Arizona Wildcats football: Know the opponent—UTSA

2013-09-14T09:31:00Z 2013-10-01T19:00:49Z Arizona Wildcats football: Know the opponent—UTSADaniel Berk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
September 14, 2013 9:31 am  • 

As we do every week, we chatted with a media member that covers the opponent to get a better feel of what to expect.

For UTSA, we talked to J.J. Perez, who covers the Roadrunners for the Scout.com recruiting service at insiderunnersports.com. He’s covered the football team since its inception in 2011 and the basketball program for five years.

Here are his thoughts:

What have been your two biggest impressions from the first two games?

A: “One of the big things so far has been the secondary and how much they’ve struggled. They’re giving up the long ball and a lot of yardage in the passing game. It’s been tough going for the cornerbacks. Over the offseason, the coaching staff brought in 10 new defensive backs. They made it a point to improve that position. In the first two games, there hasn’t been that much improvement. It might not be fair to judge it yet because of the competition, but that’s really stood out.

“Another observation is the offense’s ability to move the ball. They had 500-plus yards against Oklahoma State and have been putting up a lot of points. They’ve been able to move the ball in their normal offense. Some of the reason for that is quarterback Eric Soza is a seasoned veteran and he has a handful of running backs and receivers to throw to.”

What kind of quarterback is Soza?

A: “Soza’s biggest strength is his ability to think quickly. UTSA has an offense that moves very fast. It’s a quick-hitting offense that relies on a lot of slants and outs. His best attribute is making decisions on the move and being smart with the football. He’s not the tallest, fastest or the strongest, but he can make the split-second decisions that turn the quick slant into 15-yard gains. He’s a coach’s son and has been around football his whole life. He really knows his football. The coaching staff really likes his intangibles. He’s their on-the-field coach. He’s playing well so far this season. Where he’s struggled, and he’d admit it, is he’s missed on some of the longer balls. They’ve had a chance for some big plays, some game-changing plays and they’ve missed them.”

What’s the biggest strength of the offense?

A: “Their skill position players. They have 15 wide receivers on the roster and what you’ll see Saturday is a bunch of guys running in and out in different sets. They could have a two tight end set, a five wide receiver set. They try to keep it moving. At the wide receiver spot, the most dynamic player is Kam Jones. He’s a former quarterback turned wide receiver. You’ll see him touch the ball in various running situations. They also have a WildKam formation, where they snap the ball to him and get it to him right away.”

Why has UTSA been able to be so successful so quickly?

A: “It’s a combination of things. The leadership of the athletic director Lynn Hickey has been a big reason. She’s had a vision and has strived for the highest standards. Coach Larry Coker hasn’t deviated from that. You look at what they did last week against Oklahoma State (lost 56-35), there was no sense of moral victories. They were disappointed they lost. They’re in a situation where they want to be successful every week. They’ve continued to step up every season they’ve been around. The fan base and alumni has been craving football. In 2012, they took advantage of a weak schedule. It was a deal where you’re going up against a WAC that doesn’t have football in 2013. The biggest challenge this year is to keep stepping up. They opened up a brand new practice facility on campus. They had been practicing at a high school campus. They moved over in the first week of camp to a state of the art practice field. They’ve renovated their weight room and have brand new lockers.

“I also think the Alamodome is a great recruiting tool. It’s 20 minutes from campus, but it’s a great facility. So, you can’t point to just one thing. You’re really starting to see things come to fruition. It’s been an interesting ride to watch.”

Do you think Coker is there for the long haul?

A: “Larry Coker has his championship, he’s happy about it. He talks all the time about Miami. He compares his players to guys he coached there. At this point, he loves San Antonio. He’s older and he’s not going to be coaching for 20 more years. I expect him to be here and continue to get the program established. You see it every day in practice, they want to win right away. They want to get to a bowl as soon as they’re eligible. I don’t expect him to leave anytime soon. He’s put together a great staff and has good recruiting ties here.”

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About this blog

Daniel Berk began covering UA football in 2013 after spending two-plus years as the Star's high school sports coordinator. Previously, he served as the sports editor and NAU beat writer for the Arizona Daily Sun in Flagstaff for three years.

A University of Kansas graduate and St. Louis native, Berk is still getting used to 350 days of sunshine, the relentless "dry heat" of the summer and the fact that Tucson doesn't have a real hockey rink.

Contact Daniel at dberk@azstarnet.com or by calling 573-4330. Follow him on Twitter @DSBerk.

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