Deante Burton has never met Larry Coker, but the Kansas State receiver knows every pertinent fact about the coach his team will face on Saturday in San Antonio.
Coker won a national championship with Miami, Burton says, and he fell one controversial penalty flag short of winning two. He has won nearly 70 percent of the time as a coach, he has served as an assistant at Ohio State and Oklahoma and he has coached 26 All-Americans.
“I don’t know about the man personally, but I know he was on ESPN’s ‘30 for 30: The U,’” Burton said. “I think he has an amazing story. I am sure he is a great football coach. I mean, he has coached some great teams. This team is going to be no slouch.”
Life is quieter for Coker since Miami fired him in 2006. The spotlight is gone. But he is fine with that. He arrived at Texas-San Antonio in 2009 ready to start a program from scratch, and he says his job is more eventful and fulfilling than ever before.
The differences between a powerhouse program and a start-up were shocking. Coker went from showing recruits state-of-the-art facilities and trophies, to none of either.
“It was a major transition, but it wasn’t a major transition from an ego standpoint,” Coker said. “It was a major transition in the sense that there was a lot to get done. We didn’t even have a locker room.”
Still, his accomplishments helped attract recruits.
UTSA tight end David Morgan, perhaps the team’s best player, said Coker wowed him during his recruiting pitch.
“He is an experienced guy who has won championships, been to every bowl game and coached the best players to ever play the game,” Morgan said. “When he was recruiting me, he told me, ‘You remind me of Jeremy Shockey, a guy I used to coach at Miami.’ That blew me away. It was about the highest honor I could get.”
San Antonio has embraced local college football under Coker, and more than 40,000 fans are expected at the Alamodome when UTSA hosts K-State at 11 a.m. Saturday. Not bad for a program that did not exist before 2009.
“It is already big, but UTSA football will become huge, to be quite honest,” Coker said during a phone interview with The Eagle. “We play in the 65,000-seat Alamodome, and it is a great place to play right off the Riverwalk. It has been fabulous to us, and the recruits love it.
“I think UTSA football can be outstanding. There are so many players here you can recruit. You won’t get all of them, of course, but you won’t get all of them at Notre Dame or Florida State. If we get the chance to coach them, we can do big things.”
The Roadrunners have already turned some heads.
More than 56,000 fans attended their first game in 2011, when they were an FCS program without a conference. The next year they joined the Western Athletic Conference and won eight games. The year after that they moved to Conference USA and won seven games. The team took a step back last year, going 4-8, but it received national attention when it clobbered Houston in its opener.
Coker next hopes to take UTSA to its first bowl game.
K-State coach Bill Snyder can relate to the challenge.
“I always admired what he did at Miami, and then coming into UTSA you can just see the growth in the program,” Snyder said. “Across the board, you look schematically and they’re very bright and receptive about the things that they do in all phases, whether it’s the kicking game, offense or defense. They’re going to be a very, very fine football team.”
Kansas State at UTSA
When: 11 a.m. Saturday
Where: Alamodome, San Antonio
Records: K-State 1-0, UTSA 0-1
Radio: KQAM, 1480-AM; KWLS, 107.9-FM
TV: Fox Sports 1
Dome dilemma: K-State does not tend to play well in domes. The Wildcats have not won indoors since 1993, when they defeated Minnesota 30-25 at the Metrodome.
Familiar surroundings: K-State’s first away game occurs at the same location of its last trip away from Snyder Family Stadium. The Wildcats lost to UCLA in the Alamo Bowl. Players think having some familiarity with the stadium will help on Saturday.
Up-tempo offense: K-State’s defense will need to react quickly on Saturday. Bill Snyder thinks the Roadrunners move as fast as most Big 12 teams on offense, including Texas Tech and Oklahoma State.