As a redshirt freshman in 2014, UTSA Center Juan Perez-Isidoro jumped onto the scene seeing his first action in relief duty. He played so well then that toward the end of that 2014 season he was getting consistent playing time while grading out very high. So at the outset of last season, expectations were high. But late in fall practices, he was injured and things changed quickly.
“It was difficult going through camp and then sitting out those first four (games),” Perez-Isidoro said of 2015. “It was a little heart-breaking, for sure.”
To add insult to injury, UTSA would go 0-4 in that stretch which included two narrow losses to Arizona and Colorado State.
“It was difficult to sit back and watch my guys go out there and compete,” said Perez-Isidoro. “I wish I was out there. But it happens. Injuries are a part of football.”
Perez-Isidoro credits UTSA’s training staff for getting him healthy enough to play last season. He returned at the fifth game of the season, a game that UTSA won.
“Jerry (Greeson) and his staff did an amazing job getting me healthy and 100% by the fifth game. I look back and remember the losses. But I know that I still have this season and one more season.”
And Perez-Isidoro is looking to make the most of 2016. With a brand new coaching staff, Perez-Isidoro says he’s noticed a change for the better.
“It’s crazy how much energy they bring,” said Perez-Isidoro. “Coach Wilson is a great coach. And (OL) Coach (Ryan) Pugh is just like him. All of the other assistant coaches bring a lot of energy to practice. I think we’re getting there.”
One of the issues that plagued UTSA’s offense the last two seasons has been pass protection. Perez-Isidoro believes there is motivation among the offensive linemen to improve.
“That’s something that really stuck out to us,” Perez-Isidoro said of UTSA’s poor pass-protection. “It’s a chip on our shoulder, for sure.”
The offensive linemen certainly have last season in the back of their minds. However, those struggles haven’t been necessarily brought to the forefront this year.
“Coach Wilson and the staff have always harped on press that delete button,” said Perez-Isidoro. “Just move on, move forward. Just know that the stats are still there but us, as an offensive line, we can’t focus on that too much. So we press that delete button, move forward and continue to work on our technique.”
One aspect that will help the offensive line is added depth. In the offseason the coaching staff brought in several o-linemen that are expected to be key contributors to the team this season.
“There’s more depth in the offensive line,” said Perez-Isidoro. “With Coach Pugh being as young as he is, it’s a lot easier for the younger guys to come in and feel comfortable. I feel like that helps a lot with the chemistry and depth. Having a coach like Coach Pugh makes it easier to adjust and create that chemistry."
Another way UTSA has created depth is moving players to different places along the line. For example, in a recent practice reserve offensive tackle Cody Cole saw action at guard and center.
“They definitely have done that this camp,” Perez-Isidoro said about players playing different positions. “We’ve had a lot of guys moving around. That’s definitely helped. I think that’s a key to depth.”
Perez-Isidoro himself is one of the more versatile offensive linemen UTSA has on its roster. Listed at 6’2” and 295lbs, Perez-Isidoro has logged time at every position on the offensive line. However, so far in camp he’s only worked at Center.
“I’ve only played center in camp,” said Perez-Isidoro. “If Coach Pugh needs me to play guard or needs me to play tackle, my team needs me to play whatever position, I’ll play. I’m think I’m well prepared for that.”
One of the major questions surrounding the o-line, and the offense as a whole, is which quarterback will be under center when UTSA kicks off the season Sept 3 against Alabama State.
“Jared, Dalton, they’re all good,” said Perez-Isidoro. “There’s still two weeks before the first game. There’s obviously a lot of time for them to compete. They’ve been doing a great job competing. I’ll snap to whoever, so I’m prepared.”
Perez-Isidoro missed six games total in 2015. Despite the injuries he graded out at 92% on his 371 snaps last season. He is listed on UTSA’s post-spring depth chart as starting center.