Coming off a 7-5 record in 2020 that earned the University of Texas at San Antonio a trip to Dallas for a spot in the First Responder Bowl, the Roadrunners hope to follow up with an even stronger year.

Their 2021 season kicks off Saturday night against Illinois, a team that’s eager to get a fresh start under new head Coach Bret Bielema. UTSA will travel to Champaign, Illinois, to face the Illini, who defeated Nebraska last week in their season opener.

“They had a great crowd, a great atmosphere, and played really good football,” UTSA head Coach Jeff Traylor said at a press conference Monday. “We have our work cut out for us, but we are excited about the challenge.” 

UTSA’s offense is led by junior running back Sincere McCormick, who ran for 1,467 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, and senior quarterback Frank Harris.

Another player to look out for this season is new receiver Tre’Von Bradley, who transferred from the University of Houston, and is expected to make an immediate impact.

During the first part of the 2020 season, UTSA struggled to find consistency on the offensive line, but the Roadrunners are hoping to keep the momentum going from the end of the season, when they were able to find a combination that worked, and keep the offense flowing.

On defense, UTSA is expecting big plays from players like junior safety Rashad Wisdom, who led the team with 95 tackles along with four interceptions, and Charles Wiley, who had a team-high 10 tackles for losses and two sacks. Senior cornerback Tariq Woolen, who is a converted wide receiver, is also expected to play a key defensive role.

UTSA’s football program has gotten a boost from the opening of the $40.4 million Roadrunner Athletics Center of Excellence, or RACE, athletic training and academic facililty. In his first season with the Roadrunners, Traylor led UTSA to one of its best seasons in school history along with a nail-biting bowl game that ended in a 31-24 loss to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Traylor says he feels the team has formed a strong identity going into its second season under his system.

“We are much deeper,” he said. “We know who we are as an offense, a defense and on special teams. Culturally, we know where we are, and we have a deeper roster. My job is where we are weak, I hide that, and where we are strong, I focus on that.”

After facing Illinois, UTSA plays host to Lamar Sept. 11 at the Alamodome. The Roadrunners will play their first Conference USA opponent, Middle Tennessee, Sept. 18 at the Alamodome.

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Alejandro Martinez

Alejandro Martinez is a San Antonian studying finance at the University of Texas at San Antonio.