JJ’s Journal Entry for 11.18.15
Back in the Win Column
UTSA snapped a four game losing streak over the weekend with a dramatic 30-27 overtime win at Charlotte. It wasn’t pretty. In fact, for much of the first half, it was downright ugly. But in the second half, UTSA came out on a mission. Fueled by a halftime speech by Offensive Coordinator Kevin Brown, the offense looked like a completely different unit as they came out with a sense of urgency we haven’t seen consistently all season long. There were still some mistakes, and drama, but in the end, UTSA made just enough plays to get the win. For these players and this team, that win was exactly what they needed. With Rice set to visit the Alamdome on Saturday, it’s another case of UTSA badly needing a win. The Rice Owls have owned UTSA the past three seasons. Both programs are having down years, but Rice sports a 4-6 record and still has hopes of a bowl bid. Not only can UTSA play the role of spoilers, they can give their fans a much-needed home victory while getting the Rice Owls “monkey” off their back. So while it’s not a must-win for UTSA, there is still very much to play for this Saturday. I predict another close, dramatic finish.
I bumped into UTSA RB Jarveon Williams on my way out of Monday’s Media Round Table. Typically, media will talk to Head Coach Larry Coker for about 30 minutes then requested players will trickle in for interviews over the next hour. It’s all a very informal process. This week, I was in and out of the event to prior engagement. Like many of UTSA’s players, I’ve known Jarveon since UTSA began recruiting him. He’s a very reserved person who doesn’t say much. I remember interviewing for the first time on the record as a true freshman with a bunch of TV cameras around. He was a pro and said all of the right things. So Monday as we exchanged pleasantries I noticed that Jarveon had a little extra pep in his step. Coming off a career-game, who wouldn’t? But then I started thinking about his demeanor after I interviewed him following the Oklahoma State game and the Kansas State game (both good individual games for him) and he was not happy. I went back to my notes with Coach Coker. Coach said that after the game, Jarveon told him he really just wants to win and will do whatever it takes. Here’s a guy, with a banged up shoulder, that willed his team to a win Saturday. Never mind that he continues to break program records, the only thing that Jarveon Williams really cares about is winning. In a season where that has been in short supply, it’s was refreshing to see that attitude from one of the team’s leaders.
In the season-opener at New Mexico in 2013, Jason Neill suffered a terrible knee injury that caused him to miss that entire season. To that point in his career, Neill had positioned himself as a versatile weapon on the defensive line as he saw action at both the tackle and end positions. But how good would Neill be after that injury? Especially with knees, sometimes you just never know. Over the weekend, Neill had a heck of a game recording two sacks/tackles for loss. Neill is UTSA’s all-time career leader in Tackles for Loss (21.5), Sacks (12.0), and QB Hurries (17). Not a bad career for a former high school quarterback. Neill, who graduated last May with his degree in Exercise Science, says he hopes to get into the family business of strength and conditioning. Whatever Neill does, he already has cemented his legacy as one of the all-time Roadrunners.
Things have picked up along the recruiting trail. Over the past few weeks we’ve seen a few handfuls of offers go out. Staff is expected to be out on the West Coast sometime this week. I just updated our database and a bunch of threads with various recruiting info, check out the UTSAInsiders Forum for all the details. From what I’ve been told, UTSA is not expecting to sign a full class. A lot will depend on how many Juco’s they can ink in the early signing period. Essentially, Juco players who are early signees are allowed to transfer mid-year and be added to the team next semester, which is a huge advantage. Another advantage of early signees is that they all don’t all necessarily count toward the 2016 scholarship limits. Without getting too detailed, a lot will depend on which current seniors graduate in December and if any players leave the team after the season (none are expected but you never know). Regardless, numbers are tight. The important dates to keep in mind are Dec 16 through Jan 15. This is the period in which Junior College players can sign to be a midyear transfer. Typically, most players sign on the first day of the period, Dec 16. But the last date is also important too. Last season, DE Ben Kane signed on the very last day of the period. So things should could to heat up over the next two months.
Traditionally I do not follow women’s sports. It’s not because I don’t find them entertaining or worthy, it’s mostly because I just don’t have enough time. September, October, and November are the busiest months for three major sports: baseball, football, and basketball. But a few weeks ago I took in my first ever UTSA volleyball game. I came away impressed. Not only are the players on UTSA’s squad exciting, the entire team is very, very good. This season UTSA hosts the Conference USA Tournament. Play begins Friday at 12pm. UTSA enters the tournament as a #2 seed and will likely need to win tournament to clinch a berth in the NCAA Tournament. Games are Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at the Convocation Center.
The Men’s Basketball team has started the season 0-3 with losses to Loyola-Chicago, Clemson, and Creighton. The games were largely one-sided. Simply put, UTSA has faced some stiff competition on the road and have been outmatched. This non-conference schedule that UTSA has put together is by far the toughest in Head Coach Brooks Thompson’s tenure. UTSA spends the first month of the season on the road. They come home for one game before finishing their non-conference travel at Texas State and at Texas (yes, the Texas Longhorns). This is after they played ACC (Clemson) and Big East (Creighton) teams in back to back games. It’s a tough schedule. And while it’s difficult to find any good in the first three games, UTSA has been able to hang tough and play even with these teams in the second half. If UTSA can hold on until January when conference play starts, they may find themselves battle-tested having gone through this gauntlet of out of conference games.
Closing Thoughts - Losing Sucks
In a previous journal I wrote that this football season had a chance to go down as one of the more memorable ones. That was after the first few games of the season. What a difference between now and then. UTSA stands with 2-8 record through 10 games. No one likes losing. It irritates fans, players, coaches, staff, and even media. From my standpoint, I can’t pinpoint one specific person or situation to blame for why UTSA football has stumbled this season. I feel it’s been a combination of things, but my opinion on the topic isn’t as important as others. I think the powers that be at UTSA (AD Lynn Hickey, Admin Staff, and HC Larry Coker) truly believe that doing things “the right way” will culminate in the winning results everyone wants. So as the 2015 season comes to a close, all eyes begin to look at the offseason, which now has become the most important one in program history. Will QB Blake Bogenschutz come back? Even if he does, what other QB does UTSA bring in? What Jucos will be added to the roster with the hopes providing instant contributions? Can the O-line improve? Will the offense become consistent? Can the defense get better at closing drives? Does any of the coaching staff find themselves on the hot seat? Fair or unfair, these are the types of offseason questions a team has to deal with when it loses. And for UTSA, these very questions will surround the program for the next 10 months. Stay tuned for an important and interesting offseason.