JJ’s Journal 8.19.15

InsideRunnerSports.com Reporter JJ Perez provides you his thoughts on various UTSA-related topics.

Open Competition at QB

Contrary to the opinion of many, I believe the competition for UTSA’s starting QB is not set is in stone but in-fact a true open competition. Redshirt Freshman Blake Bogenschutz was named the starter to begin the fall. The East Texas-native has done everything he’s needed to do to hold on to the starting job at this point in fall practices. And if the season began today, he certainly deserves to be the starter. But Senior Transfer Russell Bellomy has shown considerable improvement from the beginning of practices. Last week, Offensive Coordinator Kevin Brown told me that Bellomy was taking reps with the first team offense. At Friday’s open practice, I’d estimate that those reps were a 50-50 split between Bogenschutz and Bellomy. Without being able to look at more of practice, it’s hard to determine otherwise. Coach Brown and Head Coach Larry Coker have each insisted that it is in fact a competition and that it is ongoing. And while that may come across to some as “coach-speak”, based on my previous dealings with both coaches, I do believe there is some credence to the fact that the final decision of who will start and play at Arizona in just a few weeks is still up in the air. At the end of the day I’m not sure how much it really matters. Clearly Bogenschutz is the best QB for the offense right now but who’s to say that doesn’t change from week to week or half to half. Bogenschutz is still a redshirt freshman QB with not a whole lot of experience. And honestly, Bellomy didn’t play enough in his time at Michigan to get a good read of what he’s capable of. So maybe a few weeks in the fall isn’t enough time to see who deserves to be the permanent starter. If and when a starter is named, how permanent will it be? And what’s the likelihood that we’ll still see a backup? Based on my observations at practice and discussions with coaches, I get the feeling that we could see multiple QBs, at lead early in the 2015 season. But that’s just a hunch/gut-feeling. We’ll find out for sure in about two weeks.

O-Line Battling Through

The offensive line is banged up. Starting Center Juan Perez has missed considerable time this fall with an arm injury. Last week we saw Guard Zach Hester and Tackle Jordan Gray miss some time. O-Line Coach Mike Markuson is fortunate enough to have several versatile players who can slide from position to position, most notably William Cavanaugh, who has logged some time at Center filling in for Perez. And while experience and depth is thin, the patchwork unit appears to be effective enough opening up running lanes and protecting the QB. Any other attrition could make the start of the season a very difficult one. But with a few weeks until kickoff, players still have time to heal up and be ready for Arizona.

D-Line Depth

The defensive line is also battling some health issues but on Friday, we saw some younger players make some plays. Baylen Baker, T.J. King, Josiah Tauaefa, and a few others showed some eye-opening talent. While the likelihood of those players seeing playing time in 2015 will largely depend on the health and production of others in front of them, it was refreshing to see what the d-line has waiting in the wings, so to speak.

Future Depth at Mike LB

If there’s one place that lacks considerable depth, it is at the Mike LB position. The loss of Freshman Justin Todd has put UTSA in a precarious position. Senior Drew Douglas is a proven commodity and one of the cornerstones of the Hard Hat D. Dalton Miller has worked his way from walk-on to a scholarship player and is also a solid producer. But after that, there’s isn’t another scholarship player available at the Mike LB position. Currently, UTSA will enter the 2016 season without a Mike LB on the roster. Now several things could happen, one of the Hawk LBs (Marcos Curry or La’Kel Bass) could move over. Another player could change positions. Or UTSA could recruit 1-2 LBs in this cycle (either a Juco or a high school player). Either way, the search for a Mike LB will be one to watch as this recruiting cycle goes on.

Improved Defense

Former UTSA players Tristan Wade and Ashaad Mabry made their preseason NFL debuts last weekend. Each played well. Wade recovered a fumble and recorded three tackles Friday night for the Seahawks. Mabry recorded three tackles for the Saints. Each improved their chances of making their teams as undrafted free agents. Both Wade and Mabry made a significant mark during their tenure at UTSA. But as you look at the talent that hits the Roadrunner practice fields every day, you can’t help but be optimistic about the future. There is more speed and more ability on the field for UTSA this season than ever before. And while guy likes Wade, Mabry, Eric Soza, Nate Leonard, Steven Kurfehs, and others were the pioneers who built this program, a new era ushers in this season. Safety Nate Gaines may be one of the most talented players on the defense. Gaines will have the ability to produce at a level equal to or greater than what Wade did. There is a trio of young corners in Aneas Henricks, Stanley Dye and N’Keal Bailey who are as fast and talented as anyone on the defense, and they’re backups at their position. Michael Egwuagu has defined himself as one of the leaders of this team. And Marcos Curry may be the best LB we’ve seen at the Hawk position, which says something considering Jens Jeters and Steven Kurfehs came before him. The Hard Hat D was good in 2014, considering the won-loss record. If the defense can harness some of this young talent, we may see one of the top defensive units in CUSA in 2015.

Headed to Arizona

I’ll be headed to Tuscon two weeks from Wednesday for the season-opening game against Arizona. This will be my second trip to the Valley of the Sun. I covered the UTSA vs Arizona game two years ago. That was not a good trip for me. It was a lopsided Wildcats win. To top it off, I picked up food poisoning on game day and drove back home in the middle of night after the loss with a large bottle of Pepto Bismal. This time around, I’m looking forward to a much different trip. Arizona is coming on a very good season. Oddsmakers have UTSA as much as a 32 point underdog. With the 2014 matchup in San Antonio going down to the wire, you know Arizona will be hard-pressed to over look the Roadrunners. I’m expecting a very competitive game. And no food poisoning.

Closing Thoughts – We’ve Made It

In just a few more days, summer will be over. The months of September, October, and November are some of my favorite. These months are filled with almost too much sports happenings to keep up with. But we will. Because we love it. Enjoy.

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