In only its sixth year as a program and fourth year in Conference USA, University of Texas-San Antonio made its first major shake up prior to the 2016 season.
After former UTSA head coach Larry Coker resigned on Jan. 5 after going 26-32 in UTSA’s first five seasons, the Roadrunners hired first-year head coach Frank Wilson.
Wilson came to UTSA after a six-year stint as LSU’s running backs coach and recruiting coordinator from 2010-15 and also served as associate head coach in his final four seasons with the Tigers. Wilson was named the 2015 Scout.com SEC Recruiter of the Year.
Over his six seasons at LSU, Wilson was known as one of the top recruiters in the country and helped develop six running backs that were selected in the NFL Draft, including Jeremy Hill and Stevan Ridley while also recruiting Leonard Fournette to Baton Rouge.
UTSA is 1-1 to open up its 2016 campaign under Wilson, with a season opening 26-13 win against Alabama State and a 23-14 loss to Colorado State on Saturday. The Colorado Buffaloes beat Colorado State 44-7 in week one.
The Roadrunners went 3-9 overall, 3-5 in conference last season and were predicted by media to finish the 2016 season fifth out of six teams in Conference USA’s West Division.
Joining Wilson at UTSA is first-year offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Frank Scelfo, who came to the Roadrunners from the Jacksonville Jaguars where he served as a senior offensive assistant in 2015 after two years as the quarterbacks coach.
Prior to his time with Jacksonville, Scelfo spent two seasons (2010-11) as the quarterbacks coach at Arizona.
Scelfo coached Philadelphia Eagles 2012 third-round pick Nick Foles, who finished his career at Arizona as the school’s all-time leader in passing yards (10,011), touchdowns (67), attempts (1,369) and completions (933).
With UTSA, Scelfo has incorporated a more balanced pro-style offense with spread concepts in which both running and passing can be featured. Scelfo told InsideRunnerSports.com, a Scout.com site, that the UTSA offense is “multiple” and they will be doing a lot of things in season that best fits their personnel.
In UTSA’s loss to Colorado State, both junior quarterback Dalton Sturm and Sam Houston State grad transfer quarterback Jared Johnson played for the Roadrunners.
With UTSA platooning its quarterbacks, Sturm earned the start and completed 15-of-23 passes for 176 yards and two touchdowns, while Johnson was inserted in the third quarter and added 60 yards through the air on 5-of-7 passing.
Last season, Sturm was named the starter in UTSA’s final seven games after former UTSA quarterback Blake Bogenschutz missed the final seven games due to injury. In February, Bogenschutz announced he was forced to retire due to “lingering concussion-like symptoms.”
With Bogenschutz out for the latter half of 2015, Sturm went 125-of-212 passing for 1,354 yards and 13 touchdowns in 10 total games played. So far this season, Sturm is 35-for-48 for 450 yards and four touchdowns with UTSA even though Johnson has played in both of the team's contests.
Under Scelfo and Wilson’s offense, the two quarterbacks have the chance to make the vertical throws downfield, while Coker’s offense required the quarterback to make a lot of horizontal throws and play sideline-to-sideline. Scelfo’s offense also incorporates a lot of motions and shifts.
The Roadrunners looked sharp in their opening drive against Colorado State on Saturday, but after that, the offense lost its luster. The Roadrunners were held scoreless and only gained 76 yards of offense in the second half.
In a 13-play, 61-yard opening drive that eclipsed six minutes, Sturm commanded the slower tempo and was confident in the pocket. With Sturm leading a balanced drive with six passing plays and six running plays, the end result was a 10-yard touchdown catch by junior wide receiver Kerry Thomas Jr.
Thomas was an honorable mention All-Conference USA selection last season after starting all 12 games and setting a program record with 52 receptions. His 52 receptions resulted in 541 yards and four touchdowns.
Thomas was the second-leading receiver against Colorado State with four catches for 41 yards, trailing UTSA running back Jalen Rhodes’ career-high five catches for 54 yards out of the backfield.
Despite having 236 total passing yards in the game, the Roadrunners were held to minus-one rushing yards on the night due to six sacks given up by UTSA’s offensive line. The Roadrunners were last in Conference USA last season in total number of sacks allowed with 44.
Rhodes was UTSA’s leading rusher, gaining a mere 39 yards off 13 carries.
UTSA relied heavily on its run game last season, racking up 2,026 rushing yards on 510 attempts. Senior running back Jarveon Williams was fourth in Conference USA in rushing last season as a junior, carrying the ball 174 times for 1,042 yards, averaging 6.0 yards per carry and 94.7 yards per game.
Williams became the program’s first-ever 1,000-yard rusher and also had eight touchdowns.
Against Colorado State, Williams only had 14 carries for 39 yards in addition to two catches for 28 yards. He sprained his left ankle in the Roadrunners’ season opener and didn’t return to full-contact practice until last Thursday.
Last year, UTSA finished No. 9 in scoring offense in the conference with a 22.6 points per game average, a little over half of what No. 1 Western Kentucky’s offense put up per game with 44.3. The Roadrunners also finished No. 9 in total offense, racking up 362.3 yards per game.
On the defensive side of the ball, UTSA finished No. 9 in Conference USA in scoring defense last season, giving up 33.8 points per game while only tallying 22 sacks. Against Alabama State, UTSA’s defense had a program-record six sacks, but against Colorado State it had zero.
Colorado State put up 116 rushing yards in the first quarter alone. Last season, UTSA was No. 8 in rushing defense, allowing 168.5 yards per game.
Heading up the UTSA defense this year is first-year defensive coordinator and cornerbacks coach Pete Golding. Golding came to UTSA after a two-year stint as an assistant coach at Southern Miss, where he coached the safeties. Arizona State offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey came to ASU this season after also spending two years at Southern Miss.
With ASU coming to town for Friday's matchup, the Roadrunners are looking for their first victory against a Power 5 conference opponent as the program is winless in seven previous meetings against three Power 5 opponents, including marks of 0-3 against Oklahoma State, 0-3 against Arizona, and 0-1 against Kansas State.