-Kellogg and redshirt freshman Tariq Woolen gave fans a few teasers of their massive potential throughout the spring game. While the 6’4” four-star recruit sat out his senior season of prep football, Ogle-Kellogg looked like a lock to be in the rotation this fall. Besides the clip below Ogle-Kellogg also out-leaped double coverage for a touchdown catch that showcased his game-changing height and jumping ability.
Tariq Woolen didn’t have as many eye-popping plays through the spring game but he showed sound technique and escapability in his two catches for 15 yards. Veterans Marquez McNair and Blaze Moorhead led the unit in yardage but the young guys showed they will be a major factor once the fall rolls around.
Fuentes on the radar
Shocker of the day: 205 pound defensive end Robert Fuentes racking up three sacks, five tackles for loss, and forcing a fumble. UTSA was the only program that showed any recruiting interest in the South San Antonio prospect and it looks like their investment may pay off, as the skinny Fuentes was able to fly around UTSA’s lumbering offensive line.
Fuentes will likely still be too slight to be a three-down player this season but could perhaps see time as a third down specialist similar to how Marcus Davenport spent his freshman season.
A BJ Daniels breakout is eminent
One of UTSA’s most prized recruiting wins, BJ Daniels didn’t play as much as expected as a true freshman last year. With senior Jalen Rhodes sitting out for most of the spring game, Daniels was able to put his ability on display while rushing for 78 net yards on 13 carries.
Daniels had the play of the game in overtime as he hurdled over a defender to reach the end zone from 25 yards out. The Florida native ran the ball with strength and authority and should prove to be a perfect complement to Rhodes this fall.
Secondary still looking strong
UTSA graduated almost every starter in their secondary this offseason but the Roadrunners looked like they’re going to be just fine moving forward. C.J. Levine, Stanley Dye Jr., and Teddrick McGhee all had pass break ups while Javontavius Mosley, Andy Martel, Vance Vallair, Daryl Godfrey, Carrington Kearney, and Clayton Johnson helped to make sure that UTSA’s offense couldn’t complete many long passes throughout the afternoon.
TJ King helps to fill the gap at tight end
With anticipated starting tight end Chance McLeod held out due to injury, TJ King really stepped up during the spring game to provide depth at the tight end position. The National Signing Day flip from Louisiana Tech, King started his career at UTSA as a defensive end, spent a year at a junior college, then returned to UTSA as a tight end.
King did a solid job of sealing the edge while run blocking and pitched in a nice 16 yard first down in the passing game.