UTSA football reaching new heights under Jeff Traylor
Two years in the past, the UTSA Roadrunners have been making an attempt to beat seemingly insurmountable obstacles. The December 2019 firing of former coach Frank Wilson prompted the hiring of Jeff Traylor, who was tasked with making a successful tradition for a staff that hardly existed a decade prior—and within the midst of a world pandemic with little-to-no in-person contact together with his gamers for months.
In got here the “Triangle of Toughness,” a staff tradition that has shortly ingrained itself inside the football program.
Flash ahead, and the Roadrunners haven’t solely discovered an answer on the head teaching place, but additionally a new id. Led by second-year coach Traylor, UTSA 11–1 and knocking on the door of its first convention championship, clinching the C-USA West Division in an exciting 37–30 win over UAB on Nov. 20.
“That win went to show to what you are able to do when everyone seems to be purchased right into a tradition and one another,” junior security Rashad Knowledge says. “The video games that now we have later are going to be larger and once we are in a dogfight like that, now we have to show what our staff and the [Triangle of Toughness] tradition is about.”
With all of the success Traylor has had at UTSA, it’s arduous to think about the Roadrunners with out the 56-year outdated coach right now, however his hiring wasn’t a sure-fire factor. Early on within the teaching search, Traylor wasn’t even being thought of for the UTSA job till potential candidates who interviewed for it cited his sturdy fame inside school and excessive football ranks.
Traylor, who considers himself a Texas football man by and thru, wasted no time making a reference to athletic director, Lisa Campos.
“Inside the first 5 minutes of coming into the interview room with him, I felt a complete reference to him,” Campos says. “I felt that in my coronary heart with Jeff that not solely did he have the background and expertise with being a profitable head coach at the highschool stage and training on the collegiate stage, however he’s all about growing males, [specifically] 18–22 yr outdated football gamers. In all of our reference checks, everybody talked about not solely how nice of a coach he was, but additionally an awesome human being.”
Inheriting a younger roster that was coming off a depressing 3–9 season, Traylor wanted a tradition or philosophy to rally behind, one thing that the gamers and coaches may use as motivation to perform their quick and long run targets.
“Lisa Campos and [myself] had a imaginative and prescient that lined up, which first started with being a staff that resonated with town of San Antonio,” Traylor says. “We started this by making a [social media] hashtag #210, which is our Triangle of Toughness tradition.”
The Triangle of Toughness has grown to be extra than simply the world code of San Antonio, however the id of this program. UTSA football gamers and coaches are anticipated to embody all traits of the triangle: Selflessness, excellent effort, integrity, ardour and toughness.
To acknowledge those that personify the qualities of the TOT essentially the most, Traylor solely permits the gamers who characterize the beliefs of the tradition essentially the most to put on single-digit jerseys. That is determined by a vote; all numbers which are 0–9 are determined by the gamers, with the numbers 2, 1 and 0 thought of essentially the most prestigious.
With a new branding and tradition initiative, UTSA took an instantaneous leap of success in Traylor’s first season. After a 3–3 begin, the Roadrunners blazed by the second half of their schedule to complete with a 7–4 common season file, incomes them a spot within the First Responders Bowl towards No. 16 Louisiana, co-champion of the Solar Belt. Nonetheless, the Roadrunners must compete with out their first-year head coach, as Traylor examined optimistic for COVID-19 simply two days previous to gameday. The Roadrunners went on to lose a 31–24 thriller towards the Ragin’ Cajuns.
Even with the robust finish to their season, Traylor knew that the staff was near contending for a convention title in 2021 given it returned all however two starters from its 2020 roster. His expectations weren’t solely met, but additionally surpassed. A win over Western Kentucky this Friday will give UTSA its first convention championship in program historical past.
For senior quarterback Frank Harris, it places him one step nearer to a dream he’s been chasing his whole profession.
“One of many targets that I needed to attain after I dedicated to UTSA was to deliver championships to town of San Antonio,” Harris says. “The win towards [UAB] begins that aim off proper, however [we] aren’t achieved but, we nonetheless have [two] extra video games to go. But it surely means alot to us to clinch the division title, and we couldn’t have achieved it in any higher means—a recreation winner.”
The QB’s improvement has impressed the teaching employees over the previous couple of seasons, and for good motive. Few quarterbacks can say that they’ve battled ACL tears in each legs (2017 and 2018) and bounced again to turn into a Day 1 starter the next yr. A season-ending shoulder damage ended a promising begin to the 2019 season in simply 4 video games, delaying his likelihood to indicate his full potential.
Fortuitously, Harris remained largely wholesome in 2020, though his greatest weapon was his legs, speeding for 528 yards final season however solely throwing for 1,630. In 2021, his improved accuracy and robust chemistry with the three-headed receiving core of Zakhari Franklin, Joshua Cephus and De’Corian Clark has led to a profession season. His season stats dwarf his 2020 stats—2,688 passing yards with a 66% completion fee and 28 whole touchdowns (23 passing, 5 speeding).
“I’ve solely performed in 4 video games in three years up till the [2020 season], so I’ve been battling adversity all through my whole profession,” Harris ksays. I used to be form of confused as to why these [injuries] saved occurring to me, however I noticed that [thinking that way] made issues worse. You simply have to go away it as much as God and battle by all of the adversity as a result of it’ll make you a greater individual, and that’s what I’ve been doing and I’m repeating the advantages now.
Harris’s improvement as a passer has taken the load off Honest McCormick, who’s been a focus of this offense for the previous couple of seasons. The Roadrunners’ 2020 second-team All-American operating again led C-USA in speeding yards for 2 consecutive seasons, with 1,467 and 1,275 yards in 2020 and 2021, respectively. His bread and butter is just not solely operating between the tackles and thru contact but additionally his unselfishness and flexibility on this offense.
“He does not care who has the ball in his palms,” Traylor says. “He has a smile on his face on a regular basis, by no means misses a observe. He’ll block for his quarterback and catch passes out of the backfield. He’s additionally an awesome human being, and when your greatest gamers are additionally your greatest folks, that’s when your staff is particular.”
Whereas the Roadrunners’ historic season hasn’t essentially been all blowout victories, a typical theme which you can affiliate with their wins is their psychological toughness, a pillar of the Triangle of Toughness. Three of UTSA’s 5 losses final season have been by eight factors or fewer, however this season the Roadrunners have gained 5 video games inside the identical margin.
“Our potential to deal with these robust conditions goes again to our chemistry,” Knowledge mentioned. “Being as shut and skilled as we’re, we all know one another’s motives and what will get us going and what we additionally [struggle with]. With the ability to know everybody’s strengths and weaknesses on the sector is necessary as a result of we will have one another’s backs when and maintain [each other accountable].”
Knowledge, the security, and an out of doors linebacker core of Clarence Hicks (31 tackles, 14 tackles for a loss, eight sacks), Charles Wiley (31 tackles, 8 tackles for a loss) lead a defensive that solely offers up a mean of twenty-two.2 factors per recreation, which is the most effective within the C-USA.
Whereas this system will miss out on an undefeated season on account of a stunning 45–23 loss to North Texas final week, the long run is trying shiny for UTSA—and it doesn’t simply apply to the roster.
Simply over a month in the past, Traylor signed a historic 10-year, $28 million greenback contract extension. That very same month, this system introduced a transfer from the C-USA to the extra aggressive American Athletic Convention, with a timetable of the transfer undisclosed. As well as, this system opened “The RACE” facility in August, a $40.4 million greenback complicated that at the moment holds two cutting-edge observe football fields, a 7,500 sq. ft locker room and lounge unique to the football staff, a power and conditioning facility, sports activities medication middle and extra.
Whereas it’s clear that UTSA athletics is making the push to be one of many premier collegiate sports activities applications within the area, the one factor that may by no means change under Traylor is to place out a product that town and state of Texas will be happy with.
“We wish to join this staff to town of San Antonio,” Traylor says. “We went from 11 gamers from town to 33, now we have seven former Texas highschool football coaches on my employees, 100% of our present highschool football signees are Texas guys and we’re solely considered one of two applications that may say that, which I’m very happy with as a result of they make nice gamers.”
Extra Faculty Football Protection:
• Skilled Picks for All 10 FBS Championship Video games
• Projections for Each Bowl Recreation
• Why Playoff Enlargement Was Stalled Once more