UTSA engaged in a split-squad game Saturday for their annual spring game. The Blue team, quarterbacked by Jaylon Henderson, rallied for a second half comeback against the Orange team, quarterbacked by Dalton Sturm. Here are 10 thoughts from the game.
1. THE OFFENSE IS DIFFERENT
Scheme-wise UTSA ran their offense from under center a lot. While they did still mix in some shotgun, you can certainly tell the offense has changed. For the most part, UTSA ran a straight-forward down-hill attack while taking their fair shots down the field. In fact the game started with a long ball that fell incomplete. We even saw some trick plays. Some worked, some didn’t. I’m not sure how much of the offensive playbook was on display Saturday but from we saw, it was different.
2. THE STARTING QB JOB IS UP FOR GRABS
Dalton Sturm has improved. And when the time comes this fall, he’ll surely be in the mix for playing time. But based on his performance in the spring game, it didn’t appear like he cemented himself as the day one starter. That’s not a knock on his skillset because the improvement is noticeable. Sturm appeared to have gotten quicker with his reads and decision-making abilities. But he also struggled at times. We only saw two QBs Saturday (Sturm and Jaylon Henderson) as Manny Harris was out with an ankle injury. Harris ended up missing about half of spring practices with the injury. The lack of depth at the position likely did not help any of the QBs development this spring. That should make the competition in the fall as wide open as we’ve ever seen. Here are the spring game final stats from the QBs: Sturm: 19 for 33 for 199 yards with 1 interception. Henderson 12 for 23 for 176 yards with 1 touchdown.
3. THE OFFENSIVE LINE IS BETTER
RB Jalen Rhodes scored two rushing touchdowns behind some very good blocking today. Limited in action, starter Jarveon Williams has a nice 3.5 yards per carry average. The starting OL from left to right for the orange team was: LT Reed Darragh, LG Kyle McKinney, C Juan Perez-Isidoro, RG Stefan Beard, and RT Gabe Casillas. Today was the first time we got a look at Beard and Casillas on the right side. The two played very well. Although there is no official depth chart yet, this is what UTSA’s day one o-line could look like, and it isn’t that bad. Add to that the depth with guys like Clayton Woods, Cody Cole, Tanner Myers, and all of a sudden things are looking up along the offensive line.
4. THE DEFENSE IS MULTIPLE
DC Pete Golding’s defensive scheme is listed as a 4-2-5 scheme but it more multiple than anything else. UTSA started the game with four down linemen but quickly adapted throughout the game. Without looking at film, it seemed like UTSA’s defense ran a three-man front for a majority of the game. It’s hard to say what UTSA will look like in the fall as the defense was missing some key players Saturday but the overall feel of the unit just seems more aggressive.
5. TAUAEFA LEADING YOUTH MOVEMENT
LB Josiah Tauaefa made the start at linebacker for UTSA on Saturday. It was likely the first of many for him. A converted defensive end, Tauaefa was a natural at LB. He recorded three tackles and was in the mix on the fumble play. He was also very quick on his feet which allowed him to get into position time after time. Some other young players had good games: DT Baylen Baker played extraordinarily well. He could get into the mix for some playing time this fall. The same can be said for TJ King at defensive end. Overall, there’s just a lot of young talent in the mix for playing time for the ‘Runners defense.
6. THE WR CORPS IS IN GOOD SHAPE
Several WRs had good days for UTSA. JaBryce Taylor led the way with 7 catches for 84 yards. Kerry Thomas reeled in 5 catches for 65 yards, and Dannon Cavil, Brady Jones, and Brett Winnegan each caught three passes each. Aron Taylor had the game’s only receiving touchdown. So the unit as a whole is deep and was productive Saturday.
7. CORNER BACKS WILL BE CHALLENGED
N’Keal Bailey and JaColbie Butler played pretty well Saturday. Both come out of spring seemingly as the two top CBs. You can also throw Aneas Hendrix into the mix as well as Stanley Dye (who did not practice all spring due to injury). There shouldn’t be any concern with depth at the CB position, but each of these players are young and have very little experience. On Saturday they held their own but they were tested at times. I’d expect opposing offenses to take shots at the CBs until they prove themselves as playmakers.
8. SPECIAL TEAMS MIDDLE OF THE ROAD
There were no returns in UTSA’s spring game so we didn’t get a look at the kickoff and punt return game. But we did get a look at the kicking game. Punting is about the same as last season, which means it’s inconsistent. Kicking was okay for the most part. UTSA had one PAT blocked, the other four PATs were flawless. UTSA only attempted one field goal on the day, a fire-drill 53-yarder at the end of the first half that was wide left. If there’s one area that could be pointed to as needing improvement following the spring game, it’s likely the punting and kicking game.
9. UTSA WON
The Blue team scored 20 unanswered points to beat the Orange team but at the end of the day, UTSA won. No players suffered any major injuries; both offenses and defenses made plays; the offense did very well in redzone opportunities; and there was only one turnover for each team. I’m not sure one could ask for a better result.
An estimated 2,500 fans poured into the Alamodome Saturday and at times they were loud. The overall energy and spirit surrounding this year's spring game is a lot more than what it’s been in recent seasons. Players, coaches, staff, fans, and even recruits appear to have much more optimism about the program than from a year ago. We’ll see how that translates in the fall.
SPRING GAME NOTES
- Injuries: The following players did not participate in Saturday’s Spring Game: QB Manny Harris, DE Marcus Davenport, S Nate Gaines, S Michael Egwuagu, LB Leslie Maruo, and CB Stanley Dye.
- Following the game, Coach Wilson handed out the following spring awards: Marcos Curry (special teams iron man), Juan Perez-Isidoro (outstanding effort on offense), Austin Pratt (weight room), JaBryce Taylor (most productive offensive player) and Jonathan Tuiolosega (outstanding effort on defense).
FRANK WILSON POST-SPRING GAME AUDIO