Fall Camp Preview: Safeties

UTSA Football players are set to report to fall camp on Thursday. InsideRunnerSports takes a look at the safeties on the roster heading into fall practices.

Fall Camp Preview: Safeties 

OVERVIEW
UTSA’s Safeties have been a strong part of the Roadrunners’ defense in year’s past. This season, the safety unit returns a strong core of veterans players. They also possess several up and coming youngsters. Can the safeties improve over a strong 2015?

KEY DEPARTURES
- Duke Wheeler: Graduated. Thrust into a starting role several times last season due to injuries. Also was a very good special teams player.
- Mauricio Sanchez: Graduate. A key contributor in the defensive backfield for UTSA the last several seasons.

RETURNERS
- Michael Egwuagu: The Central Texas-native has been a cornerstone for UTSA’s defense the last three seasons. He’s coming off a 2015 campaign that saw him earn All-CUSA Honors as he played in all 12 games. He has already been named as 2016 preseason All-Conference. Listed as the starting Lion Strong Safety, Egwuagu should emerge as one of the team’s leaders in his senior season.
- Carl Austin: Came to UTSA as a greyshirt signee to the 2014 recruiting class. Was a primary contributor on special teams as a true freshman last year. Is listed as backup Free Safety.
- Nate Gaines: The hard-hitting safety returns for his junior season with high expectations. While battling several injuries, Gaines managed to start 10 games last season. He recorded the third-most tackles on the team (76) while intercepting three passes and breaking up nine passes. He’s listed as the starting Free Safety and is poised for a big season.
- Andrew Martel: Suffered a season-ending injury during fall practices last year. Was granted a medical redshirt.
- CJ Levine: The Port Arthur-native played in all 12 games last season as a true freshman. Although Levine saw action primarily on special teams, he did play in several games on defense and looked the part. He’s listed as backup Lion Strong Safety.
- Isaiah Santos: Came to UTSA as a greyshirt signee to the 2014 recruiting class. Played in 11 games last season as a special teams contributor.
- Isaiah Clay: A walk-on from Corpus Christi Carroll High School.
- Darryl Godfrey: A native of San Antonio, Godfrey was one of the few players to play for UTSA last season as a true freshman. He saw time in 10 games and recorded 15 total tackles. Although Godfrey is one of the young rising stars on the team, he isn’t listed on the two-deep depth chart. But it would not be a big surprise if that were to change.
- Chase Dahlquist: The Oklahoma-native returns to the field in 2016 after missing all of last season with injury. As a true freshman and sophomore, Dahlquist made a name for himself in the defensive backfield as a versatile/hard-hitting safety that played smart and hard. UTSA is counting on him to return to that form as he is listed as starting Ram Strong Safety. He received a medical redshirt in 2015.
- Justin Chavez: A former dual-threat quarterback in high school, Chavez saw some significant time on defense last season. He played in seven games. He started once and looked very good at times. He should see some time in 2016 as he is listed as backup Ram Strong Safety.
- Austin Jupe: Transferred to UTSA from Baylor in 2014. He had to sit out the 2014 season due to NCAA transfer rules and he did not play in 2015 due to injury. Jupe has some talent as he was considered one of the top local defensive backs in 2013.

NEWCOMERS
- Brenndan Johnson: A signee from the 2016 recruiting class, Johnson was recruited as a CB but is listed on the roster as a Safety. He is a candidate for a redshirt.

PLAYERS TO WATCH
CJ Levine and Chase Dahlquist. As a true freshman last year, Levine came into games and simply made positive impacts. With good size and speed, he’s a natural to backup Egwuagu at Lion SS. Although he is still a young player with something to prove, it appears he possesses the talent to be in the next wave of solid UTSA safeties. Dahlquist missing all of 2015 hurt UTSA’s depth last season. In his first two years as a Roadrunner, his versatility paid dividends for the Roadrunners. A really smart football player, Dahlquist simply made plays when he was on the field. If he’s healthy, it will be difficult to keep him from returning to the playmaker he was in 2013 and 2014. 

CONCERN
Defending the long ball. UTSA’s defensive backfield has been susceptible to long passes the last few seasons. Some of it is the play of the cornerbacks and defensive line while some of it falls on miscommunication. Toward the end of last season, UTSA got better in defending long passes. It will be critical that the Safeties improve at defending long passes.

KEY TO SUCCESS
Limiting big plays. Too many times in UTSA’s back-to-back losing seasons opposing offenses have been successful on big plays. Either long passes, short passes that turned into big plays, or long runs, UTSA simply has had too many big plays go against them. As the last line of defense, the safeties need to be able to limit these big plays in order to have more success in 2016.

DEPTH CHART
Starting Lion SS: Michael Egwuagu
Backup Lion SS: CJ Levine
Starting Ram SS: Chase Dahlquist
Backup Ram SS: Justin Chavez
Starting FS: Nate Gaines
Backup FS: Carl Austin


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