Fall Camp Countdown: Looking at the O-Line

UTSA begins fall practices in less than two weeks. We continue our “Fall Camp Countdown” series looking at the Offensive Line.

Like many other positions, it’s a season of change along the offensive line. But with a new position coach and group that is short on experience, can this new look offensive line show improve over last seasons group?

Position: Offensive Line
Starters: LT Reed Darragh, So; LG Kyle McKinney, So, C Juan Perez, So; RG William Cavanaugh, Sr; RT Jordan Gray, Sr
Backups: Cody Cole, Jr; Austing Pratt, So; Clayton Woods, Fr; David Anzuldua, RS Fr; Gabe Casillas, Jr; Kelby Wickline, Fr

Seniors Will Cavanaugh and Jordan Gray are the only returners on the pre-fall depth chart who have logged significant playing time in previous seasons for new Offensive Line Coach Mike Markuson.

Cavanaugh has started 15 games (played in 25) while Gray has started 8 games (played in 28). LT Reed Darragh saw action in 11 games last season but most of that was on special teams. So where are the question marks?

Let’s start at Center. By the end of last season, Juan Perez was nearly splitting time with starter Nate Leonard. Perez played in 11 games in 2014. During the spring, however, he suffered an injury to his snapping hand that prevented him from snapping. True Freshman Clayton Woods stepped in and was played well. Perez did not sit out the spring, rather he moved to right tackle to fill in for a then-injured Jordan Gray. Perez is versatile enough to play every position on the line. Very much like RG Will Cavanaugh, both of these players should be able to be solid contributors to this new look o-line. Perez and Cavanaugh are two players where there are no questions.

Right Tackle may be a bit of a mystery. Former TE Jorday Gray is a little undersized at 265lbs, but that’s been said about him for the greater part of two seasons. While Gray has been serviceable at RT, he’s been hit by injuries throughout his career at UTSA. That’s where California Juco transfer Gabe Casillas comes in. For the better part of three recruiting cycles, UTSA has tried to land a Juco Tackle. They finally landed one in Casillas this past cycle. The caveat is that Casillas was not an early transfer and wasn’t able to be on campus for the spring. So he’ll be behind the eight-ball, so to speak, in learning the offense. With good size at 6-5 and 280lbs, Casillas is expecting to come in a push for significant playing time. He is currently listed as backup RT with true freshman Kelby Wickline.

The left side of the offensive line may have the most questions marks. Sophomores Kyle McKinney (LG) and Reed Darragh (LT) both have very little experience. Darragh preformed well this past spring. He has the footwork and size to become a prototypical offensive tackle for UTSA. The big question is can he make the step up this season? McKinney is in a similar position at the LG position; however, he’ll have Blinn Juco transfer Austin Pratt on his heels pushing for playing time. Pratt comes to UTSA as a late addition to the 2015 recruiting class. Like McKinney he has three years of eligibility remaining.

Another interesting note is redshirt freshman David Anzuldua. At 6-6 and 330lbs, Anzuldua was originally recruited to play tackle. In the spring, we saw Anzuldua play several positions. Like many other players, Anzuldua had his good and bad moments. But his move from tackle to guard could be an indication that he still needs improvement, specifically with his footwork.

The biggest question marks entering the season will be the interjection of the two new Juco players (Gabe Casillas and Austin Pratt). How quickly can these two players, who weren’t participating in spring workouts, pick up the offense? Will they push the existing players to higher heights or surpass them on the depth chart? The old football adage is that competition breeds success. O-line coach Mike Markuson will be hoping so because with the gauntlet that is the first four games of the 2015 season, there won’t be time for learning things on the fly. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility to expect to see several different combinations of offensive linemen to start the season before things settle in. If that’s the case, we could see players in various positions during the upcoming fall practices.

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