Head coach Jeff Traylor speaks on football program during the pandemic

Julia Maenius, Assistant Sports Editor

First-year head football coach Jeff Traylor has led the Roadrunners through uncharted territory for the UTSA football program due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Traylor and the ‘Runners will face Louisiana State University (LSU), the reigning College Playoffs National Champions, for the first game of the 2020 season. 

“We have not seen each other in person since the university closed campus in mid-March, so everything’s been Zoom meetings,” Traylor said. “We’ve done everything remotely in order to keep everyone safe.”

Continuing to build relationships and prepare for the upcoming season has been moved to the virtual sphere, along with all academic activities. Traylor has implemented a virtual schedule in order to keep the team as cohesive as possible.

“We block off 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. every day for Zoom meetings, whether that’s a team meeting, the offensive coordinator meeting hosting the whole offense, the defensive coordinator hosting the whole defense, special teams coordinator hosting the teams guys, individual meetings or staff meetings,” Traylor said. “The only day we’ve not been meeting with players or recruits has been Sunday. I give my coaches Sundays off for time with their families. The other six days are full of meetings.”

The academic atmosphere has drastically changed for the athletics department as they try to maintain their athletes’ eligibility during a time of online learning and tutoring

“Colin Howlett, Lydia Placzek and Jess Heuertz from our Academics staff have been fantastic,” Traylor said. “They update us every single day, but it’s just not the same as us being there in person to help make sure our kids are doing what they need to do. I’m optimistically cautious but I will say over and over that our Academics staff has been fantastic and our kids have handled the adjustment to remote learning as well as they can.”

For most of the pandemic, gyms remained closed, leaving the athletes without a training facility. UTSA’s Strength and Conditioning program has been utilizing social media platforms to keep all athletes in shape and ready for their seasons. 

“UTSA Director of Strength and Conditioning, Ryan Filo has done a great job with that,” Traylor said. “He’s created an individualized plan for each kid, taking into consideration what they have at home to create their workout. He’s been fantastic and his strength staff has done a great job this whole time.”

The matchup against LSU will be the first time Traylor will see his team in a game-like atmosphere because of the cancelation of the spring game in April and off-season practices. 

“Obviously without spring practice, our offense, defense and special teams will be a shell of where we want it at this time,” Traylor said. “Probably the best case scenario is we’ll get four weeks to put the ball down, so ideally that’s not what you want if you’re a first-year head coach. We’ll be a scaled-down version but we’ve been installing through video. If we could play LSU in a Zoom game we’d feel very confident, but that’s not the way you play the game. You’ve got to go play the game and we haven’t had a chance to play it very much yet.” 

Hired for four months before the shutdown of the university, Traylor had yet to solidify a starting lineup for the upcoming season. Now, with limited time to see the team in action, he and his staff have been consulting game film and preparing for the short amount of time they have to observe the players before the kickoff of the season. 

“We’ve watched their games on film from last year and we’ve paid close attention to the way they’ve interacted with us,” Traylor said. “We’ve gotten to know the kids, their level of strength and conditioning, their academics piece, and that can help give us a good indication of who’s going to play. We have very tentative depth charts. We’ll know a lot more when we see them on the practice field. Even if we’ve only got a month, you’ve got to be careful because you’re getting ready to play. It’s unfortunate but we’re going to make the best out of the situation.”

Building a new culture and creating a new atmosphere for his athletes has been at the top of Traylor’s priority list since his hire in December. 

“We’ve clung to our culture pillars,” Traylor said. “Week one, we started with Integrity, then we went to Passion, then we went to Mental and Physical Toughness, then Selfless, the Perfect Effort. Pound the Fist, Trust the Process and go 1-0. We’ve used a pillar in each of our culture talks each week and we’ll continue to do that. We’re clinging to our culture and that’s why you have that piece, to teach the kids who we are and what we’re really about.”

The ‘Runners and Traylor’s staff have been highly publicized as a top-recruiting team for the 2021 class. After the first round of 2020 recruits signed, Traylor and his team got ahead of the curve by beginning to evaluate and open the discussion with the next class of athletes. The recruiting process has been changed, but Traylor and his staff have not slowed down.

“We’ve been pretty innovative there. I give Joe Price and Coach Jess Loepp a lot of credit with that,” Traylor said. “We’ve been very creative in our Zoom meetings, which has allowed us to show the recruits all the great things UTSA and the city of San Antonio have to offer. It’s all about being able to give virtual tours and show them our campus, coaches and support staff. That’s where we’re focused right now.”

Traylor has been leading the ‘Runners through unprecedented times, and he has been navigating and preparing for the upcoming seasons of UTSA football with a positive view. 

“I’m a human,” Traylor said. “I’ve had my moments like ‘woe is me,’ but you have to shake out of that and be a leader; believe in the things you believe in, control the controllable. That culture piece comes into play for me, as well. Be a person of integrity. ‘How am I going to be when things don’t go well?’ You can’t just talk the talk, you have to walk the walk, and that goes for me, as well. I feed off my coaches and players. They’ve been nothing but positive, and I hope I’ve been the same with them.”

Even in bleak times for sports and with the season potentially being up in the air, Traylor still wants people to know that he is keeping a positive attitude. 

“Stay safe and healthy and we’ll get through this together,” Traylor said. “Our coaches have had a fantastic attitude, our players have been very responsive and our administration has kept us informed and been supportive throughout this time.”