2017 was a monumental season for the UTSA defense. The Roadrunners ranked in the top ten of most major defensive statistical categories by playing smart and brutal football that often had the opposition moving backwards.
While the graduation of several standouts such as Marcus Davenport, Nate Gaines, Austin Jupe, and La’kel Bass will certainly hurt the defense’s production, the Roadrunners are loaded up with talent to step in and compete without a drastic drop off. Here are five Roadrunners to keep your eye on with the 2018 season quickly approaching.
Cornerback — Clayton Johnson
UTSA’s two-deep will be flush with new faces this season but few positions will see as much turnover as cornerback. A speedy walk-on who started his collegiate career at Oklahoma State, Clayton Johnson worked his way into a crowded cornerback rotation last season before going down for the year with a knee injury. If the 5’11” junior is fully recovered from his knee injury then he could develop into a real ballhawk for the UTSA defense.
Defensive End — Lorenzo Dantzler
The Last Chance U product Lorenzo Dantzler arrived in San Antonio under lofty expectations. While junior Eric Banks gives UTSA an established pass rush, it’s Dantzler that will determine whether or not the Roadrunners will be able to pressure quarterbacks as consistently as they did in 2017. Based on the early returns of Dantzler’s production in the spring game, the expectations are not out of place. Danztler has fine-tuned his technique and has a frame that’s ready-made to battle with Conference USA offensive tackles.
Linebacker - Demarco Guidry
A two-way stand out at La Marque High School, Guidry was an explosive playmaker on both sides of the ball at the prep level. With exceptional speed and lightning-quick instincts, Guidry should only further develop as a football player now that he’s focusing on a single position. After redshirting in 2017, Guidry has transformed his physique to look the part of a Division I linebacker. I expect him to back up Josiah Tauaefa at middle linebacker to start the season but Guidry might be too athletic to keep off the field as a starter if Les Mauro doesn’t make a huge impact at outside linebacker in the first few games of the season.
Safety — Brenndan Johnson
Amidst a secondary full of three-star recruits, sophomore Brenndan Johnson stands out as one of the few experienced members returning with notable snaps in key contests to point to. While Johnson won’t be the most athletic player on the field or make flashy plays, his proven ability to make the right decision in coverage will shorten the field for opposing quarterbacks. Johnson can take a step forward by contributing more often against the run when lined up in a nickleback position.
Defensive Line — Jaylon Haynes
Whether he lines up as a defensive tackle or defensive end, sophomore Jaylon Haynes has the ability to play in the backfield. A late bloomer out of small-town Wharton, Texas, UTSA successfully held off Power Five programs when they came calling to flip Haynes. Despite limited playing time in 2017, Haynes still found himself named to the Conference USA All-Freshman team after making a quick impression on the league’s coaches. UTSA’s defensive line is stacked but if an opportunity for playing time presents itself then Haynes could establish himself as the future of UTSA’s defensive line thanks to his quick release off the ball and his bully mindset in the trenches.