We spoke with Underdog Dynasty’s Jared Kalmus, who covers UTSA for SBNation. We asked him about replacing Marcus Davenport, how they will attack the Sun Devils’ 3-3-5 defense and how they will attempt to give ASU all it can handle like two years ago.
With first rounder Marcus Davenport gone, how does UTSA plan on trying to replace his production? Will it be by committee or putting it on one player’s shoulders?
Kalmus: Davenport is a once in a generation athlete for a program like UTSA so directly replacing his ability to impact a game on every snap is out of the picture. Instead UTSA will turn to a very strong group of defensive linemen who will need to take a step forward under the tutelage of former Texas A&M defensive line coach David Turner. Even with an incredible athlete like Marcus Davenport gone to the NFL, UTSA is still in very good position along the defensive line. Junior Eric Banks has developed into an every down defensive end and JUCO transfer Lorenzo Dantzler is expected to make an immediate impact as a sophomore. Senior Kevin Strong has NFL talent but has struggled with consistency. He’ll need to bring it on every down to get a seven figure paycheck. Davenport is a huge loss but the talent and depth are in place for UTSA to have the best defensive line in Conference USA.
Josiah Tauaefa didn’t have a full healthy season last year, but the year before he was one of the best linebackers in the Group of 5 schools, do you think he can get back to that?
Kalmus: Yes certainly. Tauaefa has been 100% healthy through fall camp and so many people around the program have raved about the talent he’s put on display in fall scrimmages. I don’t think it’s out of the realm to expect a 140+ tackle season for Tauaefa as he’s slimmed down and will be able to get from sideline to sideline more easily this season. Tauaefa’s natural football instincts are incredible and his athletic traits only add to his ability to control an offense. I also expect Tauaefa to be more involved in the pass rush this season so keep an eye on his blitzing on third and long situations.
N’Keal Harry had a tremendous catch in the last meeting between the Roadrunners and the Sun Devils, what was your reaction to the catch? And what do you think of Harry as a player?
Kalmus: Just the sort of play that you can’t do anything but smile and shrug your shoulders at. For as much time as coaches pour into breaking down playcalling tendencies and player strengths and weaknesses, some times there’s nothing you can scheme to prevent against a player as talented as N’Keal Harry making a huge play to turn the tide of a contest. There’s a reason why he was named a pre-season second team All American in the preseason. With UTSA graduating both of their starting cornerbacks, Harry is a nightmare matchup for the Roadrunners’ secondary, especially once Manny Wilkins’ arm is factored into the equation.
How do the Roadrunners plan on attacking defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales’ 3-3-5 defense?
Kalmus: It’s so tough to wager a guess as UTSA will be breaking in a new offensive coordinator in Al Borges. Based off what I’ve seen in scrimmages, I expect to see a lot of runs from the shotgun with a tight end or full back flexed into an H-back position. Arizona State fans may remember senior running back Jalen Rhodes from the previous meeting but sophomore BJ Daniels should play a huge role in the offense this year. His 6’2” 205 pound frame lends himself to becoming a G5 version of Kalen Ballage. Expect mostly short to medium range pass attempts from the offense with true freshman Tykee Ogle-Kellog, redshirt freshman Tariq Woolen, and true freshman tight end Gavin Sharp being key targets through the air. Yep, that’s a young offense alright.
UTSA almost pulled one out in San Antonio two years ago against Arizona State if not for 20 unanswered points by the Sun Devils. How can the Roadrunners put themselves in a position to have a chance for a possible upset again?
Kalmus: Obviously a lot will have to go right for UTSA to have a chance to take full advantage of #Pac12AfterDark and walk out of Tempe with an upset win. UTSA’s youth movement on offense will have to pay immediate dividends, while a mostly unproven secondary will have to play lights out against a very strong passing connection between Wilkins and Harry. If the Roadrunners can recreate the turnover luck they had against Arizona State in 2016 then perhaps they could find themselves within a single score in the last two minutes of the game.
Kalmus: Arizona State 35 UTSA 21