By Jerry Briggs
The UTSA defense was at its turnover-forcing best again on Wednesday, producing a plus-five margin in a morning workout on campus.
"The effort was fanatical," coach Frank Wilson said. "They’re scratching and clawing and taking attempts at the ball. It’s been good for us."
Defensive pressure and the ability to force turnovers has emerged as a common theme during UTSA's spring practices.
The coach has mentioned it more than a few times in the past few weeks.
"We're persistent," Wilson said, noting that his staff has emphasized things like technique in catching the ball. "You don’t see it very often from a defensive standpoint. You go through drills and you may just throw it out there. But we’ve really increased our attention to detail."
Preparing for Wilson's second season as coach, the Roadrunners have completed 11 practices, or a little more than two thirds of the camp.
Three workouts remain before the team plays its annual spring game on April 15 at Farris Stadium.
Wilson mentioned wide receiver Peyton Hall and tight end Robert Ursua, both juniors, for improving themselves on offense.
On defense, the coach pointed out junior linebacker Les Maruo and sophomore safety Andrew Martel.
"I think guys are improving," Wilson said. "Peyton Hall is really starting to do some good things for us ... Robert Ursua, our transfer tight end, put on about 15 pounds and he’s really been improving each and every day."
Wilson called Maruo "a pleasant surprise," and he added that Martel "is doing some good things for us."
The coach said Martel is playing free safety, in place of Nate Gaines, who is not practicing this spring. Gaines is rehabilitating from a shoulder injury.
--Hall, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound junior from Brandeis, has played in only 13 games in his first two years with the Roadrunners. He played nine games last fall, and he was credited with one rushing attempt for minus three yards. He didn't have a catch.
--Ursua is a UTSA newcomer this spring. The native Californian (6-3, 220) played the last two years for Palomar Junior College. A fomer U.S. Navy veteran, he had 40 catches for 463 yards as a sophomore last fall at Palomar. Ursua could have a chance to start this fall in the wake of Trevor Stevens' graduation.
--Maruo has been on the UTSA campus since the 2016 spring semester but hasn't played. Maruo (6-0, 225) attended high school in Wichita, Kansas and then went on to play two seasons at Hutchinson Community College, Kan.
--Martel signed with UTSA out of Foster High School in Richmond in 2015 and redshirted because of injury He bounced back last fall, playing all 13 games, making 10 tackles and recovering two fumbles.
--The UTSA spring game is set for 1 p.m. on April 15 at Farris Stadium, located at 8400 North Loop 1604 West. Farris, a property of the Northside Independent School District, served as UTSA's original practice site. The Roadrunners practiced at Farris starting in the fall of 2010.
They continued to use it through most of the August training camp in 2013 before moving to what is now the current practice site, on the UTSA campus.