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Reviewing UTSA’s 2014 recruiting class

Larry Coker uncovered some true hidden gems in a top-heavy signing class.

UTSA v Kansas State Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

With the 2018 season wrapped up, it’s time to turn our eyes back five years to evaluate the 2014 signing class. It was a small group with just 16 members, but then-head coach Larry Coker was able to make the small class count by picking out some high-ceiling athletes.

To give context, UTSA was coming off their best football season in program history when this class put pen to paper. The Roadrunners shocked Conference USA in their first season in the conference, turning in a 7-5 record and losing just two games in conference play. UTSA was not allowed to attend a bowl game due to NCAA rules regarding transitional FBS members.

For organizational sake, I’m going to break the class down into three categories. “Cornerstones” are star players that were multi-year starters, “Contributors” are single-year starters or players that at least provided quality depth when called upon, and “Flameouts” either did not earn much playing time, transferred, or left the program. A solid recruiting class should see a pretty even 33% distribution between all three categories.

Cornerstones

Marcus Davenport - Defensive End - Stevens HS

Have to start out with UTSA’s greatest player of all time. The San Antonio product chose UTSA over UNLV at the last minute and would go on to write the history books at UTSA. Davenport was selected in the first round of the NFL draft by the New Orleans Saints and has performed extremely well in his rookie season. Davenport made a huge impact in his first game as a Roadrunner as UTSA would upset Houston as the Cougars opened up TDECU Stadium. #93 would continuously improve his craft despite having three different defensive line coaches throughout his years at UTSA.

Nate Gaines - Safety - Poteet HS

Gaines played in 44 games throughout his career at UTSA, totaling 198 tackles, 5.5 TFLs, 21 pass deflections, and eight interceptions. You’ll see this trend play out for several players in this class, but Gaines’ UTSA career could have been even more special had he redshirted in the 2014 season. Gaines played in 10 games that season but mostly in a special teams role, earning just one tackle on the season. While Gaines never found a spot on an NFL roster, he was a foundational player for the UTSA defense.

Kevin Strong - Defensive Tackle - Cleveland HS

While Kevin Strong never quite took the last leap to becoming a truly dominate defensive tackle, Strong was right on that bubble for his entire career. A four-year starter, Strong would often flash NFL level talent before disappearing for entire games. Nonetheless, Strong finished his UTSA career with 106 tackles, 26.5 tackles for loss, and 7.5 sacks.

Jalen Rhodes - Running Back - Rowlett HS

Rhodes had a truly wild football career. After a knee injury and coaching change caused Rhodes to lose his commitment and scholarship offer to Texas Tech, Rhodes ended up at UTSA as a greyshirt. After delaying his enrollment for a year, Rhodes would then redshirt his freshman season, likely making him the oldest player on last year’s roster. Rhodes was phenomenal as a sophomore and junior, however he failed to build on those performances as a senior. Despite his underwhelming senior season, Rhodes finished his UTSA career with just under 2,000 rushing yards, making him the second-most productive running back in UTSA history.

Kerry Thomas - Wide Receiver - A&M Consolidated HS

UTSA’s all-time leader in receiving yards, Thomas was a late-bloomer who flew under the radar as a high school recruit. While Thomas wasn’t a world-class athlete, he was a very efficient route runner and put up some huge games in his time at UTSA. Thomas left the program with a career total 1,630 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns.

Dalton Sturm - Quarterback - Goliad HS

I wouldn’t typically include a walk-on in an article like this, but Sturm was such an exceptional player for UTSA that I’m forced to add him to the signing class. UTSA’s first quarterback to ever sign a professional contract, Sturm was the ultimate diamond in the rough as a preferred walk-on out of tiny Goliad, Texas. With the Roadrunners’ QB room in disarray, Sturm’s ability to improvise plays and pick up yardage with his feet made him a strong three year starter for the Roadrunners. Perhaps UTSA’s 2018 season would have ended very differently had Sturm been allowed to redshirt as a freshman instead of burning a year of eligibility by throwing three passes in a single game.

UTSA v Florida International
Dalton Sturm drops back for a pass against FIU in 2017.
Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images

Contributors

Carl Austin III - Safety - St. Stephen’s Episcopal HS

A greyshirt signee, Austin played in 11 games a true freshman but most of his action came on special teams. Austin would get his first start as a sophomore before pitching in with seven starts in 2017. While Austin was expected to be a leader for the defense in 2018, an injury kept him off the field last fall. I assume Austin would be eligible for a medical redshirt for next season, should he choose to pursue it. If not, Austin is another example of a UTSA athlete that was forced to use a year of eligibility before he was ready to truly contribute, costing him a season of his prime potential.

Greg Campbell Jr. - Wide Receiver - Atascocita HS

I had a hard time deciding which category to place Campbell in. A true late-bloomer, Campbell showed promise throughout his career but never really followed through on it until his senior season. While some of his strong performances came in his junior year, it’s hard for me to label a receiver who only caught two touchdown passes as a cornerstone athlete. While it took some time for his ability to shine through, Campbell finished his UTSA career with the Roadrunners’ best single-game performance from a wide receiver in Campbell’s final game.

Flameouts

David Anzaldua - Offensive Lineman - Edinburg North HS

Given his massive size coming out of high school, Anzaldua was one of UTSA’s biggest recruiting wins at the time. For a program that had never seen success recruiting high school offensive linemen, UTSA beating out several in-state suitors for Anzaldua’s service was reason to celebrate. Unfortunately, the massive lineman failed to pan out. Anzaldua’s playing time came almost exclusively as a blocker on the place kicking unit.

Blake Bogenschutz - Quarterback - Carthage HS

For a brief moment in time, Bogenschutz appeared to be the savior of the UTSA program. The young gunslinger was the first true freshman to ever start a game at quarterback for UTSA. Bogenschutz first made a name for himself after coming off the bench in a 8-of-14 performance against Oklahoma State. Tragically, “Bogie” would have his freshman season cut short with an injury, before suffering career-ending concussions as a sophomore. Bogenschutz would remain with the team in an assistant coaching role before graduating.

NCAA FOOTBALL: SEP 03 Texas San Antonio at Arizona
Blake Bogenschutz could have changed the trajectory of UTSA’s program had it not been for an awful concussion.
Photo by Chris Coduto/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images

Joseph Brooks - Defensive Tackle - San Angelo Central HS

Brooks signed with UTSA as a greyshirt but never saw playing time at UTSA. Left the program before graduating.

Triston Crossland - Tight End - Calallen HS

A tight end/H back hybrid, Crossland was forced to end his football career prematurely due to injury.

Stanley Dye - Cornerback - Ridgeview HS (FL)

One of the fastest athletes to ever play for UTSA, Dye never quite managed to earn significant playing time throughout his four seasons of eligibility. Dye was a special teams contributor who finished his career with 35 tackles, 20 of which came in his sophomore season.

Cameron Oliver - Tight End - Owasso HS (OK)

Oliver spent one season with UTSA before leaving the program. Did not record any statistics at UTSA.

Isaiah Santos - Safety - Klein Collins HS

Another greyshirt signee, Santos played on special teams in 11 games as a freshman before leaving the program.

Justin Todd - Linebacker - Oakleaf HS

An extremely promising player, Todd was getting looks as a starting linebacker as early as his freshman season. A neck injury forced him to retire, but Todd stayed with the program as a defensive assistant while he finished up his degree.

Kelby Wickline - Offensive Tackle - Stillwater HS (OK)

While at UTSA, Wickline was a scrawny offensive tackle who didn’t have the strength or girth to earn playing time. Wickline left the program to play for a JUCO and suddenly gained 50 pounds. A year later, Wickline became West Virginia’s starting left tackle. Weird.

Conclusions

The 2014 recruiting class for UTSA was an extremely unbalanced class. While it produced many of the programs’ all time greats (including walk-on turned QB star Dalton Sturm), it failed to produce depth in many aspects. The class of 16 scholarship athletes included five players that I would label as “Cornerstone” athletes, two strong contributors, and nine flameouts. Only five players would end up playing for the Roadrunners as a redshirt senior.

Too many players were forced into playing time as freshmen, costing them what could have been terrific redshirt senior seasons. Injuries played a huge role in the outcome of the class, as a third of the class would suffer a major injury that either ended their career entirely or cut it short.

One could argue whether or not Larry Coker’s decision to sign so many athletes as greyshirts was a wise approach or not, however I lean towards it being a failure. Coker filled up his class early by offering recruits as greyshirts in 2012, leaving few spots open that could have been filled with more talented players after the Roadrunners showed that they were able to compete in Conference USA through the 2013 season. While a couple of the greyshirts enjoyed great careers, the majority of them flamed out.

Perhaps most harmful to the program’s success was Larry Coker’s failure to recruit a single successful offensive lineman to the program in this recruiting class. While Kelby Wickline may have ended up being UTSA’s best high school offensive lineman recruit had he stayed in San Antonio, his early departure from the program has left UTSA dependent on JUCO linemen in 2019 and beyond.