UTSA Roadrunners’ Top 10 Returning Players in 2024: Outstanding Oscar Cardenas, Brilliant Brandon Brown Lead the Way

    While the UTSA Roadrunners bid farewell to a handful of impactful players, a plethora of other talented returners are ready to shine in 2024.

    On the heels of four consecutive winning seasons, the UTSA Roadrunners’ journey for a fifth one will be without several key players who were instrumental during the unprecedented era for the program. Highly productive OLB Trey Moore transferred to the Texas Longhorns, while Frank Harris leads a cast of players who exhausted their eligibility at the end of last season.

    Despite major departures, the Roadrunners are still loaded with talent ready to fill those vacancies. Head coach Jeff Traylor has built a winner through rigorous recruiting and has maintained it by creating a culture that players don’t want to leave. With that in mind, let’s look at UTSA’s top 10 returning players for 2024.

    UTSA Roadrunners’ Top 10 Returners in 2024

    10) Elliott Davison, S

    Elliot Davison moved across town last year, transferring to UTSA after three seasons at Incarnate Word. Playing in every game with just one start in 2023, Davison tied for second on the team with two interceptions and tied for eighth with 40 tackles. With Wisdom off to the NFL, Davison’s role will increase as he steps into a vacant starting spot.

    9) Ventley Tatafu, OT/OG

    While the UTSA OL lineup has been a game of musical chairs the last couple of seasons due to injuries, Ventley Tatafu has been a reliable and versatile piece. Tatafu started 12 of 13 games last season at guard and tackle.

    There are other returning UTSA offensive linemen who deserve some recognition — like 2023 all-AAC Honorable Mention Cory Godinet and former all conference OT Makai Hart returning for an astounding eighth season — but Tatafu’s FBS experience and durability separates him here.

    8) Owen McCown, QB

    There’s a good chance Owen McCown is higher on this list next offseason if he comes back to San Antonio, but he sits at eighth with many unknowns on the table. Transferring from the Colorado Buffaloes before last year, McCown made just one start and seven appearances in relief of Harris, registering 442 passing yards, four TDs, and three INTs.

    MORE: 2024 UTSA Roadrunners Football Roster

    He’s penciled in as the 2024 starter, but Eddie Lee Marburger, another player with relief experience for the Roadrunners, is nipping at his heels.

    7) Jamal Ligon, LB

    A 2023 all-AAC Honorable Mention, Jamal Ligon finished second on the team with 62 tackles, adding a sack, a forced fumble, and seven tackles for a loss. One of four returning seniors at linebacker, he’s joined in the middle by Martavius French, the Roadrunners’ third-leading tackler last year with 61.

    6) Kevorian Barnes, RB

    The Roadrunners are returning all three of their top rushers from last year, starting with Kevorian Barnes. A battering ram at 220 pounds, Barnes punished defenders en route to 715 yards on 147 carries (4.9 yards per rush) and six touchdowns last year.

    With Barnes leading a run-by-committee strategy, UTSA also welcomes back Robert Henry (588 yards, 11 touchdowns) and Rocko Griffin (492 yards, six touchdowns).

    5) Jimmori Robinson, EDGE

    Filling in for Trey Moore (14 sacks, 17.5 tackles for a loss) will be a tall task, but Jimmori Robinson proved he was up for the job as a reserve last season. Robinson finished second on the team in TFLs with 11, third in sacks with 4.5, and tied for eighth in total tackles with 40.

    In an increased role in 2024, the 6’6″, 235-pounder from Alexandria, Virginia, is set up to wreak havoc off the edge this season.

    4) Donyai Taylor, LB

    A versatile LB who sometimes plays inside, Donyai Taylor does most of his work on the outside. After waiting in the wings in San Antonio for four seasons, he finally received a full starting slate last year and made the most of it, registering 46 tackles, seven for a loss, two sacks, and a pick, earning 2023 All-AAC Second Team.

    The 6’1, 205-pound senior leads a group of four returning LBs in their final year.

    3) Joe Evans, DT

    An LSU transfer (2019-2021), Joe Evans broke the rotation in 2022 before emerging as a full-timer last season. At 6’3″, 340 pounds, Evans started all 13 games in 2023, making 18 stops, 2.5 for a loss, and two sacks, earning 2023 All-AAC Third Team.

    In just four starts in 2022, his first with UTSA, he received a C-USA Honorable Mention nod with 18 tackles, 3.5 for a loss, and 1.5 sacks.

    2) Brandon Brown, NT

    At 6’2″, 310 pounds, Brandon Brown has manned the middle of the line of scrimmage for UTSA with 34 starts at NT in the last three seasons. A big-bodied gap blocker, he’s racked up 65 tackles, 14 for a loss, with three forced fumbles and 2.5 sacks in his career.

    KEEP READING: UTSA 2024 Football Schedule

    An all-conference selection the last three years (2021 C-USA Honorable, 2022 C-USA First Team, 2023 AAC Third Team), Brown is back for fifth overall season as part of a dominant DT duo in San Antonio.

    1) Oscar Cardenas, TE

    Entering his sixth year, all with UTSA, Oscar Cardenas has appeared in 57 games with 32 starts, hauling in 82 catches for 997 yards and six TDs in that time while using his 6’4″, 265-pound frame to clear paths as a blocker. A hometown hero in San Antonio out of Brandie High School, Cardenas’ true worth to the Roadrunners isn’t fully demonstrated in a box score.

    With so many departures on offense, Cardenas is one of the last and most experienced vestiges of an era that saw unparalleled success for the program. The Roadrunners will need leadership as they transition, especially with a new quarterback, and they luckily have Cardenas to lean on.

    College Football Network has you covered with the latest news and analysis, rankings, transfer portal information, top 10 returning players, the 2024 college football season schedule, and much more!

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