Frank Wilson is in a tough position. In his first season he benefited from Larry Coker’s players and the overall program position. That is not a knock on him — every coach that is not the first one ever is in that position. He started strongly, taking a team that had underperformed the year previous into a its first ever bowl game. They lost, but the good feelings surrounding the program remained and better things were expected.
The out-of-towners openly speculated about bigger and better things for the head man before anything happened.
To be fair, 2017 was set up for success: A senior QB, a dominant defense with talent at all three levels, and experience in his system. The hype was so real that the infamous John Whisler article in the San Antonio Express-News declared that 11-0 was ‘no pipe dream’ after the win over a struggling Baylor.
And then two straight destructions of his talented defense. We wrote this about last season:
UTSA had the defense, the QB, and a fresh haul of talented recruits to do some damage in the league’s west division. Everything looked good until Southern Miss came to the Alamodome and eviscerated the stout defense coached by a future Nick Saban hire. This was followed by another poor defensive performance against North Texas that included a 7-play, 98-yard game losing drive.
The offense limped to the end, costing the team any chance at wins. Starting this season without Dalton Sturm, Marcus Davenport, or the outgoing Defensive Coordinator Pete Golding was going to be a concern, but the offense was supposed to look more coherent. Instead, they produced just the one conciliation TD late. That makes one TD in the last three games dating to last season.
Sure, there were a lot of new starters and a new QB in front of a P5 team. But if there is any tradition in the short history of Roadrunner football it is spunky, inspired play against teams that are more talented on paper. Usually these money games end with the announcers praising the fight of the Runner squad and talking about how they can do something in league play. Now? Not so much.
So much of G5 football — and all of football, really — is finding a QB and building from there. Such is the nature of the game. Wilson can be forgiven early this season for going through the process of finding a Sturm successor, but he did have a surefire QB the last two seasons and produced a 12-12 record with a bowl loss — including just an 8-8 record in league play.
Frank Wilson made his name as a recruiter, and that is supremely valuable. Up north in Denton, Seth Littrell has overtaken Wilson as the recruiter extraordinaire while winning the division. We should be slow to make any predictions as just last year at about the minute mark it sure looked like Wilson was about to go up 2-0 against Littrell and North Texas. Still, games are zero-sum. No one credited David Bailiff for close losses as he was shown the door after the most successful 10-year stretch at Rice in decades.
In his third season, we should see a team with a true identity, fully formed in the coach’s vision. This UTSA squad is a run-first team that cannot run, with a good defense that was lit up by Southern Miss and UNT (the former at home!). Sure, Arizona State’s N’Keal Harry is amazing and nearly a singular talent, but it brought back memories of the (now graduated) Staggers and Robertson duo from Southern Miss running wild, and UNT’s Jalen Guyton running free last season.
New coordinator Al Borges will have to figure this thing out quickly, as the last CUSA team to not lead the league in scoring was Rice, who beat Marshall in the title game (the Herd averaged a league-best 42+ that season).