JJ’s Journal 12.10.15

InsideRunnerSports’ JJ Perez gives you his thoughts on several UTSA-related topics.

JJ’s Journal Entry for 12.10.15 

So Long Kevin Brown
Early last week, UTSA parted ways with Offensive Coordinator Kevin Brown. The Roadrunner offense showed improvement this past season but at the end of the day the unit simply did not score enough points to win enough games. College coaches are evaluated on results. And the lack of scoring was likely what led to Brown’s dismissal more than anything else. But if you’re going to hold Brown responsible for the negative offensive results over the last two seasons, you should at least acknowledge some of the positive. So let’s take a moment of reflect on Brown’s tenure at UTSA. A former Wide Receiver at TCU, Brown started his coaching career at Texas State. He came to UTSA in 2011 and immediately made an impact on the program. In 2012 Brown was promoted to OC. That season UTSA posted an 8-4 record as a member of the WAC. In 2013 the Roadrunners went 7-5 in their first season in CUSA. The seven wins in 2013 were significant because each of the wins came against D1 programs. I’m not sure that’s a feat that will ever duplicated by a third year start up program. Brown’s offense was largely responsible for the program’s success during that time. Moreover, Brown had a significant role in bringing many of the key players on offense to UTSA. As much as Head Coach Larry Coker has put his stamp on this program, so too has Brown. Known as a very hard worker who put in countless hours, it was the norm to discover Brown in his office well after midnight and early in the morning before practices working on game-plans. In the end, things probably weren’t all Brown’s fault. But that’s the life as a college football coach.

So Long Perry Eliano
Wednesday afternoon, UTSA confirmed that Assistant Coach Perry Eliano would be leaving the coaching staff. On Tuesday evening, new Bowling Green Head Coach Mike Jinks said that Eliano would become his Defensive Coordinator. From Special Teams Coordinator and Safeties Coach to Defensive Coordinator. That’s quite a leap for Eliano. A native of Killeen in Central Texas, Eliano has established himself as a solid recruiter in Texas. In fact, that’s part of the relationship between Jinks and Eliano, they knew each other from Jinks’ days at Steele High School as well as from along the recruiting trail. They also knew each other when they were at Ellison High School in Killeen together. Much like it is in every other industry, sometimes the positive relationships you end up establishing along the way payoff for you down the road. How does the saying go: it’s who you know... From UTSA’s standpoint, there’s nothing wrong with losing a coach to another program who’s taking a higher position. Bowling Green is an established mid-major program. Coaches who have gone there have been largely successful in their careers. Every offseason coaches are contacted to gauge interest in job openings. A lot of established coaches in Texas have respect for UTSA’s staff. So it’s not too surprising to see a Roadrunner Coach get an opportunity elsewhere. It’s not the first time it’s happened, and it won’t be the last. 

New OC Search
The search for UTSA’s third Offensive Coordinator is on. Tuesday night fan-favorite Mike Jinks came off the board. The San Antonio-native and recent RB Coach at Texas Tech was announced as Bowling Green’s new Head Coach. A lot has been said and written about UTSA’s search for an OC. While I do not know have any specific or inside information to share about the search, I do want to share my opinion on the type of candidate UTSA should be looking for. For lack of better words, the next OC should be plug and play. From an X’s and O’s standpoint, it should be someone who’s worked in the spread/multiple offense system. From a recruiting standpoint, it should be someone with ties and experience in Texas. Having worked with Quarterbacks would be a plus. Whoever it is will need to come in and hit the ground running. There could be dozens of candidates who fit those qualifications. I’m sure whoever it ends up being, UTSA will have done their due diligence in finding the right person. One thing I wanted to touch on was this notion that the next OC could become the next Head Coach. Yes Coach Coker is an older coach. And I guess technically that could come to fruition. But rarely in the modern era of college football do succession plans end up playing out. Coker has given no indication of his willingness to retire early. I see him coaching as least the next two to three seasons. We already know Athletic Director Lynn Hickey wanted him to stay through the 2020 season. That’s a long time to ask someone to wait. If and when the time comes that Coker leaves, I’m of the opinion that will mark a significant moment in the program’s history. I would think any coach on staff would be considered for the job but I think a national coaching search would also be appropriate. But when will that be? 2017? 2018? 2019? Like I wrote last week, if you thought Coker was on the hot seat, this move to change the OC has bought him some time. So I’m not too sure this next OC hire will necessary be the next Head Coach, like some are suggesting. That’s just a gut-feeling.

David Morgan
On Tuesday, USA Today named Tight End David Morgan to their All-American second team. This is the first time any media outlet as named any UTSA player to their All-American team. The term “All-American” is kind of ambiguous. The official NCAA designation for All-American goes to first-team players voted by multiple media outlets. There are also the terms “consensus” and “unanimous” that are used to describe the All-American designation. Regardless, Morgan being selected is a significant honor. USA Today is a well-respected publication and it’s good to see Morgan’s hard work pay off. In addition to the All-American honor, David had a few more accolades come his way this week. He was named to the All-CUSA Second Team and also accepted an invitation to play in the East-West Shrine game. If you remember, Morgan came to UTSA a skinny Wide Receiver. Now, he’s widely considered one of the best Tight Ends in the country. A lot of people see David’s amazing plays on the field. Make no mistake, Morgan’s highlights are jaw-dropping. But what people don’t see is all of the off the field things he had to go through just to be able to play. To say David Morgan was plagued by injuries during his Roadrunner career is a severe understatement. Ankle, knee, shoulder, multiple surgeries, missing extended periods of time, you name it, David Morgan went through it. But in his senior season, it all came together and paid off. Morgan leaves UTSA as an all-time Roadrunner and has a very good chance to become the first player selected in the NFL draft. That’s a very nice collegiate career.

The Recruiting Trail
California, Oklahoma, New York, Kansas, and Texas. These are just some of the places UTSA’s coaching staff is looking for players to add to their 2016 recruiting class. It’s been busy since the season ended a few weeks ago. Numbers will be tight for UTSA, that’ll prevent them from signing a full class. But some of that could be offset by targeting mid-year Junior College transfers. The emphasis right now is on these mid-year Juco recruits. UTSA has offered several players hoping to get their signatures on Letters of Intent as early as Dec 16, the first day mid-year Juco transfers can sign. That would allow them to enroll in class in January and join the team for spring practices. Currently the 2016 recruiting class stands at six known commits. This upcoming weekend, UTSA is expected hosted several targets. Be sure to visit the UTSAInsiders forum for all of the latest info on all of the specific recruits. 

UTSA Basketball
The Men’s Basketball team took another hard loss Tuesday night in Austin falling to the Longhorns 116-50. Faced with a young squad that has to come together early in the season, the struggles of the basketball team has been as great as we’ve seen in Head Coach Brooks Thompson’s 10-year tenure. At the same time, this is by far the toughest schedule Thompson has put together in his time as UTSA. Games vs Texas, Clemson, Creighton, and Loyola are very difficult. When you pair that competition with a ton of travel and some young players trying to gel, the result is a 1-8 record to start the season. With CUSA play just a few weeks away, UTSA needs to find answers to the questions that are contributing to their early season downfall. CUSA isn’t a great basketball conference. But the Roadrunners need to try to find some momentum these next few weeks in order to compete in conference play. 

CUSA Football Bowl Games
Five CUSA teams earned bowl berths this season. There were seven available bowl slots. So I guess you can say it was a down year for CUSA football but that doesn’t diminish what these five teams have earned. Here’s the CUSA Bowl lineup:

  • Dec 19 R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: La Tech vs Ark St 8pm on ESPN
  • Dec 21 Miami Beach Bowl: WKU vs South Florida 1:30pm on ESPN
  • Dec 24 Popeyes Bahamas Bowl: Middle Tenn vs Western Mich 11am on ESPN
  • Dec 26 St Petersburg Bowl: Marshall vs Connecticut 10am on ESPN
  • Dec 26 Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl: Southern Miss vs Washington 1:20pm on ESPN

Closing Thoughts - The Process
No one knows what happens next with UTSA’s football program. It’s hard to find a program to compare UTSA to. A few seasons ago, UTSA was on as rapid of a rise as they could be. But back-to-back losing seasons has stymied that momentum. It’s hard to really predict what could happen next. Best-case scenario, UTSA bounces back in 2016 and becomes the fastest startup program to reach a bowl game. Worst-case scenario, UTSA struggles with another losing season. Whatever happens in 2016, it seems to me like Athletic Director Lynn Hickey and Head Coach Larry Coker are building this program for the long-haul. Success takes time. The bad times make the good times better. What happens next is only part of UTSA’s story. 

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