To preview the Arizona Wildcats' matchup against UTSA, we asked Jared Kalmus of Roadrunners blog Cooler Chronicles some questions. We look into what the Roadrunners did to challenge Oklahoma State last week, what UTSA coach Larry Coker might do to upend RichRod and then learn about what it's like to have a quarterback who is actually liked by his fan base. GREAT.
1) UTSA gave Oklahoma State a bit of a battle last week. How much confidence has that given the team that it can play with the big boys?
By nature, UTSA is a very confident team. Larry Coker has made it a point to recruit hard-nosed kids like Triston Wade and Jeremiah Moeller that play with a chip on their shoulder. I can't think of many games in this program's history where the Roadrunners didn't play with confidence. Hanging around with a top 15 program will certainly bolster that mindset.
2) For those who haven't seen UTSA, what styles of offense and defense do the Roadrunners use and what, if any, surprises do you think coach Larry Coker will have in his pocket against RichRod?
I think football fans that haven't seen UTSA play yet will enjoy watching the offense operate. In general, the Roadrunners play out of a spread offense similar to Urban Meyer's offense during his time at Florida. While the base offense might not be anything special in 2013, it's what UTSA does in between snaps that can give opposing defenses struggles. Offensive Coordinator Kevin Brown is very liberal with his substitutions, as it is not at all rare to see five new players subbed in after each play. The Roadrunners' offense is motion heavy and wide receivers that cross the field in motion are always options to carry the ball on a jet sweep. As of late, UTSA has been seen lining up in a power formation out of the huddle. Quarterback Eric Soza will read the defense and decide whether to run a play out of the power formation or to motion out to a spread, based off the personnel that the defense has on the field at the time. This approach could be particularly disruptive against Arizona's SWAT defense.
On defense the Roadrunners employ a 4-2-5 defense that substitutes a second outside linebacker for a "Dawg" safety that assumes both pass coverage and outside run containment. The Roadrunners don't blitz too often as the secondary has yet to prove itself dependable.
As far as surprises go, I think Coker might trot out true freshman Jarveon Williams for quite a few snaps this week. He looked very impressive on all three of his touches against Oklahoma State and UTSA doesn't really have anything to lose as the rushing offense has been extremely unimpressive so far this season. Williams has an extra burst of speed that none of UTSA's veteran running backs can match.
3) It appears that UTSA has a homerun type threat in receiver Kenny Bias. Can you give us the lowdown on how UTSA likes to utilize him and who else on the team falls into that general term of "playmaker"?
Kenny Bias has been equally fun and frustrating to watch develop as a wide receiver. Bias is a fantastic wide receiver on paper-- track star speed, long arms and decent height. Unfortunately catching the football was a problem for him in his freshman season. Most notably, Bias dropped an easy touchdown that would have tied the Rice game at halftime last year. There wasn't a defender within fifteen yards of Bias. Perhaps after he spotted the ball he knew he would score, causing him to take his mind off of completing the catch. Judging from his impressive three touchdown performance against Oklahoma State, perhaps Bias has turned the corner. With his type of sheer talent, it's just a matter of time before Bias completes his game and becomes an all-conference receiver in Conference USA. Bias is utilized on most deep routes on plays but is also utilized on sweeps and screens.
Other playmakers of note are all wide receivers. Kam Jones is a converted high school quarterback that seems to net large gains every time he touches the ball. Coker likes to take creative measures to get him the ball in space by bringing him around the edge on jet sweeps, placing him into a "Wildcat" formation, and by throwing at him on hitch screens and quick slants. Kenny Harrison is a very explosive athlete that makes his living on special teams. Fans that watched last week's game against Oklahoma State may have noticed his 62 yard punt return. Lastly, Aaron Grubb is a speedy slot receiver that excels at creating separation from defensive backs and picking up additional yards after the catch.
On defense safeties Triston Wade and Nic Johnston are both hard-hitting defenders with a penchant for creating turnovers. The entire defensive line has been great for UTSA so far this season; Ashaad Mabry has been gobbling up double team blocks, freeing up Richard Burge to disrupt ball carriers in the backfield. Walk-on freshman Codie Brooks has provided a much needed pass rush this season, as he already has two sacks this season. If he stays healthy, "Hawk" LB Steven Kurfehs might be the most NFL-ready athlete on the roster.
4) What's the lowdown on quarterback Eric Soza? What are his strengths and weaknesses?
UTSA has been spoiled by starting its program with a quarterback of Eric's caliber. Soza's strongest trait is his moxie as a signal-caller and his efficiency as an offensive conduit. Eric rarely turns the ball over and is able to extend plays with his speed and footwork. Throughout his three seasons at UTSA, Soza's passing accuracy has continued to improve but unfortunately he never truly developed a deep passing game. While Eric struggles to hit receivers open deep down the field, he is still capable of generating big plays on offense. The senior quarterback is a true threat in the option game and can terrorize defenses that abandon the middle of the field by scrambling as his passing pocket collapses.
5) What is the Roadrunners biggest concern in facing Arizona's fast, run-heavy offense?
While Ka'Deem Carey is obviously the most talented running back the Roadrunners will have faced to date, I think the size of Arizona's offensive tackles could be huge trouble for a steadily improving UTSA defensive line. I can't recall UTSA ever facing an offensive line as large and athletic as Arizona's. If Ebbele and Baucus are able to seal off the edge and provide Carey with an outside running lane it could be a long, difficult day for the Roadrunner defense.