The UTSA Roadrunner soccer group will start its thirteenth season simply because it started its fourth, with a go to to the University of Houston Cougars for the season opener.
That and the colour of the uniform might be about the one similarities between this yr’s Roadrunners and their predecessors from 2014. This yr’s Roadrunners might be enjoying in a new conference, the American Athletic Conference. The 2023 Roadrunners have additionally received a minimum of 11 video games in every of the final two seasons, main to excessive expectations from the neighborhood.
“Pressure is a privilege. Expectations are kind of like fire,” UTSA Head Coach Jeff Traylor mentioned. “If it’s used correctly it can be great, but if the expectations consume you, it can be a bad thing.”
As the expectations for UTSA are leveling up, so is the standard of the competitors in its new conference. Joining 5 different new AAC members, UTSA was picked to end second within the league, behind Cotton Bowl winner Tulane, in a ballot of media members.
The realigned conference now has 4 groups in Texas with the addition of Rice University and the University of North Texas.
UTSA might be making an attempt for a 3rd straight conference championship after successful Conference USA in its ultimate two seasons as a member.
The jump to the American provides UTSA a big increase in nationwide media publicity and extra income from broadcast rights. Its new conference is within the midst of a 12-year, $1 billion cope with ESPN that reportedly pays member colleges roughly $6 million yearly, though as a newcomer to the league UTSA may obtain much less.
Starting conference slate in Philly
That is only one a part of what’s in retailer for the Roadrunners this season. The Roadrunners’ nonconference schedule contains the I-35 rivalry sequence towards Texas State within the dwelling opener on Sept. 9. The Bobcats are led by Coach G.J. Kinne, in his first yr at Texas State after leaping from the University of the Incarnate Word after one season. He performed quarterback for Traylor at Gilmer High School.
“I’ll love to comment on GJ Kinne and Texas State after we play Houston,” Traylor mentioned.
The remainder of UTSA’s nonconference schedule will embody a Friday evening dwelling sport towards Army on Sept. 15 and a go to to SEC energy Tennessee on Sept. 23. UTSA’s conference slate will start Oct. 7 with a visit to Philadelphia to play the Temple Owls.
“I’m excited to go play at Philadelphia,” security Rashad Wisdom mentioned throughout AAC media days in July. “I’ve never had a Philly cheesesteak, so I want to try one of those up there.”
UTSA’s American Conference dwelling opener might be Oct. 14 towards the UAB Blazers. The Roadrunners’ greatest sport of the season could be the common season finale once they face the defending American champions Tulane in New Orleans on both Nov. 24 or 25. The date of the Thanksgiving weekend sport might be introduced in mid-October.
Seventh yr for Harris
The 2023 Roadrunners will return a number of key contributors from final season. Quarterback Frank Harris returns for a seventh yr at UTSA needing simply 644 yards to surpass 10,000 passing yards for his profession. Harris, whose longevity with the Roadrunners stems from redshirt years and prolonged eligibility due to the pandemic, can be 26 passing touchdowns away from changing into the primary Roadrunner quarterback to throw for 100 in his profession.
“I’m excited for the season,” Harris mentioned. “We get to play some great teams in the country and we are excited for the challenge.”
The Roadrunners could have main rusher Kevorian Barnes returning this season as a part of a deep working again group that features Rocko Griffin, a switch from Vanderbilt.
UTSA’s receiving corps might be with out final yr’s main receiver Zakhari Franklin, who transferred to Mississippi within the offseason. The remaining two-thirds of final yr’s receiving trio might be returning: De’Corian Clark and Joshua Cephus. Clark had his season lower quick final yr with a knee damage, and Cephus missed the bowl sport final season, being suspended after a rollover automobile crash that resulted in a DWI cost.
“It was a mistake,” Cephus mentioned. “… It showed me some things I needed to learn about myself.”
Tight ends Oscar Cardenas and Dan Dishman return this season, together with a few younger tight ends who may see a rise in enjoying time.
Injuries hit UTSA’s offensive line onerous final season, however by that a number of gamers gained expertise at every place on the road. This yr’s Roadrunner offensive line is deeper than final yr’s thanks partly to the shuffling that had to be achieved final season.
“I’m excited to get some depth in the room,” UTSA offensive lineman Terrell Haynes mentioned. “It’s important obviously because of how last year went. In the room we have a ‘next man up’ mentality. At the end of the day I have faith in all the guys in the room that they can get the job done.”
UTSA’s protection could have seven starters coming back from final season. The defensive position might be anchored by Brandon Brown, Brandon Matterson and Joe Evans.
The linebacker group has a couple of key gamers coming back from final yr as properly. Inside linebacker Jamal Ligon is again for his senior season after main the Roadrunners in tackles final season. Outside linebackers Donyai Taylor and Trey Moore are also again. Taylor performed in 13 video games final season and Moore led the protection in sacks. Moore and Taylor had been each elected by teammates to put on single digits this season — signifying they greatest embody the group’s values.
“It was exciting — to be held as someone who is upholding the brand and the culture of the 210,” Moore mentioned. “I’m blessed to be seen that way by my teammates and coaches.”
The returning defensive backs embody safeties Wisdom and Kelechi Nwachuku and cornerbacks Nicktroy Fortune and Dwyan Griffin.
UTSA’s particular groups convey again punter Lucas Dean however could have to exchange final yr’s placekicker, Jared Sackett. The Roadrunners have had two kickers battling for the beginning job in fall camp, incumbent Tate Sandell and Alabama switch Chase Allen.
This season might be a step up in competitors for the Roadrunners, each in non-conference and in conference play. If UTSA can replicate the success of the final two years, it’ll have an opportunity to be enjoying for a spot in one of many New Year’s Six bowl video games.