Fall Camp Preview: Defensive Line
Historically, UTSA’s defensive line has been one of the strengths of the team. And while 2016 isn’t expected to be any different, we will see some change. The defense is listed as a 4-2-5 scheme, but Head Coach Frank Wilson said in during spring practices that we will see some transition to a 3-4 alignment.
- DT Brian Price: Graduated. A Juco player that was key contributor to the defensive line in his two seasons at UTSA. Price was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Green Bay Packers following the 2016 NFL Draft.
- DE Jason Neill: Graduated. UTSA’s all-time sack leader. Neill was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Dallas Cowboys following the 2016 NFL Draft. He has since been released.
- DT Justyn Eddins: Graduated. A Juco transfer that played sparingly in his two seasons at UTSA.
- DT Joseph Brooks: A grey shirt signee to the 2014 recruiting class. Did not play in 2015. Left the program prior to spring practices.
- DE Kevin Strong: One of the handful of defensive starters returning, Strong was a force for UTSA last season as a redshirt freshman. He is expected to be one of the anchors along the d-line. Is listed as the starting LE.
- DE Ben Kane: A Juco transfer is his second season at UTSA. Kane played sparingly last season but is now listed as Strong’s backup at DE.
- DT Baylen Baker: An impressive spring saw Baker earn a huge role on the team. The redshirt freshman, who is listed at 6’5” and a stout 290lbs, is UTSA’s starting defensive tackle.
- DT Vontrell King-Williams: A Juco transfer in his second season at UTSA, King-Williams is listed as Baker’s backup. At 6’2” and 320lbs, King-Williams is one of the largest players on the roster. Look for him to push Baker for playing time at the DT position.
- DE Jonathan Tuiolosega: A Juco transfer from California who is in his second season as a Roadrunner. After playing primarily as a backup in 2015, Tuiolosega is listed as starting RE headed into the fall.
- DE King Newton: The son of three-time Super Bowl Champion and former Dallas Cowboy Nate Newton, King elected to redshirt his first season at UTSA. He is listed as backup RE and will likely be in the mix for playing time.
- DE Marcus Davenport: A returning starter, Davenport is one of only four players who earned All-CUSA honors last season. The San Antonio-native has played well for UTSA the past two seasons and is poised for another good year. He’s listed as starting Sam DE.
- DE Romario Napoles: A walk-on from San Angelo, Napoles saw action last year due to injuries. Thrown into the fire, Napoles played relatively well and had a good spring. He’s listed as Davenport’s backup at Sam DE.
- DE TJ King: At 6’2” and 260lbs, King is one of the physical specimens on the roster. He redshirtted last year. It’s somewhat surprising that he did not crack the two-deep depth chart coming out of the spring but that could change this fall.
- DeQuarius Henry: A grey shirt from the class of 2015, Henry enters his first season as a Roadrunner and is a candidate to redshirt.
- Jarrod McLin: A 3-star recruit from East Texas, McLin was ranked the #19 DE in Texas last season. He joins UTSA as part of the 2016 recruiting class. He is one of the few newcomers who have the potential to see early playing time.
- DE Solomon Wise: A 3-star recruit from Central Texas, Wise was ranked the #20 DE in Texas last season. He’s also a signee from the 2016 recruiting class with the potential to contribute early.
- DT Franklin Uesi: A Juco transfer from California, Uesi enrolled at UTSA earlier in the summer.
- DE Eric Banks: A former QB who also played DE, Banks joined UTSA as part of the 2016 recruiting class and is a candidate to redshirt.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Kevin Strong and Baylen Baker. Kevin Strong has already proven his ability in his short time as a Roadrunner. With a big body that he can move, Strong is a force in both run-stopping and pass-rushing. He is poised for a breakout season. Redshirt freshman Baylen Baker is listed as starting defensive tackle. It is rare at any position for a freshman to ascend the ranks into the two-deep, let alone the starting role. But on the shoulders of a strong spring, that’s exactly what Baker has done. In just one year of strength and conditioning, Baker added 30lbs pounds of muscle his frame. Look for him to use his speed and strength to become a playmaker for the ‘Runners in 2016.
1. Defensive End depth. Outside of Marcus Davenport, there isn’t a true end on scholarship that has seen game action. Napoles was thrust into action last season because of the lack of depth. So in the offseason, UTSA went out and got two of the top 20 defensive ends in Texas in Jarrod McLin and Solomon Wise. But what kind of impact can one expect from two true freshen have who aren’t listed on the depth chart? Depth at DE is a concern.
2. Transitioning. All signs are pointing to UTSA using more of a three-man front than any other alignment in 2016. With that transition may come a bit of a learning curve. The returning players that UTSA will lean on heavily haven’t seen a lot of game action, if any, in that scheme. It may take some time for the players to assimilate to whatever various schemes the coaching staff will implement.
KEY TO SUCCESS
Pin your ears back. UTSA’s defensive line has to be able to put pressure on the quarterback. Whether that comes from a new alignment, use of stunts, and/or various forms of blitzes, the success of the defense as a whole will largely hinge on how much pressure the Roadrunners will be able to get. A successful 2016 for UTSA’s d-line doesn’t necessarily mean big sack numbers. Things like hurries and not allowing excess time in the pocket are other factors that will contribute to overall success.
Staring LE: Kevin Strong
Backup LE: Ben Kane
Starting DT: Baylen Baker
Backup DT: Vontrell King-Williams
Starting RE: Jonathan Tuiolosega
Backup RE: King Newton
Starting DE (Sam): Marcus Davenport
Backup DE (Sam): Romario Napoles