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NCAA Football Preview - UTSA Roadrunners

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Updated: 8/19 8:06 am

Larry Coker's third season at the helm of UTSA's football program was also the third-ever season for the Roadrunners as a football team, which started up in 2011. UTSA topped out its greatest win total at eight games in just its second year in existence in 2012, and has had only one losing season in three years. The Roadrunners finished off their 2013 season on a five-game win streak.

They opened with a victory over New Mexico, and lost just two conference games to Marshall and Rice - the two squads that played in the C-USA title game in 2013. Behind quarterback Eric Soza, UTSA missed out on playing for the title contest by one victory.

Soza helped the Roadrunners achieve 417.8 total yards of offense per game last season. Coker, who coached the Miami Hurricanes to the national title game back in 2001, gets a nation-leading 37 seniors back for his fourth year with the program.

2014 ANALYSIS:

OFFENSE: The biggest difference for the Roadrunners' offense in 2014 will be the absence of Soza. The quarterback graduated following the 2013 season, and is the only starting signal caller the UTSA football program has ever known. Now it's time for Coker to find the second starting quarterback in UTSA history.

He has a main candidate in Tucker Carter, a senior, who attempted 33 passes last year and registered 190 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions. Soza's passing stats weren't eye-popping, so between Carter and redshirt freshman Austin Robinson there likely won't be too much of a dropoff.

Soza did have a heavy involvement in the running game, but returning senior David Glasco II will once again get the bulk of the work out of the backfield. Soza led the team with seven rushing touchdowns, but Glasco carried the ball 95 times for 517 yards and five scores. Glasco and sophomore Jarveon Williams are likely licking their chops to get back out on the field to run, as all five 2013 starting offensive linemen are returning for another season.

Whether it's Tucker or Robinson under center, the starting signal caller will have a bevy of receivers with which he can connect. There isn't a single pass catcher from last season that isn't returning for a title shot in 2014. Kam Jones led all receivers last year with 34 receptions for 354 yards and a single touchdown. Kenny Bias, Cole Hubble and Brandon Armstrong each led the team with two touchdown receptions apiece.

DEFENSE: The Roadrunners return an almost unprecedented 10 starters to their defense for the 2014 season. This is a defense that allowed just 376.3 offensive yards per game to opponents a year ago.

Safety Triston Wade led the team in tackles last season with 94, adding five pass breakups and two interceptions. Takeaways didn't exactly come in bunches for UTSA, which forced just eight interceptions and 10 fumbles all season - six of which were recovered by the Roadrunners. Wade's two picks tied for the team high.

The entire defensive line returns for another season, led by tackle Ashaad Mabry, who racked up 41 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and a half-sack in 2013. In the defensive backfield, Wade pairs with senior Brian King (61 tackles) at the safety spots, while Crosby Adams III and Bennett Okotcha lock down the corner positions.

UTSA held opponents to under 20 points six times last season, and with nearly the entire defense returning, that number could increase with a favorable conference schedule.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Along with the hefty number of returning starers on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, UTSA also returns both its kicker and punter from a year ago too. Sean Ianno (11-of-19 in 2013) will handle the kicking duties, while Kristian Stern (50 punts, 40.4-yard average) will come back to take over his punting duties. Both are seniors that contribute to the record number of upperclassmen for the Roadrunners.

OUTLOOK: With so many returning players in 2014 for the Roadrunners, UTSA won't have much trouble putting together a winning team yet again. The biggest question mark coming in will be at the quarterback position, but at least Coker's squad has several viable options to replace Soza under center.

"I saw some great things out there (in the team's first practice) and you can tell this is a veteran team just by watching them practice," Coker said. "Overall, I was very pleased."

The Roadrunners play the same non-conference opponents as they did last year - Houston, Arizona, Oklahoma State and New Mexico. UTSA went 1-3 against that slate last season, but will look to better that mark. The first C-USA matchup the team will play is a Sept. 27 contest against Florida Atlantic. On Oct. 11, the Roadrunners will delve completely into conference play for the remainder of the year.

There's a legitimate chance for the senior-laden Roadrunners to make a run at the C-USA title, and the fact they won't have to play Marshall in the regular season, if at all, is a bonus. In fact, UTSA has a pretty light conference slate. To see UTSA and Marshall in the C-USA championship game will surprise no one. And since 2014 is the first year the Roadrunners will be bowl eligible, there's a strong chance UTSA ends up in some postseason scenario.

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