(Part 2 of a 14-part Conference USA preview series
Looking for further success, Texas San Antonio returns a solid core from the first bowl team in school history.
UTSA (6-7, 5-3) doubled its 2015 win total and received the first bowl invitation in the six-year history of the program.
Frank Wilson, the former New Orleans O.P. Walker head coach and LSU assistant, begins his second year at UTSA with 13 returning starters (6 offense, 7 defense).
Offensive coordinator Frank Scelfo, who began his coaching career as Prairie View's head football and baseball coach, welcomes back starting quarterback Dalton Strum, seven of the eight top receivers, an accomplished running back and three holdovers on the offensive line.
Last year, the Roadrunners ranked sixth in Conference USA in scoring (29.2 points per game), ninth in rushing (161.8 yards per game) and passing (213.6 ypg), and eighth in total yardage (375.5 ypg).
A senior with 20 career starts to his credit, Strum completed 169-of-299 passes for 2,170 yards and 20 touchdowns against six interceptions. He was also the team's third-leading rusher (110 carries, 313 yards, 4 TDs). True freshman Bryce Rivers, a hometown product out of San Antonio Stevens, is the backup.
Junior running back Jalen Rhodes (155-827-9) steps into a starting role after splitting reps with Jarveon Williams (207-900-8).
Led by the tandem of senior brothers Josh Stewart (36 receptions, 682 yards, 5 touchdowns, 18.9 yards per catch) and Kerry Thomas Jr. (35-555-8), the Roadrunners are loaded at wide receiver. Among the others to watch are senior wide receiver Brady Jones (26-322-3) and senior tight end Shaq Williams (13-158-2).
UTSA is looking for improvement up front after allowing 43 sacks a year ago. Senior guards Austin Pratt and Stefan Beard and center Kyle McKinney return, with senior Reed Darragh and sophomore junior college transfer Josh Dunlop taking over at the tackles.
Featuring seven incumbents, the defense should be solid again after ranking third in the conference in scoring (27.9 ppg), sixth in rushing (162.5 ypg), fifth in passing (229.5 ypg) and fourth in total yardage (392).
Redshirt sophomore linebacker Josiah Tauaefa, the first Freshman All-American in school history, is the face of the defense. Tauefea accounted for a school-record 115 tackles, nine tackles for loss, six sacks, seven quarterback hurries and an interception en route to first-team All-C-USA accolades. Flanking Tauaefa is senior La'Kel Bass (87 tackles, 11 TFL, 5 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries), the team's No. 2 tackler.
Senior Marcus Davenport (68 tackles, 10 TFL, 6.5 sacks, 8 QBH) and junior Kevin Strong Jr. (24 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 1 sack) are the ends, with sophomore Baylen Baker (19 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1 sack) at tackle.
Senior safety Nate Gaines (80 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1 INT) is among three holdovers in the secondary, along with Austin Jupe (22 tackles) and sophomore Teddrick McGhee (25 tackles, 1 INT) at the corners. Juniors C.J. Levine (32 tackles) and Darryl Godfrey (7 tackles, 1 TFL) are the projected strong safeties.
A trio of juniors return in the kicking game. Daniel Portillo booted 27 of his 68 kickoffs for touchbacks. Victor Falcon was 12-of-17 with a long of 45 in the field goal department and 43-of-43 on PATs. Punter Yannis Routsas averaged 42 yards on 69 attempts.
Sophomore Matt Guidry returned 19 kickoffs for an average of 22.8 yards and four punts for 16.2.
2017 UTSA SCHEDULE
DATE OPPONENT TIME
Sept. 2 Houston 6:00
Sept. 9 at Baylor 7:00
Sept. 16 Southern TBA
Sept. 23 at Texas State TBA
Oct. 7 Southern Miss* TBA
Oct. 14 at North Texas* TBA
Oct. 21 Rice* TBA
Oct. 28 at UTEP* 7:00
Nov. 4 at FIU* 6:00
Nov. 11 UAB* TBA
Nov. 18 Marshall* TBA
Nov. 25 at Louisiana Tech* TBA