30 August 2012

Why you should watch: the most exciting players in Saturday's UTSA-South Alabama game

If you know nothing about UTSA and South Alabama’s college football teams, you’re probably not as interested as I am in a post breaking down the game, matchup by matchup.

So here’s a primer on some players I’m excited to see on Saturday – if you tune in, I think you’ll enjoy watching them too.

1. Kam Jones, WR, UTSA #1
5-11, 190 lbs, redshirt sophomore from Edna HS in southeast Texas
This is the guy you need to locate before the snap on every UTSA play. You’ll see him wide, in the slot, in the backfield, and even taking a direct snap once in a while. Quick and a great broken-field runner, he led the Roadrunners with 881 all-purpose yards last year after setting the tone for the season by returning the opening kickoff 37 yards and across midfield.

2. Jake Johnson, LB, South Alabama #42
6-1, 240 lbs, fifth-year senior from Stafford HS in Fredericksburg, Va.
Played at Virginia Tech 2008-09.
This guy plays like an animal. A weightroom fanatic who says his favorite NFL player is Jared Allen, he finds a way to be everywhere on defense from the center of South Alabama's 3-4 scheme. The play that stands out in my mind came against UTSA last year, when Johnson showed blitz up the middle, read the snap count perfectly, and got to the quarterback before the tailback did, forcing a fumble in the process. Not somebody you want to get hit by.

3. Eric Soza, QB, UTSA #8
6-0, 200 lbs, redshirt junior from Beeville Jones HS in southeast Texas
Redshirted at Texas State 2009.
As a Rice alumnus, I have a special fondness for the option, and Soza runs a terrific one. I appreciate a quarterback who can wait until the last second to pitch the ball, then absorb a big hit and get right back up, and Soza does it time and again. His backfield movement and ballhandling is very deceptive, and he’s not bad through the air.

4. Tyrell Pearson, CB, South Alabama #9
5-8, 150 lbs, junior from Greenville HS in South Carolina
Played at Mesa Comm. Coll. In Arizona 2010-11.
This guy basically got himself a Division I scholarship based off of a highlight tape that looked like an action movie, so that’s impressive to begin with. Described as a pure ballhawk, everybody who’s seen him says, “You’re going to love watching this guy play,” and I don’t doubt it.

5. Triston Wade, S, UTSA #14
5-11, 170 lbs, sophomore from Tyler John Tyler HS in east Texas
This is a guy starting at safety as a true sophomore even after committing at least seven personal-foul penalties last year and being ejected from a game! It’s because he is a huge hitter, forcing five turnovers last year and separating numerous other receivers from the ball. If he can control himself and his timing, expect to see some big plays.

6. Demetre Baker, RB, South Alabama #33
6-1, 210 lbs, sophomore from Orange Park HS in Florida
You see a lot of skill players who were track and field stars in high school, but how many of them were stars in the shot put and discus? Baker is a bruising running back who also happens to be the South Alabama school record holder in the shot put. I’m looking forward to watching him run, but I bet UTSA isn’t – Baker scored the game-winning touchdown in double overtime last year.

Saturday afternoon's game will kick off at 2 p.m. ET and can be seen on ESPN3 and WatchESPN. Follow @jtyardley for more coverage before and after the game.

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