By Jerry Briggs
Junior C.J. Levine said Friday that safeties in the UTSA football camp are pulling together "to be one brotherhood" in the absence of an injured veteran and two departed seniors.
Levine said Andrew Martel and Carl Austin III are stepping up "in a big way."
"They always could play," Levine said. "They were just never given the opportunity. Now that they have the opportunity, they're showcasing their skills."
UTSA starters at safety last fall included, for the most part, seniors Michael Egwuagu and Jordan Moore and junior Nate Gaines.
While Egwuagu and Moore have exhausted their eligibility, Gaines is out for the spring recovering from surgery.
Gaines, who plays free safety, is expected to return to practice in time for fall camp.
"Even though Nate is down, we still got to keep moving forward," Levine said. "Nate is a great help to us. But we got to better ourselves as a safety group and just come together and be one brotherhood."
Levine is the most experienced of any of the safeties vying for starting jobs.
Playing in all 25 of UTSA's games over the past two years, he emerged last fall as the team's ninth-leading tackler with 32, while also recording two passes broken up. He defended two others.
The former four-year starter from Port Arthur Memorial started one game last year in place of Moore, who manned the "Ram" safety position.
But Levine said after the third of UTSA's 15 scheduled spring practices that coaches are using him at all three safety positions.
"I'm really everywhere on the field," he said. "It's not a set position for me, really. I could play 'Ram,' I could play 'Lion, and I'm also playing free safety," he said. "Everything is really not set in stone for me because I'm a player that you could just move around."
Exuding confidence: Wide receiver Brady Jones agreed that UTSA is a confident team leading into the 2017 season.
He said the Roadrunners feel good about themselves because of 15 returning starters. Also, because they reached a bowl game for the first time in six seasons as a program in December.
UTSA played in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl, losing 23-20 to the New Mexico Lobos.
"Whenever you go to a bowl like that, whether it was the first bowl or not, we weren't happy with not winning," he said. "That's what coach Wilson has instilled in us. Just because you may have been the first to do something, it doesn't mean you've arrived at all. You still have a lot of work to do. Just getting to a bowl game is not enough. You got to go finish it."
UTSA returns six starters on offense, seven on defense and two on special teams.
Dunlop passes test: UTSA coach Frank Wilson said newcomer Josh Dunlop, a 6-foot-7, 300-pound offensive tackle, passed a toughness test in the camp's first 'Bird Cage" drill.
The coach said Dunlop, a junior college transfer, held his own against Baylen Baker in the one-on-one competition.
"Josh has been moving around pretty well but we wanted to know who he was," Wilson said. "So we matched him up with Baylen Baker, to kind of baptize him to Division I football ... I thought he did well."
Dunlop, a sophomore from Zionsville, Ind., is expected to challenge for a starter's job. He played last year at Dodge City, Kan., Community College.
'JDub' returns: Jarveon Williams and Andrew King, two mainstays in the offensive backfield last fall, made an appearance at Friday's workout. The two have played out their eligibility. Egwuagu came by to say hello to his former teammates on Monday.
Spring break: UTSA has completed three camp practices. The team has dispersed for spring break, and is scheduled to return for the fourth workout on March 20. UTSA will complete drills with its annual spring game at 1 p.m. on April 15 at Farris Stadium.