Head coach Jeff Traylor is making waves in the state of Texas as he continues to build a powerhouse with the UTSA Roadrunners. Take a journey back in time to see how the program got to these heights after their inaugural season in 2011.
Early Years with Larry Coker
The UTSA Roadrunner football program has only been in existence since 2011. Larry Coker, a former National Champion with the Miami Hurricanes, served as the school’s first-ever football head coach.
The early years were a bit tricky for the upstart group. They searched far and wide for a way into the FBS-level of college football and found it with the Western Athletic Conference.
Their home stadium is the Alamodome in San Antonio, a venue that once hosted the San Antonio Spurs of the NBA. In the first home game in UTSA history, they had more than 50,000 fans show up! How crazy is that!?
Following their initial season in 2011 that saw the team finish 4-6, Coker led his squad to an awe-inspiring 8-4 finish in 2012. It is unprecedented to post a winning record across the first two seasons of existence for a program.
Due to special rules for start-ups, the Roadrunners weren’t eligible for a bowl appearance in 2012. After a successful first two seasons, the school received an offer to leave the WAC and join Conference USA, which they happily accepted.
It’s been an uphill battle since then for the Roadrunners to establish their place among the best in the conference. The team reached seven victories in 2013 but failed to do so again until the 2020 season.
Jeff Traylor Era Begins at UTSA
Speaking of the 2020 season, that is when current head coach Jeff Traylor took the program over. This proved to be the best decision the team has made in its short history.
Larry Coker deserves all the credit in the world for building a strong foundation for UTSA, but nobody could have dreamed of the heights that Jeff Traylor has reached in less than three years as “the man” on campus.
The team’s lone bowl game before Traylor took over came in 2016 when Frank Wilson, the bridge coach between Coker and Traylor, led the team to a 6-6 regular season before dropping their bowl game versus New Mexico. Traylor hasn’t won a bowl game yet, but he’s 2-for-2 in earning a berth.
In the COVID-shortened 2020 season, Traylor’s Roadrunners won seven games and lost a hard-fought 31-24 battle with the No. 16 ranked Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns in the First Responder Bowl. This bowl game is when folks around the country began taking notice.
Jeff Traylor’s second season on campus produced far and away the best campaign in school history. Not only did the team win double-digit regular season games, but they also won the conference after a 49-41 win against Western Kentucky.
The 2021 season also saw the school ranked for the first time, reaching as high as No. 15 in the AP poll. These types of results are almost unfathomable given where the program was a few short years ago.
Year three of the Jeff Traylor era is well underway and it’s shown just how viable of a threat the Roadrunners are on the national landscape. In a strong showing of confidence, UTSA scheduled out-of-conference, in-state rivals Houston and Texas for early season games in 2022.
Both teams held a top-25 ranking at the time of the game, and each one got all they could handle from the Roadrunners. The Houston game came down to the wire, with the Cougars eventually prevailing 37-35.
Against the Longhorns, UTSA held a lead throughout a majority of the first half but squandered this opportunity by falling flat in the second half. They lost the contest 41-20, but that score doesn’t signify the fight that the Roadrunners put up.
They will face off against Western Kentucky on Oct. 8, but after that, I’d expect that UTSA will win the remaining games on their schedule by multiple touchdowns each. The team is 3-2 currently, but considering their losses are to two ranked teams, it’s hard to be disappointed at this result.
The fact that they scheduled two of the best programs in Texas shows how serious they are about elevating the program to be on par with any in the state. Aside from this, there’s another major reason why UTSA is gaining more and more respect around the country.
UTSA Hoping to Become a Staple in NFL Draft Discussions
Back in 2016, David Morgan II became the first draft pick in UTSA history. He served as a tight end for the Minnesota Vikings from 2015-2019 but suffered what would become a career-ending knee injury.
In 2018, the Roadrunners sent their first-ever day one pick to the NFL Draft. Marcus Davenport, a sleeper to many, came off the board at No. 14 overall to the New Orleans Saints. He is the reason that a large portion of fans were introduced to UTSA.
Davenport has been the victim of injuries as a professional, so he hasn’t quite lived up to the billing of a first-round pick. His nine sacks in 2021 ranked in the top 20 in the NFL, but all-in-all, the results have been mixed.
The imprint he left on the UTSA program is something that will be felt for years to come though, so no matter what he is a success in this regard.
No Roadrunner was drafted from 2019-2021, but this changed in 2022. Offensive lineman Spencer Burford was taken in the fourth round, while cornerback Tariq Woolen went to the Seattle Seahawks in round five.
Tariq Woolen, a player that graded out as a first-round talent for me, has helped put UTSA back in the mind of NFL Draft evaluators everywhere. He’s already stamped his label as a steal for the Seahawks and is a true star in the making at cornerback. His Twitter feed is full of UTSA posts, and with more eyes pointed toward him, this will lead to more attention on the program as a whole.
It can’t be overstated how important it is for these alumni to have success in the NFL. It’s also worth noting that all three players they’ve had drafted since 2018 play premium positions in the league. Offensive tackle, edge rusher, and cornerback are among the most sought after.
Current UTSA Players That Should Hear Their Names Called in the 2023 NFL Draft
There are a handful of players on the 2022 UTSA Roadrunner roster that are firmly on NFL Draft radars. A quick rundown of those players shows that they could realistically become an NFL factory for premium positions.
Quarterback Frank Harris is playing out of his mind in 2022. Some bad interception luck hurts the optics a bit, but don’t let this fool you. He’s completing passes at a career-high clip and is on pace to surpass career high’s in every statistical category.
Size concerns will likely push Harris down draft boards, but he should become the first ever UTSA quarterback to be drafted in 2023.
Wide receiver De’Corian Clark is another intriguing NFL prospect on the roster. He stands at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, and has the nasty streak that you love to see from a player on the boundary.
He’s averaging seven catches, 111.1 receiving yards, and more than a touchdown per game in 2023. This isn’t always the case, but Clark’s tape matches the box score.
Clark can be seen here high-pointing a jump ball in the end zone from Frank Harris. Notice how Clark has complete body control and finishes the play through contact with his lower body. This is something that scouts will fawn over.
Another play from earlier in the same game is even better. Clark’s concentration as the ball comes in over the defender’s shoulder is something you can’t teach. He remains poised, gets his eyes locked on the ball, and uses his huge hands to secure the catch. Bonus points for finishing it off for a touchdown too!
Clark isn’t the only game-changing wide receiver that Jeff Traylor has at his disposal. Zakhari Franklin, the team’s leading receiver from 2021, and Joshua Cephus, a third-year starter in 2022, round out one of the best wide receiver corps in the country.
Franklin is smaller in stature, but what he lacks in size, he more than makes up for in speed and agility. He’s pacing the squad with 37 receptions through five games and his six touchdowns match De’Corian Clark for the team lead.
This screen pass that Franklin takes to the house encapsulates his athleticism as he follows the blocks and turns what would be a short gain for most into a 35-yard touchdown.
The defensive side of the ball features a few standouts, but no locks for an early-round selection. Linebacker Trevor Harmanson is a name that could rise, though. He’s 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, and flashes traits that could be used in a variety of ways.
His size helps him immensely as a downhill tackler. I have never watched Harmanson shy away from contact. He’s also incredibly athletic for that size, which makes me think there is untapped potential as a pass rusher.
The Future of the UTSA Program Under Jeff Traylor
The UTSA Roadrunners are on an upward trajectory as a program. Head coach Jeff Traylor has spearheaded the most successful two-year run in school history and is well on his way to a third-straight bowl berth.
On Halloween of last year, UTSA inked Traylor to a decade-long extension worth up to $28 million. Well deserved for the head coach and it also serves as a great value for the Roadrunners. They’ll head to the American Athletic Conference in 2023, marking another major step in becoming a mainstay on the recruiting trail.
The success of Marcus Davenport, Spencer Burford, and Tariq Woolen will be something to keep an eye on. The better these UTSA products perform in the league, the more likely a highly-touted recruit is to join the Roadrunners program.
The current crop of talent that hopes to hear their name in the 2023 NFL Draft is crucial to the process too. Quarterback Frank Harris, wide receivers De’Corian Clark and Zakhari Franklin, and linebacker Trevor Harmanson all have the potential to be taken in the first couple of days of the draft.
Furthermore, Jeff Traylor’s willingness to schedule elite competition for his out-of-conference schedule highlights how confident the head coach is in his ability to lead an upset.
One day, likely not long from now, UTSA will no longer have to be the hunter. In due time, Jeff Traylor will have them consistently winning the AAC. Soon enough, they’ll be the ones that teams aim to upset.
I am a believer in the UTSA Roadrunners. They do things the right way and even with all the good that has come over the past decade, their best is still yet to come.