UTSA’s “Birdcage Drill” made its summer debut at the Roadrunners’ workout on Friday afternoon, getting the competitive juices of players flowing on the fourth day of camp.
The one-on-one drill has been popular with players since second-year UTSA head coach Frank Wilson introduced it to them during spring training last year.
Coach Wilson picks the two combatants for each match and runs the drill, whistling the start and the end of each brief duel. The mano a mano scrap starts with an offensive player and a defensive player getting down in their stances, only inches across from each.
The player that gains the most ground wins the match. The defense won Friday’s Birdcage Drill 5-2, but the offense is sure to get a rematch sooner rather than later.
Before the action starts, the team forms a tight circle around the small area where the players are going to go against each other. The entire team cheers wildly when the drill begins and it gets louder after Wilson declares a winner, with one side celebrating and other refusing to go quietly in defeat.
The Roadrunners’ entire team practiced together Friday for the first time since starting camp on Tuesday. They had split workouts the first three days, with the veterans practicing in the morning and the younger players going in the afternoon.
Wilson opted to split the squad into two groups and have separate workouts for each one to give players more reps and individual coaching. UTSA did the same in its first season under Wilson last year.
The Roadrunners open their seventh season against Houston on Sept. 2 at the Alamodome. Kickoff is at 6 p.m.
UTSA returns 44 lettermen, including 15 starters (7 defense/6 offense/2 kickers), from a team that finished 6-7 overall and 3-5 in Conference USA’s West Division.
Four of the Roadrunners’ returning starters – deep snapper Matt Bayliss, DE Marcus Davenport, OL Austin Pratt and LB Josiah Tauaefa – all were named to the Preseason All-Conference USA team. All are seniors except Tauaefa, a sophomore who had a stellar freshman season last year.
UTSA has been picked to finish second again to Louisiana Tech in the C-USA West Division. The Roadrunners appeared in a bowl game for the first time last season, but lost to New Mexico 26-23 in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl.