InsideRunnerSports Reporter JJ Perez gives you his thoughts on several UTSA-related topics.
JJ’s Journal for 8.31.15
Time For Some Football
In just a few days, football season is officially back. Like others, I’ve long waited for its return. While I did have a good summer filled with trips to the beach, lake, river and other outings that included bbqs, friends, and family, there really is nothing quite like football season. Am I wrong here? Especially if you follow the college game. Every week is almost like an event in and out itself. The 2015 season starts off with some huge non-conference matchups, then rivalries and conference games will soon begin. It’s almost like there’s a brand new story line to follow each and every week all across the nation. On behalf of football fans everywhere, I say bring it on!
Bogenschutz Earns Top Spot
To no one’s surprise, redshirt freshman Blake Bogenschutz was named UTSA
’s starting QB for the season-opening game vs Arizona. By all accounts, the East-Texas native stood head and shoulders above the others in the QB competition. Over the last two weeks, various coaches and players have praised Bogenschutz on his improvement this fall. Although he will just make just his second career start vs Arizona, Bogenschutz has already emerged as one of the team’s leaders. With Sophomore Austin Robinson’s move to the defense, Michigan Transfer Russell Bellomy has secured the backup role. I wonder still, if at some point this season we’ll see both Bogenschutz and Bellomy in action in the same game. If that were to occur, I don’t believe that would not be a reflection of what Bogenschutz has earned. Rather, I would look at it as further evaluation of what Bellomy could bring to the table. With UTSA expected to be huge underdogs in the first four games of the season, if the potential to play two QBs were to occur, it would likely occur at the beginning of the season. As I wrote several weeks ago, there’s no evidence to suggest the play of two QBs is likely, or even a possibility. But at some point, I think you’ve got to see what Bellomy has to offer in a game situation. Call it a hunch.
Robinson A Class Act
Having known Austin Robinson for the better part of four years, I wasn’t surprised by his willingness to sacrifice his personal goals for the good of the team. Last week, Robinson moved from quarterback to safety. Robinson, who comes from a very spiritual background, wasn’t a bad quarterback. In 2014, he was thrown into the fire after various injuries at QB. Robinson did struggle at times. But at times, he also played well. He led UTSA to come from behind wins vs FIU and Southern Miss and nearly led another comeback at Louisiana Tech. In that La Tech game, he showed off his athleticism by running for a 53 yard touchdown that changed the game at the time. That type of game-changing athleticism is what excited Defensive Coordinator Neal Neathery last week when he talked about Robinson switching to defense. Again, Robinson wasn’t a bad quarterback. In fact his unique athleticism is the reason why he wasn’t left in a reserve role. Simply put, his athleticism is too valuable for him to remain a third-string quarterback. Like Coach Neathery, in the long-term I think Robinson can develop into a very good Rover Safety. For this season, however, he likely won’t play any (except for special teams). And that’s the sacrifice. Like Offensive Coordinator Kevin Brown said, a few other players have made similar sacrifices and it’s worked out for both the player and the team. Cole Hubble, Jordan Gray, and a few others have changed positions over the years. It takes a special type of mentality to be willing and able to do that. And Robinson should be commended for that.
UTSA will start 2015 with several key players injured. Some of the most notable names not expected to play vs Arizona are starting Center Juan Perez-Isidoro, starting CB Trevor Baker and backup Dawg Safety Chase Dahlquist. All three of these key contributors are not listed on UTSA’s newly updated depth chart. Other players who have recently battled injuries include: WR Kenny Bias, WR JaBryce Taylor, OL Zach Hester, RB Jess Anders, and DB Isaiah Santos. Injuries are always a large part of the game of football. But with so much inexperience already on the roster, UTSA will need some of these players to get back into the mix sooner rather than later to help the team get through the gauntlet that is their non-conference schedule.
At least nine players are expected to make their first-career start for UTSA when the ‘Runners take the field Thursday night in Arizona. LT Reed Darragh, LG Kyle McKinney, C Austin Pratt, FB Halen Steward, WR Kerry Thomas FS Nate Gaines, CB Aneas Henricks, DT Kennedy Ubabuike, and DE Marcus Davenport are all listed as first-time starters on UTSA’s recently released depth chart. Two other players (QB Blake Bogenschutz and LB Marcos Curry) will be making just their second career-start. Although there are several players who have played a lot of football for UTSA, it’s clear that experience will be at a premium for the 2015 Roadrunners. Can anyone say trial by fire?
Recruiting Slow Play
It’s the end of August and UTSA holds four commits to their 2016 recruiting cycle. The most recent commit was Carthage DE Jarrod McLin
. A former teammate of current QB Blake Bogenschutz, McLin is a solid addition to the class. Of the four commits, three of them are on the defensive side of the ball (McLin, CB Carrington Kearney
, and S Innis Gaines) with one player on the offense (WR/TE Jack Giblin
). Beyond these four players, it’s been relatively slow for UTSA so far. Known for taking their time in evaluating players, staff has further slowed-played things this cycle. Recruits are still being contacted and shown interest, but we’re not seeing many offers go out. How can this be explained? Often times, recruiting success works with momentum. When certain programs make new hires or get on a roll, there’s no logical explanation for how fast and why those programs land quality commits. A perfect example of that right now is the University of Houston. An opponent that UTSA has beat on and off the field in head to head matchups, the Cougars are having a really good recruiting cycle. It’s really unexplainable save for the fact for momentum. Another factor beyond the momentum argument is the simple numbers. UTSA is either at or near the maximum amount of scholarships. With about 15 scholarship seniors scheduled to graduate, there may not be a lot of room in this 2016 recruiting class. A lot will depend on attrition and the additions of grey shirts or transfers. So if UTSA is aiming for a class of around 15, then there isn’t a huge sense of urgency for quickly filling those spots. In fact, it would be the opposite where staff takes more time to figure out who they really want. A prime example is the QB position. Just looking at the roster, I’d say UTSA would want to take one QB this cycle. There are at least six players in the mix with only one of them having an offer so far. At the end of the day, it comes down to the numbers. While I can relate to fans’ frustration with the lack of recruiting news, it’s still a very long day until National Signing Day. We all know a lot can happen between now and then.
Closing Thoughts – Season 5
Season five kicks off on Thursday. Season five. Who still remembers season one? That almost seems like another time. With nearly all of the players gone from that first season (only David Morgan and Mauricio Sanchez remain), it’s almost like 2015 is a new era or new chapter for UTSA football. With very low external expectations, it dawns upon me that fans’ expectations could mirror that. It shouldn’t. UTSA will field the most talented team in its history. Across the board, the Roadrunners are bigger, stronger, and faster. Usually that’s something that comes across as “coach speak” but that’s not the case. For the better part of the last month, I’ve watched so many young and inexperienced players fly around the practice field. There are players who aren’t even starting who will likely turn into big time playmakers for the ‘Runners in a season or two. 2015 may not be the season of firsts (first CUSA Championship or first bowl game), but it could be the start of something very special. The fan-base should be excited about that and not let external preseason predictions affect them. Starting Thursday, a new era of UTSA Football really does begin.