Monday, Aug 29 at 2:06 AM
The son of a high school football coach, UTSA quarterback Eric Soza was born “right in the middle of two-a-days” on Aug. 12, 1990, in Sinton.
Contrary to rumors, Soza did not come into the world cradling a football. It didn’t take him long to fall in love with the sport, though.
By the time he was 6, Soza already was shadowing his father on the football field, hanging around practice and serving as a ballboy at games.
“Eric just loved it,” said Chris Soza, now head coach at Alice. “He was always in the locker room, and was a typical gym rat who hung out with the coaches. From the time he started going to my games until the last one he played for me, he heard every pregame and postgame speech I gave.”
Eric Soza was a four-year starting quarterback for his father at Beeville Jones High School, leading the Trojans to a 34-17 record and the playoff each season. Soza, a 2009 graduate, started his college career at Texas State before transferring to UTSA last year after a redshirt season with the Bobcats.
Now a redshirt sophomore quarterback at UTSA, Soza is listed as the No. 1 quarterback on the team’s first depth chart of the season, or at least the first one made public by Coach Larry Coker on Sunday.
Soza’s status hardly comes as a surprise considering he’s directed the Roadrunners’ first-team offense throughout preseason workouts. Really, he’s been the No. 1 QB since last year when UTSA’s started practicing.
“He looks good, but I’ll tell you the thing Eric is, he’s very conscientious,” Coker said. “If all your guys really tried to improve like he does every day and understand if we make a mistake, let’s correct it, we’d be in real good shape. He’s a good player and a smart player. He’s the guy that kind of stirs the drink for us right now.”
Soza will be at the controls of the Roadrunners’ multiple spread offense when they play their first game in school history Saturday.
“I’ve thought about that first game for a long time,” Soza said last week. “It seemed so far away at one time and now it’s almost here.”
UTSA has signed only two recruiting classes
A crowd of more than 50,000 is expected to see UTSA play Northeastern (Oklahoma) State, Coker’s alma mater, at 1 p.m. Saturday at the 65,000-seat Alamodome.
The Roadrunners, who have signed only two recruiting classes, will go into their inaugural season with a roster composed mostly of freshmen and redshirt freshmen.
Seventeen of the 23 players listed as first-teamers on the depth chart – 10 on offense and seven
on defense – have never played in a college game. Safety Mark Waters, a transfer from New Mexico State, is the only senior on the starting offensive or defensive units.
“We’re young but we’re really hungry,” Soza said.
Soza, 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, hasn’t played in a game since Beeville fell in the third round of the 2008 playoffs. He was one of the most prolific quarterbacks in South Texas when he played for the Trojans, passing for 8,052 yards and 86 touchdowns and rushing for nearly 1,600 yards and 29 TDs.
Although Soza has worked to stay sharp and matured physically and mentally, he knows there is no substitute for game experience.
“Practice is one thing, but a game can go in so many different directions,” Soza said. “Until we get to Northeastern, we really don’t know where we’re at. It’s a different mentality. When the lights turn on and we’re at that dome, playmakers will come out.”
Soza leader on, off field
If Soza has any edge going into the season opener, it’s that he has a firm grasp of UTSA offensive coordinator Travis Bush’s system and philosophy. Bush had the same job at Texas State and coached Soza for one season before joining Coker’s staff in January 2010.
“Eric is solid,” Bush said. “He’s doing things well. With him, he just needs to play some games. He needs to get in games and make mistakes. He needs to learn by what he does right and learn by what he does wrong. We teach leadership every day and he knows all that stuff comes with the territory.
If you’re going to be the quarterback of a D-I program, and you’re going to be the guy on the billboard, you’ve got to hold up that responsibility. He was at summer workouts every day. He doesn’t miss a day of class. He has a 4.0 (grade-point average).”
Soza has replayed his first college game so many times that he’s lost count.
“I can’t wait to get out there and see things at game speed, and get in the groove of things,” he said.
UTSA’s projected offensive, defensive starters
The Roadrunners released their first depth chart of the season Sunday. Here are the players listed on the first offensive and defensive units:
Offense (multiple spread)
WR: 84 Brandon Freeman (5-10, 155, Fr.-TR)
LT: 74 Drew Phillips (6-5, 265, Fr.-RS)
LG: 51 Payton Rion (6-4, 265, Fr.-HS)
C: 55 Nate Leonard (6-1, 280, Fr.-RS)
RG: 79 Scott Inskeep (6-5, 295, Fr.-HS)
RT: 68 Cody Harris (6-5, 280, Fr.-RS)
TE: 87 Jay Kazen (6-2, 230, Jr.-RS)
QB: 8 Eric Soza (6-1, 200, So.-RS)
TB: 21 Chris Johnson (5-10, 190, Fr.-HS)
HB: 36 Evans Okotcha (5-9, 220, So.-RS)
WR: 1 Kam Jones (6-0, 190, Fr.-RS)
WR: 5 Brandon Armstrong (5-6, 160, Fr.-RS)
DE: 45 Marlon Smith (6-6, 225, Jr.-RS)
DT: 58 Ferrington Macon (6-0, 290, Fr.-RS)
DT: 61 Richard Burge (6-4, 260, Fr.-RS)
DE: 40 William Ritter (6-2, 225, So.-RS)
LB: 44 Steven Kurfehs (6-3, 225, So.-RS)
LB: 53 Brandon Reeves (5-10, 220, Jr.-TR)
SS: 22 Nic Johnston (6-2, 190, Fr.-RS)
SS: 20 Mauricio Sanchez (6-0, 180, Fr.-HS)
FS: 25 Mark Waters (5-10, 195, Sr.-RS)
CB: 4 Crosby Adams (5-8, 175, Fr.-RS)
CB: 24 Darrien Starling (5-9, 180, Fr.-RS)
FG/PAT: 92 Sean Ianno (6-4, 190, Fr.-RS)
Holder: 86 Seth Grubb (5-8, 185, Fr.-RS)
Punter: 47 Josh Ward (5-10, 215, Fr.-HS)
Deep snapper: 59 Jesse Medrano (5-8, 200, Fr.-HS)
Kickoffs: 47 Josh Ward (5-10, 215, Fr.-HS)
Kickoff returns: 5 Brandon Armstrong (5-6, 160, Fr.-RS)
Punt returns: 5 Brandon Armstrong (5-6, 160, Fr.-RS)