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ASU Football: First look at UTSA

The first opponent of 2018

UTSA v Baylor Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The time has come. Saturday will officially begin the Herm Edwards’ tenure as the Sun Devils will open up against the UTSA Roadrunners. In 2016, UTSA gave ASU a scare in San Antonio, but those were Todd Graham’s Devils. Will Edwards have an easier time on Saturday?

Let’s take a look at the Roadrunners:

Trying to Maintain a High Powered Defense

Last season, head coach Frank Wilson got his defense to a top-tier level. Although, the Roadrunners only went 6-5 last year, their defense was far from being the problem. UTSA ranked 5th in the FBS in yards per game (288) and 8th in points per game (17). A lot of that can be attributed to their front. And head coach Herm Edwards knows it.

“They don’t give up a lot of points . They were the fifth-ranked defense in the country last year. Coach Wilson has done a nice job,” he said. “This was a new program, I think it’s been in existence six, seven years now, eight. He’s done a fabulous job of really coaching his football team. So defensively there’s some concern.”

However, a lot has changed. The defensive coordinator from last season, Pete Golding, left for Alabama to join their defensive staff. Marcus Davenport, who led the team in sacks and tackles for a loss became the New Orleans Saints’ first round selection. Defensive backs Nate Gaines, Austin Jape and Devron Davis, who helped UTSA allow the second fewest passing yards per game last season, have all graduated.

The Roadrunners return six starters from last year including senior linebacker Josiah Tauaefa. Tauaefa missed about half of last year due to injuries, but in 2016 he was a superb player. He led UTSA in tackles with 115 and contributed six sacks. He’ll be a big part in the Roadrunners’ attempt to keep a dominant defense this season.

An Inexperience Offense

Wilson and the Roadrunners just named their starting quarterback on Monday. Cordale Grundy will be the man to replace multi-year starter Dalton Strum as Wilson announced during his press conference.

Grundy’s targets and protection don’t have much experience either. Three of the top four pass catchers from last season graduated. That leaves senior receiver Greg Campbell as the top returner as he caught 27 passes for 300 yards last season. Then four of the five starting linemen are new for the Roadrunners.

Senior running back Jalen Rhodes is biggest returner for offense. He led UTSA with 659 rushing yards and five touchdowns. He’ll also help in the pass game as he averaged 9.1 yards per catch last season.

The Sun Devil defense should be able to take advantage of a few mistakes a young offense will make in their first road game.