In the 100 days leading up to the kickoff of the college football season on Saturday, Aug. 26, HERO Sports is ranking the top 100 teams in the FBS. You can find all the rankings and previews here.
No. 94 UTSA
UTSA checked another item of the college football startup checklist last season: Reach a bowl game. Now it's time to win the Conference USA West Division title.
Second-year head coach Frank Wilson helped turn around both sides of the ball in 2016 and has infused their roster with depth, talent and youth that should help them take the next step.
2016 Record: 6-7 (5-3, Conference USA)
UTSA had a successful bounceback season under first-year head coach Frank Wilson, though it could've been better. Six of UTSA's losses came by two touchdowns or less, including three by a combined 10 points.
In those six two-touchdown losses, four times they failed to score more than 20 points. On the season, they completed 56 percent of their passes, barely averaged four yards per carry and ranked 98th nationally in yards per game. Given their routine struggles to move the ball, it was remarkable that they jumped from 104th to 65th in scoring average (29.2) from 2015 to 2016.
Head Coach: Frank Wilson (2nd year, 6-7)
Frank Wilson's head coaching shot was a long time coming. The LSU assistant and revered recruiter took over for Larry Coker after the veteran coach helped create the UTSA program from scratch.
Wilson doubled their 2015 win total and led them to the first bowl game in program history. He followed it up by compiling the nation's 76th-best recruiting class in 2017, by far their best ever.
Key Returning Offensive Players
QB Dalton Sturm, RB Jalen Rhodes, WR Josh Stewart, WR Kerry Thomas Jr., WR Brady Jones, OL Reed Darragh, G Kyle McKinney, G Stefan Beard, C Austin Pratt,
Quarterback Dalton Sturm returns for his senior season in search of consistency.
His completion clip dipped to 56.5 percent in 2016 and he completed less than 50 percent in four games, including 38.5 in a three-point loss to New Mexico in the New Mexico Bowl. He's a terrific scrambler who isn't afraid to take calculated risks — only six interceptions in 299 attempts.
“Mentally, I feel I’m (as comfortable) as I’ve ever been,” Sturm said during spring practice. “I know the offense like the back of my hand. I just need to keep growing. It’s not just necessarily knowing the offense, but being able to check to plays when I read a defense. And that’s one thing that will separate me from last year’s me.”
Sturm gets back all four of his top receivers, led by big-play threat Josh Stewart, who led the team in catches (36), yards (682) and yards per catch (18.9). Running back Jalen Rhodes will help ease the sting of losing 900-yard rusher Jarveon Williams. He'll be aided by the return of four linemen with starting experience.
Key Returning Defensive Players
DE Kevin Strong Jr., DE Marcus Davenport, LB La'Kel Bass, LB Josiah Tauaefa, CB Austin Jupe, CB Teddrick McGhee, CB Nate Gaines, CB Devron Davis
Seven starters return for a unit that made a big leap under defensive coordinator Pete Golding. They have a strong front six — UTSA primarily uses a 4-2-5 scheme — led by Marcus Davenport, whose 10 tackles for loss tied La'Kel Bass for most on the team, and tackle-turned-end Kevin Strong.
Bass' running mate Josiah Tauaefa set the school record with 115 tackles (he added nine tackles for loss, six sacks and one interception) to earn Freshman All-American honors.
Golding's system requires a stockpile of defensive backs, and though it'll take a couple recruiting cycles to fill out those roles perfectly, he does return five good cornerbacks. Seniors Austin Jupe and Nate Gaines are the leaders but keep an eye on sophomore Teddrick McGhee, who could wind up having the best season of anyone in the secondary.
Notable Player Losses
RB Jarveon Williams, OT Gabriel Casillas, OT Jevonte Drummond, S Michael Egwuagu, S Jordan Moore
Jarveon Williams graduated after racking up nearly 3,000 yards from scrimmage and 20 total touchdowns in four seasons. He was particularly valuable to Sturm in the passing game last year, averaging 11.6 yards per reception.
Williams' two tackles, Gabriel Casillas and Jevonte Drumons, are also gone, as are two starting safeties, Michael Egwuagu and Jordan Moore. Thankfully, all four players' replacements will play alongside veterans.
Notable Player Additions
RB B.J. Daniels, TE Robert Ursua, OT Josh Dunlop, CB Samuel Barnes
Josh Dunlop, a 6-foot-7, 300-pound transfer from Dodge City Community College, will help alleviate the loss of Casillas and Drummond. And another JUCO transfer, Robert Ursua from Palomar Community College, will team with senior tight end Shaq Williams to give Sturm a big combo.
The best recruiting class in program history was highlighted by two FBS-ready players, 6-foot-1, 202-pound running back B.J. Daniels and 6-foot-1, 194-pound corner Samuel Barnes.
UTSA's next step in becoming a stable Group of Five program: Beating an upper-tier opponent like Houston, whom they play at home in Week 1. Win or lose, they get no relief the following week with a trip to Baylor.
They do avoid the top three teams in the East Division in Western Kentucky, Middle Tennessee and Old Dominion, and don't have back-to-back road games until Weeks 9 and 10 vs. UTEP and FIU.
|Saturday, Sept. 2||vs. Houston|
|Saturday, Sept. 9||at Baylor|
|Saturday, Sept. 16||vs. Southern|
|Saturday, Sept. 23||at Texas State|
|Saturday, Oct. 7||vs. Southern Miss|
|Saturday, Oct. 14||at North Texas|
|Saturday, Oct. 21||vs. Rice|
|Saturday, Oct. 28||at UTEP|
|Saturday, Nov. 4||at FIU|
|Saturday, Nov. 11||vs. UAB|
|Saturday, Nov. 18||vs. Marshall|
|Saturday, Nov. 25||at Louisiana Tech|