This time last year, UTSA offensive lineman Patrick Hoog was having to deal with the disappointment of knowing he would miss most, if not all, of his junior season after tearing tendons in his right ankle late in preseason workouts.
The injury also was a blow to the Roadrunners, who were counting on Hoog to give their offense some much-needed experience up front.
A 2008 Medina Valley High School graduate, Hoog transferred to UTSA from Oklahoma State last summer and was expected to start at guard. Then he got hurt and had to have surgery on his ankle.
"It was tough just standing on the sidelines, watching," Hoog said.
Determined to get back on the field, Hoog worked hard to rehab his ankle and returned to start the last two games of the Roadrunners' inaugural season at right offensive tackle.
Hoog was moved to left tackle early in preseason workouts this year and will be in the starting lineup when UTSA plays South Alabama in their season opener at 1 p.m. Saturday in Mobile, Ala.
The game was originally scheduled for Thursday night, but was moved to Saturday because of Hurricane Isaac.
The Jaguars beat the Roadrunners in a 30-27 double-overtime thriller last year. UTSA had a chance to win the game in regulation, but Sean Ianno's 26-yard field goal was blocked on the final play of the fourth quarter.
"It was probably our most difficult loss of the season," Roadrunners coach Larry Coker said.
Hoog only senior on offensive line
UTSA finished its first season 4-6, competing as an independent in the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA).
The Roadrunners begin their transition to the Football Bowl Subdivision, formerly Division I-A, this season as a member of the Western Athletic Conference. UTSA will move to Conference USA next season.
As the only senior on the offensive line, Hoog is being counted on provide leadership for a fast-improving unit that still lacks experience. The other four interior lineman – center Nate Leonard, left guard Scott Inskeep, right guard Cody Harris and right tackle Josh
Walker – are all sophomores.
"He's got to have a good year for us to be successful," Coker said. "He's the strongest player on our team and we're expecting him to do well."
Leonard, Inskeep and Harris all earned letters last year. Leonard and Inskeep started every game last year and Harris was a starter in eight of the 10.
Hoog, 6-foot-4 and 305 pounds, said he hasn't had any problems with his right ankle this summer.
"They reinforced it with titanium, so I'm good to go now," he said.
Coker has said he's been impressed with his Roadrunners' offense, particularly the running game, in preseason workouts. He's also praised junior quarterback Eric Soza, who started every game last year.
Hoog saw limited playing time at Oklahoma State
"I think we're looking pretty good," Hoog said. "We still have a ways to go, but we're getting better every day. Coaches are pushing us to get better, no matter what. It's going to be a good year. We're looking a lot better than we did last year."
A blue-chipper at Medina Valley, Hoog signed with Oklahoma State in 2008 and redshirted as a freshman. He saw limited action in 2009 and played in eight games, mostly on special teams, the following season.
With his chances of getting playing time slim as a junior, Hoog decided to transfer to UTSA. Under NCAA rules, he was eligible to play immediately because UTSA was in the FCS.
"Basically, I wasn't going to get a shot at the offensive line," Hoog said. "Since I wasn't going to have to sit out a year, I decided to come to UTSA. It was also a lot closer to home."
Hoog said the only negative aspect of his transfer is that it separated him from his fiancee, who still attends OSU.
"It's been a strain," he said, chuckling. "But we're set to get married Dec. 29."
Hoog, who is on schedule to graduate in December with a degree in multidisciplinary studies, plans to start working with his father in the construction business early next year.
"I'm just going to do that to make a little money," he said. "I plan to apply for law school this fall and, hopefully, start law school next August.
But for now, Hoog is focused on finishing his college career on a high note.
"I'm excited about the start of the season, especially after what happened last year," he said. "It was probably worse than my redshirt freshman year. I want to make up for that and show what UTSA football is all about.
Extra points: Cornerback Erik Brown, a junior letterman who started six of the eight games he played in last year, will miss the season opener with a bruised shoulder. "We hope to get him back next week," Coker said. Junior Maurice Poullard, a transfer from Blinn Junior College, will start in Brown's place. Brown, a Judson graduate who transferred from Fresno State last year, is considered one of the Roadrunners' best defensive backs . . . UTSA is scheduled to fly to Mobile on Friday afternoon, but will not have a walk-through at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. "We always plan on Friday going to the stadium, but we're not going to be able to do that." . . . The weather-related delay gave the Roadrunners some extra practice time they weren't counting on. "It was a good deal but you make it a good deal," Coker said. . . . As a former coach at Miami, Coker knows the drill when it comes to hurricanes. Miami had four games either postponed or moved because of hurricanes during Coker's 12-year stint with the Hurricanes. Coker was Miami's offensive coordinator for six seasons (1995-2000) before succeeding Butch Davis as head coach in 2001. . . . Junior linebacker Steven Kurfehs said the loss to South Alabama last year motivated the Roadrunners throughout the offseason. "I don't think we've ever gone against a team where coaches have celebrated like that," Kurfehs said. "That really stuck in our head. Double overtime, that always hurts. We feel like we should have won that game. Last second, we didn't adjust to a formation right. . . . Running back Demetre Baker, who scored the game-winner on a 25-yard run, is among the Jaguars' returning starters. "Just as a unit last year, they were the toughest, most physical offensive line we played," defensive coordinator Neal Neathery said. "They were really good. Both of their running backs were big and strong, and good between-the-tackles runners."