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UTSA Roadrunner Review: Grading The Offseason


Head coach Jeff Traylor
© Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

With the release of UTSA's 2024 schedule and spring practices kicking off in early March, we are getting closer to live game action at the Alamodome! The Roadrunners are looking to build on the success of having four straight winning seasons, a feat never before accomplished in the brief history of this program.

 

roadrunner REVIEW: coaching staff


Since being hired at UTSA in December 2019, Coach Jeff Traylor has an impressive overall record of 39-14 during his four seasons at the helm. Before his arrival, UTSA had a record of 19-29 during the four-year tenure under Frank Wilson. UTSA and Traylor agreed to a 10-year, $28 million contract extension in October 2021 that made him one of the top five highest-paid Group of Five head coaches. Despite the contract also including a $7 million buyout clause, Traylor has attracted the attention of several Power Five schools and interviewed with the University of Houston and Texas A&M this offseason.



It is no surprise that Power Five teams are interested in Traylor as his deep history in Texas makes him a hotter commodity for openings within the Lone Star State. At Gilmer High School, located about two hours east of Dallas, Traylor won three state championships and finished as the state runner-up two times.



UTSA dodged a bullet this offseason as both Houston and Texas A&M decided to go in another direction with their head coach openings. Houston hired Willie Fritz away from Tulane with a five-year contract worth $22.5 million, and Texas A&M hired Mike Elko away from Duke with a six-year contract worth $42 million.


Unfortunately, it is only a matter of time before a school offers Traylor a deal he cannot refuse. One Texas school to keep an eye on is Baylor, as they struggled last year with a 3-9 record, and coach Dave Aranda is on the proverbial hot seat. Despite being only two years into a contract extension signed in February, which includes a $20 million buyout, Baylor would not hesitate to make a change if another losing season occurs, given the ongoing impatience of their fans, and Traylor would be one of the top candidates.



Getting Traylor back for another season is a win, but he is likely gone prior to the 2025 season. This strong possibility has a negative impact on the program's ability to recruit high school athletes, transfer players, and find assistant coaches willing to move themselves and their families to San Antonio. The UTSA athletic department has gone above and beyond to keep Traylor, but the Power Five money will eventually be too hard to compete with.


Final Grade: B-


 

roadrunner REVIEW: high school recruiting


On3 has the Roadrunners' 2024 class with 12 high school commits for the upcoming season. On the offensive side of the ball, the offensive line was an obvious focus, with four commits at that position led by four-star Jonah Miller out of Tucson, Arizona. Miller was projected to sign with NC State, but UTSA was able to pull off the upset and secure the commitment. On the defensive side of the ball, UTSA signed three safeties led by three-star Kenyan Kelly out of Denison, Texas. Kelly had offers from Baylor and three SEC schools (Oklahoma, Missouri, and Arkansas).



"we got the high school kids that were available at the time, there's just not many of them left that we thought could fix our roster quickly." - Coach jeff traylor

Does that sound like a quote from a coach who is happy with his recruiting class? As the table below indicates, this is rated as UTSA's worst class under Traylor, signaling a departure from the program's yearly recruiting improvements. Are recruits concerned about the likelihood of Traylor staying at UTSA? Is this a strategic change to focus more on the transfer portal in the future? Is this a one-off year, and the Roadrunners will be back at the top of the conference next year for recruiting ranks? All questions will need several years before they can be properly answered.

Year

National Rank

Conference Rank

Class Score

2024

108th

11th (AAC)

82.56

2023

52nd

1st (AAC)

85.91

2022

69th

1st (C-USA)

83.48

2021

75th

1st (C-USA)

82.47

2020

93rd

9th (C-USA)

80.87


In the current college football world of the transfer portal and Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) money, there are more options for building your roster than relying solely on high school recruits. Located in a recruiting hotbed like Texas should allow UTSA to regularly identify and sign top-five recruiting classes in the American Athletic Conference (AAC). With such a small class, the Roadrunners cannot afford many misses and will need most of these players to be solid to good contributors in the future.


Final Grade: D+


 

roadrunner review: transfer portal


Group Five teams like UTSA are becoming minor league farm teams for Power Five schools under the current transfer portal rules. UTSA was hit the hardest on defense as it lost linebacker Trey Moore, the 2023 American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year, to Texas and cornerback Kam Alexander, first-team All-AAC, to Oregon. Both players were key to UTSA's defense, which ranked fifth in the AAC with 24.1 points allowed per game last season.


LB Trey Moore playing against North Texas
© Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

On the flip side, the Roadrunners have the following ten players set to join their roster:


  1. Denver Harris, cornerback, transfer from LSU

  2. DJ Allen, wide receiver, transfer from TCU

  3. Jaylen Garth, offensive line, transfer from Houston

  4. Ian Jackson, linebacker, transfer from Alabama

  5. Daemian Wimberly, defensive line, transfer from SMU

  6. JJ Sparkman, wide receiver, transfer from Texas Tech

  7. Zach Morris, cornerback, transfer from New Mexico

  8. Brevin Randle, linebacker, transfer from Louisiana Tech

  9. Kamar Missouri, offensive line, transfer from Rutgers

  10. CJ James, offensive line, transfer from New Mexico


Harris is the standout player of this group, given his talent and prior accolades. On3 had Harris ranked as their 23rd-best recruit in the nation coming out of Houston in 2022 when he committed to Texas A&M. Harris had some off-the-field issues in College Station that led to multiple suspensions, and he eventually landed at LSU. UTSA lost the top three members of its secondary from last year, so they need Harris's maturity off the field to match his talent level on it.


Denver Harris making a tackle against Sam Houston State
© Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

One position stands out as a glaring miss and need from a transfer perspective, and that is quarterback. Frank Harris is no longer eligible, and while Owen McCown and Eddie Lee Marburger showed some promise when forced into action last season, this position still remains a big question mark heading into spring ball. Watching nearby Texas State secure a top-notch transfer quarterback like Jordan McCloud from James Madison makes you wonder why UTSA could not at least add some depth to the most important position on the field.


Final Grade: C-

 

utsa ROADRUNNER offseason Review: FINAL GRADE and thoughts


Overall, it was an unexpectedly rocky offseason for UTSA as they faced struggles in coaching, recruiting, and the transfer portal. No offseason can truly be judged until several years later, and UTSA needs the following to occur for this offseason to be viewed positively:


  • Coach Traylor remains at the school for at least three more seasons.

  • The recruiting class produces three difference-makers and six multi-year starters.

  • Denver Harris and one other transfer are first-team All-AAC at their position this year.


All three could occur, but UTSA has left itself with a very slim margin for error for that to occur. It is more likely that only one of the three scenarios happens, and this is an off-season that causes the program to take a step back. The goal has to be for the UTSA Roadrunner off-season review next year to be more positive!


Overall Final Grade: C





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