Some may view it as turning the page of a playbook, sketching fresh strategies for a new era of UTSA football. Others may see it as that playbook set on fire; offense and defense descends into bumbling chaos with each subsequent loss, in which a new coaching hire would be the only means of extinguishing the flames of defeat.
Regardless of the reason or scenario, long-time Roadrunners coach Larry Coker won’t be on the sidelines for the start-up program’s sixth fall camp, fourth as a member of Conference USA. A local legend admired for his dogged pursuit, Coker originally recruited student athletes in 2009, hocking around a cheap UTSA jersey purchased at an SA Walmart. Players practiced at high school facilities with uneven turf, running drills in mismatched sets of pads donated by other University of Texas affiliates.
Coker’s tenacity lead to the program’s inaugural game in 2011; 56,743 fans set a record for the highest-attended game for an NCAA Division 1 FCS start-up program. The first season also saw the highest average attendance for a football program with 35,521.
After the Coker-era peaked by missing a berth in the Conference USA championship by one game, the Roadrunners limped like a gimpy bird with a clipped wing to a 7-17 record over the following two seasons; stumbling to a 3-9 record last season.
Was the Coker sack a wise move by athletics department head Lynn Hickey? Well, yeah. Coker lead Miami to the national championship in 2001 before flopping over the next few seasons, the Hurricanes record weathered by a storm of lousy plays and miscommunication.
History has an obvious tendency for repeating itself, judging from UTSA’s lackluster record over the last five seasons (26-32).
In an interview with the San Antonio Express-News, Coker was quoted as saying: “I will tell you this. I had not reached all my goals. My goal was to have a winning program here. My goal was to see these kids go to a bowl game, those type of things, and we didn’t do that. I didn’t want to leave before that was done. But again, I’m out now. I’ll just kind of leave it at that.”
That’s a fantastic sentiment if your program is on the right tracks, instead of digressing into a gridiron afterthought of the UT system.
Replacing Coker is first year head coach Frank Wilson, who was ranked the 26th worst offseason hire by Athlon Sports. Wilson is an unproven assistant coach and running backs coach whose only HC experience is instructing bulky teens at a Lousiana high school in the early 2000s. However, Wilson is a stellar recruiter, and could likely wine-and- dine some much needed talent to the Roadrunners roster. As a recruiter, Wilson produced five signing classes ranked among the nation’s top 10, and was named 2014 NFL.com Top Recruiter in College Football.
Initiating the Wilson era, here’s what the Roadrunners depth chart looks like in the absence of Coker. The 104-man fall training camp roster includes 14 returning starters from last year’s squad. All-conference honoree players of note include Marcus Davenport (junior defensive end), Michael Egwuagu (senior safety), and Jarveon Williams (senior running back). Coach Wilson released the following statement regarding his first training camp with the Roadrunners:
“I can’t tell you how excited I was to see all the guys back today and ready to go for fall camp. They’ve really only been gone for a week and five days since they’re here all summer, but we missed them. It’s like your family. When your kids go away, after a while you want them back because you miss them. This is an important time of the year for us. They’re in great shape and their spirits are really high. We’re ready to get out on the field tomorrow for our first practice.”
UTSA’s season opener is scheduled Sept. 3 at 6 pm. at the Alamodome.