The last time we saw the UTSA football team, it was putting the finishing touches on an 8-4 season with a 38-31 victory against Texas State on the Saturday after Thanksgiving last year.

While there's nothing like a winning season to boost morale in the offseason, especially at a school that has played only 22 games in its history, the Roadrunners aren't deluding themselves.

We won eight games last year and that's a good thing for us, Coker said. But right now it's 0-0. We haven't won anything. We've got a tremendous challenge. We need to take a big jump.

We took a big jump from our first season to last year, and we need to take a big jump from now until next fall, because, obviously, our competition is starting to heat up.

UTSA, which started playing football in 2011, will jump to Conference USA in July after only one season in the WAC.

Ready to roll after being put through rigorous workouts by strength and conditioning coach Charlie Dudley since January, the Roadrunners start spring training March 20 at Farris Stadium. Under NCAA rules, they are allowed 15 workouts, including two scrimmages and the spring game.

UTSA returns 10 offensive and 8 defensive starters among 52 lettermen from last year's team.

We've got a lot of players coming back and I think that's really helped us in our leadership role, Coker said. That's a huge plus for us.

The Roadrunners conclude spring workouts with their third annual UTSA Football Spring Fiesta Spring Game presented by Health Texas, scheduled for 2 p.m. on April 14 at Farris Stadium.

UTSA plays Oklahoma State in its home opener

UTSA also will have scrimmages on March 23 at Judson's Rutledge Stadium and April 6 at Harlandale Memorial Stadium. Both start at 2 p.m. and are open to the public.

All 12 of the Roadrunners' opponents this season are members of the NCAA's Football Bowl Subdivision, formerly Division I-A.

UTSA kicks off its third season at New Mexico on Aug. 31, and plays Big 12 team Oklahoma State in its home opener on Sept. 7.

The Roadrunners play three of their first four games on the road, including their C-USA opener at Texas-El Paso on Sept. 21.

UTSA was an independent in the Football Championship Subdivision, formerly Division I-AA, in its inaugural season and finished 4-6.

While the Roadrunners face tough odds this season, Coker is hardly feeling sorry for himself.

Our talent here is better than it was my last year at Miami, he said. These guys are good players.

That's high praise considering Coker went 60-15 in six seasons at Miami, from 2001-06, and led the Hurricanes to the BCS national championship in his first year as head coach.

Miami advanced to the BCS title game again after the 2002 season, but lost to Ohio State in double overtime. The Hurricanes went 24-1 in Coker's first two seasons and were 53-9 five years into his tenure. But Miami went 7-6 in its final season under Coker, who was fired.

Soza back for third season as starting quarterback

UTSA jumped out to a 5-0 start last year that included a win at New Mexico State in its WAC opener, but then came four consecutive losses.

The Roadrunners regained their footing and won their last three games to finish 3-3 in the WAC.

The character of our team was not the five games in a row we won, but how we handled the four in a row we lost, and then came back and won three, Coker said. That said a lot about our resilience and our coaching staff for bringing those kids on and staying the course.

Among the players returning is starting quarterback Eric Soza, who will be a senior.

Soza has been the Roadrunners' starter since day one, but was knocked out of the Rice game last season with a hip injury and missed the Roadrunners' next two games.

He had a good year for us that first year, but last year he was just a phenom, Coker said of Soza. We lost four games last year and two and a half of those games, he was out. Now, was that the difference? No, I think those teams were better than us last year.

But I think it makes a huge difference when he's in the lineup because it helps the confidence of everybody else. Eric is phenomenal in the offseason. He's throwing the ball well.

Carter, Conque will vie for No. 2 quarterback slot

Coker said improving the team's special teams, especially punting, shoring up depth on the offensive line, and getting better at the cornerback position will be his top priorities during spring training.

Coker is also eager to get a long look at redshirt junior Tucker Carter and redshirt freshman Zach Conque, who are expected to compete for the No. 2 quarterback spot.

Although still a work in progress, the Roadrunners have come a long way since those early days of fall practice in 2010, the year before they started playing games.

We're so much better than we were and so much more into it, Coker said. I tell them, I wish I could tell you, guys, that it's going to translate into a win every Saturday. It just gives us a chance. If we don't do these things, we have no chance. But it does give you a chance.'

That's the reality of it. Our guys are working to give themselves a chance.

Coker said he hopes to have a new cornerbacks coach hired by the end of this week.

Nathaniel Jones, who had coached the cornerbacks the past two seasons, resigned in January to become head coach at Karr High School, his alma mater, in New Orleans.

I know who I want to hire, Coker said. We're going through the process.

Read or Share this story: