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Perhaps the most reliable constant through 11 seasons of UTSA football has been the strength and depth of the defensive line. Even in seasons when UTSA was down to playing second and third string JUCO transfers and walk-ons, this unit has always been highly competitive.
I fully expect that trend to continue this season. While Lorenzo Dantzler and Jaylon Haynes are big losses for this unit, the Roadrunners return a great combination of both returning production and exceptional talent which could lead to an even better defensive line than 2021.
From a schematic standpoint, it looks like this front three will be highly multiple and versatile, with several defensive linemen showing an ability to play both defensive tackle and nose tackle. Expect to see run-stopping defensive tackles move from the 5/4 technique over the tackle to a 0/1 technique over the center when the Roadrunners employ pass rushing specialization packages. Sliding a defensive tackle down to nose allows UTSA to put their best pass rushers on the field together whenever the threat of a run is minimized.
Just like in years past, UTSA will certainly be rotating in abundance along the defensive line this season, allowing the big men an opportunity to be fresh in the fourth quarter as games wear down.
Tulane really dropped the ball here. After a poor start to his career in New Orleans, Brandon Brown entered the transfer portal as a true freshman and made an immediate impact along a well-stocked defensive line. Brown forced his way into the starting line up, earning seven starts along with C-USA All-Freshman team honors. With 23 tackles, three TFLs, three PBUs (!!!), and a forced fumble, Brown was an agent of havoc in his freshman season. With his motor and physical talent on the table, Brown has a shot to play at the next level.
Does anyone else feel like it’s impossible for Asyrus Simon to already be a junior? At 6’4″, 250, Simon has the length necessary to hold up the edge against the run. With two starts under his belt, Simon is ready to step into a larger role for the Roadrunners this season. He still has plenty of development in front of him, but he should do a decent job at replacing Lorenzo Dantzler’s contributions. Simon will need to improve as a pass rusher if he’s to be a consistent three-down player for Defensive Line Coach Siddiq Haynes this season.
Trumane Bell II
With time logged at linebacker, defensive end, and defensive tackle, Bell has certainly cross-trained throughout his career at UTSA. The underrated pass rusher will figure to be a key piece of UTSA’s third down packages this year as his relentless pursuit of the quarterback allows him to clean up when the pocket breaks down.
While he hasn’t quite emerged as a star, Matterson has been a staple of UTSA’s defensive front for four straight seasons. Matterson may not be a starter this season but he’ll be an incredible provider of depth with 16 starts throughout his career. Matterson is quick and disruptive at the defensive tackle position.
Building out the depth at nose tackle is the undersized but explosive LaMonte McDougle. The Washington State transfer enjoyed a strong debut for the Roadrunners last season and will look to bring a greater impact up front in 2022. At just 5’10”, McDougle is able to slip right underneath centers and guards with a well-timed jump off the snap.
A former starter at LSU, Joe Evans seems to have quickly worked his way into the starting lineup at UTSA. Evans has the ability to play both inside and outside but will likely see most of his snaps at defensive tackle. The junior has drawn countless amounts of praise throughout camp for his speed (despite weight 340 pounds!) and his “heavy hands”. This term means that when Evans gets his hands on an offensive lineman he’s winning that 1:1 almost every time. Evan’s pure strength will keep his linebackers clean from blockers at the second level and ensure that they’re free to come downfield and make a play if Evans hasn’t already fought through the blockers for a tackle.
Fresh off a state championship title at North Shore High School, Leonard enters his collegiate career with a winning pedigree and a really great physical foundation at 6’4″, 255. Leonard will likely only see playing time in blow outs this season as he watches the upper classmen in front of him show him the ropes. Leonard should have a very bright future ahead of him.
UTSA got an absolute steal in Booker-Brown as they were able to bring him on campus as a walk on after he appeared in five games as a true freshman at NC State. Booker-Brown is a menace of a pass rusher and should see the field early and often as a sophomore. Watch out for a lineup of Booker-Brown, McDougle, and Bell on third and long this season.
I’m not sure where Causey fits into the equation for UTSA this season but I really liked his film coming out of JUCO. Causey is a bit of a tweener between nose tackle and defensive tackle at 6’2″, 280, but the Mississippi native is well-versed from a technical standpoint and plays larger than his listed size.
Davis is a Division I bounce-back via JUCO. After originally signing with Nevada out of high school, Davis left the Wolfpack before playing a snap in Reno. After a great showing at East Los Angeles College last fall Davis picked up offers from several G5 programs before signing with the Roadrunners. Davis carries 280 pounds of weight very well at 6’4″. Look for the sophomore to get some limited looks this fall as he continues to build strength. His wide wing-span makes him a high-ceiling athlete on the edge.
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