By JJ Perez
JJ’s Journal for March 1, 2017
SPRING FOOTBALL PRACTICES
We get to meet with Football Head Coach Frank Wilson on Thursday to sit down and preview 2017 spring practices. Those workouts get started Monday morning. Things are a little different this season as the Roadrunners are starting their spring earlier than usual. The reason? Recruiting. The evaluation period on the NCAA calendar begins April 15. When do UTSA’s spring practices conclude? April 15. That’s not a coincident. Wilson wants to get his staff on the road to evaluate and recruit immediately. UTSA’s early start means that there will be a pause in practices because of spring break. That will occur from March 13-17. That’s not an uncommon practice with other programs, just something we’re not use to seeing. Be sure to check back later this week for more on our discussion from Coach Wilson on the upcoming spring practices.
Earlier in the week we began previewing spring practices by taking a look at each position. We started at quarterback. You can take a look at that preview here: LINK. To me, it feels like the talk about the future of UTSA’s quarterback has been one that has dragged on for years. Ever since Eric Soza senior’s season in 2013, “QB Talk” has dominated offseason discussions. In all fairness, it has been a bit of a revolving door at the position since Soza. Some of the names from the past include: Zach Conque, Tucker Carter, Austin Robinson, Russell Bellomy, and Blake Bogenschutz. In every recent spring that has rolled around, it always seemed like there’s been some type of controversy at this position. This spring, however, is different. Dalton Sturm has cemented himself as the team’s starter. Coming off a successful season, Sturm has proven himself. So much so that this spring the storyline surrounding the position isn’t who will be starter but who will be the backup. I’m sure “QB Talk” will heat up at some point, especially if there is a graduate transfer or position change. But that doesn’t take away from what Sturm has done as a Roadrunner. For the first time in long time, UTSA has their guy at quarterback. Now that is something to talk about.
OTHER SPRING STORYLINES
Besides who will be backup quarterback, there are some other key storylines to monitor during these upcoming spring practices. How does the offensive line replace two starters? What is life without Jarveon Williams going to be like? How does the defense replace two starting safeties? What will the rotation be like along the d-line? There are many topics to keep an eye on this spring that will impact next season. It all starts Monday. There will be limited media availability throughout spring practices but we will do our best to keep everyone updated. As always, be sure to check out the UTSAInsiders Forum for that latest: LINK.
One week ago, UTSA announced the hiring former Alabama Assistant Bo Davis as their new defensive line coach. Widely regarded as one of the nation’s best position coaches and recruiters, Davis comes to UTSA looking to revitalize his coaching career. Last spring, he and Alabama parted ways amid alleged NCAA violations. It was interesting to observe the reaction of the hiring. Initially, it seemed like many were shocked that UTSA could land a coach with such a pedigree. Davis’ hiring at UTSA is nothing short of a windfall. Still and upcoming program, Davis’ addition to the staff has the potential to make a positive impact both immediately and in the long term. With that potential for high reward, however, comes high risk. But with this situation, it’s more like the perception of high risk. There is a perceived stigma with being labeled a rule-breaker. And even though the NCAA has yet to rule on Davis’ alleged infractions, it was thought he’d be out coaching until that was decided. The actual alleged infraction, impermissible recruiting contact, is considered a relatively minor offense. There will likely be some type of punishment but it’s not expected to be harsh. Bo Davis is a terrific football coach who made a mistake. At some point in the future, he was going to re-start his coaching career. For UTSA, it was the right place and the right time. Some may see that as a gamble, but with UTSA’s “all-in” mentality, it seems like a win-win situation for both sides.
BASKETBALL CLINCHES CUSA TOURNEY
With a thrilling win in Miami last week, UTSA Basketball clinched a spot in Conference USA’s Championship Tournament. On the surface that may not seem like much of an accomplishment given that a large majority of the teams in CUSA earn a spot in the conference tourney every year. However, you have to remember that this is the same team that won just five games last season. UTSA has more than doubled their win total. And while that fact is surprising in and of itself, what’s more surprising is the way UTSA has done it. Three players who were slotted in the preseason to be heavy offensive contributors are either injured or no longer apart of the program. UTSA is led by a walk-on, Jeff Beverly. And each game, it seems like it’s the same script over and over: play tough defense, grab rebounds, limit turnovers, and see if you can make enough plays to gut out a win. I wrote something similar several weeks ago. Since then, little has changed. The CUSA Tournament starts March 8. UTSA will be heavy underdogs and long shot to win even one game. But that is what March is all about. Don’t sleep on UTSA Basketball.
BASEBALL BOUNCES BACK
After a tough opening weekend that saw the Roadrunners go 1-3 vs Quinnipiac, UTSA Baseball bounced back winning four straight games. The Roadrunners swept their weekend series vs SFA and got their first midweek win at Texas A&M-CC on Tuesday. There’s a lot of potential with this season’s squad. Jesse Baker has returned to the lineup after a 12 month hiatus and hasn’t missed a beat. Over the weekend he homered several times, including a grand slam. Kevin Markham, returning from injury last season, has been on the tear. He’s been so good recently that he earned CUSA hitter of the week honors this week. The pitching rotation has been solid. And after some lackadaisical defense in the first few games of the season, UTSA has limited their fielding errors recently. The Roadrunners are back at the Bird Bath this weekend with a four-game set vs Utah beginning on Friday. Following that series, UTSA travels up interstate 35 to take on Texas State on Tuesday.
CLOSING THOUGHTS - HELLO MARCH
It’s that time of the year when college basketball takes center stage. For many, this time of the year is their favorite. For me, there’s nothing like October/November when you have three major sports (football, basketball, and baseball) going on at the same time. But March is a very close second. I think it has to do with the finality of the NCAA Basketball Tournament. People love sports because of the passion and competition. At its height, sports are the greatest reality viewing there is. And nothing symbolizes that more than March Madness. The upsets, the close calls, the Cinderellas, everything the tournament is made of has a certain magic about it. It’s all about surviving and advancing. Next week belongs to all of the conference championships. But after that, it’s time for the real madness. Bring it on.