UTSA Defensive Preview

UTSA's defense had an impressive performance against Houston and will look to match it on Thursday when Arizona comes to town. Read on to see what makes the Roadrunners' defense so strong and more.

While there are some questions about UTSA on the offensive side of the ball, the defensive unit figures to be solid and that starts up front with the two defensive tackles that have combined for 36 career starts.

At 5-foot-11, 310-pounds, senior Ferrington Macon is the stay at home run plugger while 6-foot-3, 315-pound Ashaad Mabry is relied on to push the pocket, as evidenced by his four tackles, two of which came for a loss and a sack in UTSA’s defensive domination over Houston.

UTSA plays the majority of its two deep on defense and the second string tackles are to be respected as well.

Senior Richard Burge had 1.5 tackles for loss and picked up half a sack with 6-foot-3, 310-pound junior Brian Price. Although they may be considered backups, both are plenty capable.

UTSA has slightly undersized defensive ends, but they tend to still get the job done. Senior Cody Rogers has the most experience, but 6-foot-2, 260-poound junior Jason Neill may be the best end on the team. Against Houston, Neill had three tackles, one of which was a sack.

Once again, it does not end with the starters, as sophomore Codie Brooks played well against Houston with five tackles.

There is good size at the two linebacker positions with 230-pound linebackers Drew Douglas and Jens Jeters. The upperclassmen combined for 10 tackles in the season opener and Jeters chipped in a forced fumble and recovery.

The five man secondary unit is dominated by experience and talent and is led by the safety duo of Triston Wade and strong safety Nic Johnston.

Wade is the ballhawk of the two and there is a reason his name is etched all over the UTSA defensive record books. Wade is the program’s all-time leader in interceptions (8), pass breakups (21), forced fumbles (7) and fumble recoveries (4) and ranks second in tackles (207).

He got his senior season off to a good start with an interception and a two pass break ups last week.

Johnston is far more of an in the box player and figures to be one of UTSA’s leading tacklers this season, as evidenced by his team-leading eight tackles against Houston.

He is the program’s all-time leader in tackles for loss (14), forced fumbles (7) and fumble recoveries (4) in addition to ranking second in interceptions (4).

Lining up at rover is 6-foot-0, 200-pound Mauricio Sanchez. He redshirted last season due to injury, but Sanchez he nonetheless played a solid first game, snagging an interception and forcing a pass breakup.

Junior cornerback Bennett Okatcha and 5-foot-9, 200-pound senior Darrien Starling bring a wealth of experience to the table that blanketed the Houston receivers all game.

Okatchka is preseason second-team All-Conference USA and had a team-leading 11 pass break ups last season.

Reserve cornerback Crosby Adams III is equally as capable and he flashed that in the season opener with an impressive interception.

Players to Watch

#97, DT Ashaad Mabry: Big and fast, Mabry looks the part of an NFL defensive lineman and was a constant force in UTSA”s first game. Arizona has a good offensive line and it figures to be tested by Mabry.

#7, CB Triston Wade: There is a reason Wade is regarded as one of the best safeties in the country. He is already the UTSA all time leader in picks and he looks to be primed for a special senior season.

#22, SS Nic Johnston: His versatility offers UTSA a great amount of flexibility. Johnston can be an effective blitzer and also possesses the ability to cover.

Keys to the game

Stay efficient: This UTSA defense is experienced, big, fast and physical and they showed all these qualities in their first game destruction against Houston. They fly around to the ball and figure to turn Arizona over in the case of too many third and longs.

Run the Ball: UTSA’s tackle combination is one of the better duos that Arizona will see in their early season schedule. If Arizona can run the ball, it likely changes everything for UTSA.

Don’t force the issue: A punt against UTSA isn’t the worst thing in the world. The Roadrunners' offense leaves much to be desired and if the UA can avoid turning the ball over a blowout win is possible.

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