1.) With 19 senior starters returning, along with 37 total seniors, what are the internal expectations of this season’s team?
JJ: The 2014 campaign is already the most exciting season in UTSA history. Expectations are through the roof. Head Coach Larry Coker has made it a point to say multiple times that he does not want to temper those expectations. UTSA wants to play for the Conference USA Title and they want to play in a bowl game. In 2013, the Roadrunners were in the mix for the CUSA Title game as well as a potential bowl bid all the way up to the last week of the regular season. Every player, especially those seniors, have made it known that they want to be a part of the first team that goes to a bowl game. Barring anything wild (like a slew of injuries or terrible luck), UTSA feels like they have a team good enough to win CUSA and win a bowl game.
2.) With Eric Soza gone, the only starting QB in UTSA history who's now an offensive quality control coach at UH, how are the Roadrunners QBs looking during fall camp?
JJ: Losing Eric Soza was a tough blow, no two ways around it. Soza was actually on staff for UTSA a brief time during the spring before leaving to Houston over the summer. Regardless, UTSA has moved forward and Senior Tucker Carter is the man taking the reigns of the offense. A Juco player out of Trinity Valley, Carter knows what it's like to wait his turn. In high school, he was a backup QB with the Allen Eagles. An injury early in the playoffs thrust Carter into the spotlight. All Carter did was lead Allen to the Texas 5A State Championship in 2008. After being under-recruited, Carter went the Juco route were he put up video game numbers at Trinity Valley: 2,654 yards passing yard, 26 TDs, 334 rush yards and 8 rushing TDs. He was the SWJC Conference Offensive Player of the Year in 2011. In 2012, he redshirted for UTSA but traveled to every game. Carter saw some action in cleanup duty in 2013 but his game experience is minimal. The one positive he has is his knowledge of the offense, which is overly complex at times. Because Carter arrived early at UTSA, he has been studying the offense for about 2.5 years now and is very familiar with the expectations of Offensive Coordinator Kevin Brown. So even though UTSA has a new QB at the helm, it's really a very familiar face, especially to all of the players on the team. Over this off-season, Carter has become more of the team's vocal-leader. On the field, he's looked razor-sharp.
There are also two freshman QBs to keep an eye on. Redshirt freshman Austin Robinson will see some action this season. A dual-threat QB out of Bellaire Episcopal in Houston, Robinson is more of a threat to run than to pass but look for him to see action as a change up every now and then. The wildcard at the QB position is true freshman Blake Bogenschutz, out of Carthage in East Texas . The MVP of the State 3A Championship Game, Bogenschutz hit the ground running over this summer and could very well push Robinson for that backup position. Tucker Carter is the unequivocal number one quarterback, but the underlying story line that may be talked about the entire season is who will be number two QB will be.
3.) How will the offense look overall with a new QB leading the way? Will there be any tweaks in the offense designed to take advantage of the skill set of whoever is named as the starter?
JJ: The offense will basically be the same in that it will always look multiple. It was no secret that Soza did not have a big arm. So rarely did UTSA try to stretch the field vertically. On the flip side, Tucker Carter has the ability to make some throws that couldn't have been made last year. But don't expect to see a lot of that from UTSA. Offensive Coordinator Kevin Brown likes to run the ball and stay multiple, meaning, you'll continue to see various formations and a ton of shifting and motion pre-snap. A lot of what you'll continue to see are jet sweeps, reverses, intermediary passes, some tight end action, and some old fashion running on the back of Senior RB David Glasco II and true Sophomore RB Jarveon Williams. While Carter to take a shot every now and then down the field, that is just not the way of the UTSA offense.
4.) How is the "Hard Hat Defense" looking during fall camp? Who are the defensive players Coogfans should be on the looking for come the season opener?
JJ: The Hard Hat Defense has the potential to be one of the best in Conference USA. Anchored by the defensive line, there are probably two sets of starters on the front four. DTs Ferrington Macon and Ashaad Mabry are the main guys in the middle while DE Robert Singletary (a Baylor transfer) has the making of a true superstar. Jens Jeters at Hawk LB and Nic Johnston at Dawg Safety are two big-hitting players who are fly all around the field. The one weakness in the defense last season was giving up big passing plays. But the secondary has improved, and now has more experience. Free Safety Triston Wade was an All-CUSA player in 2013 and already looks to be in mid-season form. CB Bennett Okotcha (an Oklahoma transfer) is also expected to have a big season.
5.) Considering the Coogs barely led in last season's game between the two, 24-21 late in the third before pulling away in the fourth, what did the UTSA players and staff take away from the game?
JJ: The game was very close. There was a blocked field goal in the middle of the third quarter that would have made that score even closer. But that's the game of football. That was the first game where UTSA really felt like they let one slip away. Maybe Houston holds on for the win anyway, but the manner in which the wheels fell off in that fourth quarter really left a bad taste in their mouth. There is no sugar-coating what happened, 5 turnovers in the final quarter of a one possession game is as big of an implosion as you will ever see. A win for UTSA at home vs an in-state team would probably been the biggest win of the season for the Roadrunners, or at least in the top 2-3. So there's some extra motivation there.