JJ’s Journal for August 26, 2016
ONE WEEK AND COUNTING
In a little over one week UTSA will kickoff their sixth season of football. In case you’ve been living under a rock since the Roadrunners took the field at the Alamodome last November, there have been some considerable changes to the program. Larry Coker is out and Frank Wilson is in. Wilson, along with his new coaching staff, has re-energized the fan base. It’s hard to compare anything to those weeks and months leading up to the inaugural game and season in 2011, but the excitement and energy surrounding the program right now is extremely high. For Wilson, this is a chance for him to take the next step in his career. For UTSA, this new era is geared to getting the football program to that next level. That means bowl games and competing for conference championships. Athletic Director Lynn Hickey likes to use the phrase “All In” when talking about how boosters can help the program. But that phrase certainly fits what UTSA has done with the football program since January. There has been significant investment in resources toward football in terms of coaches’ salaries as well as other expenses that simply weren’t in place before. UTSA Athletics has gone “All In” with the Frank Wilson Era. The payoff, hopefully, begins Sept 3.
Earlier this week, Head Coach Frank Wilson said he wanted the team to get good fast. Coming off back-to-back losing seasons, the so-called experts aren’t drinking the kool aid. In a preseason media poll that I did not participate in, UTSA was predicted to finish fifth in the West Division of Conference USA. There are six teams in CUSA’s West Division. Some publications have predicted that UTSA will only win three games. From the spring until now, however, the Roadrunners have added a handful of graduate transfers who are expected to contribute this season. This, along with reports out of fall camp on how well things are going, lead many to believe that UTSA will surprise some teams and have a winning season in 2016. If you ask players what they think, the general consensus is that they plan to shock the prognosticators. We will see.
WHO'S PLAYING QB?
Dalton Sturm or Jared Johnson or both? It’s been the talk of each and every practice this fall. Last week Coach Wilson hinted that he may not make an announcement until right before the season-opening game vs Alabama State. Saying that Sturm and Johnson are “about even”, Wilson also said that they didn’t plan to use a two-quarterback system. So who will it be? Sturm, a former walk-on from Goliad, entered fall practices with an advantage, if you ask me. Last season, it was a trial by fire situation for Sturm. But in the spring, he was only one of three quarterbacks on the roster. And when Manny Harris missed the last half of spring practices with injury, that left Sturm to take a majority of reps in UTSA’s new offense. Johnson didn’t arrive to UTSA until earlier this summer. So all of that work Sturm put in during the spring is invaluable. On the flipside, Johnson is a seasoned-vet having played in many more games than Sturm while at Sam Houston State. Offensive Coordinator Frank Scelfo is on record saying the advantage Sturm may have with the spring practices vs Johnson’s experience is probably a wash. And ultimately it may be. Earlier in the week Sturm was seen taking all of the quarterback reps first in drills. That may or may not be an indication of anything. Or there may be some misdirection going on. I can’t say either way with any amount of certainty. But whoever ends up taking the opening snap on Sept 3, I don’t know if that will be UTSA’s permanent starter. I’ve felt all along that we’ll see both Sturm and Johnson in 2016. After three weeks of fall practices, I feel the same.
Frank Wilson came to UTSA as a heralded recruiter. In fact, Wilson is widely considered one of the top recruiters in the nation. Over the summer, Wilson and his staff flexed their muscle. UTSA’s 2017 recruiting class (or #BirdFamily2017 as Wilson refers to it on social media) is currently at 16 commits. There are more three-star recruits committed than ever before. There’s also a consensus four-star recruit who, by the way, is UTSA’s highest-rated commit ever. And not to mention, staff has hit the local scene hard. As I wrote a few weeks ago, it isn’t surprising to see Wilson have recruiting success. He’s an expert at it and the means and methods he goes about recruiting has permeated through his staff. But what is surprising is how quickly it’s happened. There’s a long way until National Signing Day so it shouldn’t be a huge surprise if larger schools come in and try and poach commits. But the fact that these level of players have picked UTSA in the first place is a sign that the return on investment (in terms of recruiting) is already occurring. How that translates to the football field, remains to be seen. But off the field, UTSA is already winning. The Roadrunners boast the #1 recruiting class in Conference USA (LINK). To view an overview of all of UTSA’s current commits, click here: LINK
FOOTBALL RECORD PREDICTION
People always ask me what I think. They actually ask a lot. I guess they figure that since I go to a lot practices and games (and that I’m generally informed), that makes me some sort of expert. I don’t mind but I’ll be the first to admit that I am no expert. There is a fine line between reporting details and facts on a continual basis and then having an opinion and/or being in the know on certain topics. Like everyone else, I have an opinion on a lot of things. But usually I try to keep them to myself unless I’m writing an opinion-based story or someone asks. Since the football season kicks off next week (and since several people have asked) I figured now would be the best time to throw out a prediction on the season. 6-6. It’s an improvement that I feel reflects where the program is at this point in time. 3-9 in 2015 doesn’t seem that bad if you consider that three or four games literally swung the other way on a handful plays. But Hall of Fame Coach Bill Parcells always use to say “you are what your record says you are.” UTSA lost those games for a reason. The good thing for the Roadrunners in 2016 is that Conference USA seems to be top-heavy. A few teams will be good but there is parity, especially in the West Division. And for the first time in several seasons, UTSA isn’t playing a murders’ row of non-conference opponents. So give me a 6-6 record with UTSA going to their first-ever bowl game.
UTSA Men’s Basketball officially announced their full schedule earlier this week. Coach Henson and his staff have hit the ground running. Overshadowed by all that’s been going on with football program, UTSA hoops is making strides as well. They’ve made several changes to the roster with hopes of fielding a competitive team this season. Much like Wilson with football, Henson brings an added dimension in recruiting. Over the summer the entire basketball coaching staff was in Las Vegas to take in several huge AAU tournaments where they were able to evaluate talent from across the country. That was the first time in several years that UTSA had been there. And that’s not the only place staff has recruited. We’ve seen players from Florida, Oklahoma, Houston, Waco, San Antonio and more places pop onto UTSA’s radar. The Roadrunners also already have a player committed to their 2018 recruiting class. So there’s a lot of excitement surrounding the basketball program as well the football program. To keep track of all of what’s going on with UTSA Basketball, be sure to visit the hoops side of the UTSAInsiders Forum: LINK
CLOSING THOUGHTS - WELCOME BACK FOOTBALL
Football season is here. Yes! In my book, September through December is the best time of year and it’s because of football. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy other sports. In fact Spurs basketball and NASCAR races are some of my favorite events. But there’s nothing like football. From the Friday night lights of high schools, to game day Saturdays with college, to Sundays/Mondays with the pros, there’s nothing like it. The intensity, the passion, the stakes on the line… all of it really makes the game great. And now it’s back!