The 50 most important college players in Texas in 2017 — No. 17: UTSA’s Josiah Tauaefa

AS THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL SEASON EDGES CLOSER, WE TAKE A LOOK AT THE MOST PIVOTAL PLAYERS FOR EACH PROGRAM'S RESPECTIVE SUCCESS.

The importance of a player is not always defined by their skill level. The most important player on a team or in a unit is not always the best player on a team. This list is designed to breakdown the 50 most important players in Texas college football for the 2017 season. It is not a ranking of the 50 best college football players in the state. Importance can be defined by position, need, skill or leadership. We’ll count down the list through the summer, all the way to No. 1.

Previously:
50 – Lamar DE Daniel Crosley / 49 – TCU WR KaVontae Turpin / 48 – UTEP QB Ryan Metz
47 – UMHB RB Markeith Miller / 46 – Sam Houston State DE PJ Hall / 45 – Baylor WR Blake Lynch
44 – Texas Tech WR Jonathan Giles (transferred) / 43 – Texas Tech RB Justin Stockton
42 – PVAMU WR Joshua Simmons / 41 – Rice RB Samuel Stewart / 40 – UNT WR Jalen Guyton
39 – Texas RB Chris Warren / 38 – Rice OL Trey Martin / 37 – Texas A&M Commerce QB Luis Perez
36 – Baylor DL K.J. Smith / 35 – Texas State LB Gabe Loyd / 34 – Texas State WR Thurman Morbley
33 – Houston DB Khalil Williams / 32 – Texas Tech LB Jordyn Brooks / 31 – SFA DL John Franklin
30 – SMU DE Justin Lawler / 29 – Texas State QB Damian Williams / 28 – ACU QB Dallas Sealey
27 – UTSA QB Dalton Sturm / 26 – Texas A&M RB Trayveon Williams / 25 – UTSA WR Josh Stewart
24 – TCU LB Travin Howard / 23 – Texas Tech OL Travis Bruffy / 22 – Rice LB Emmanuel Ellerbee
21 – UNT DT Bryce English / 20 – TCU LB Ty Summers / 19 – UTEP LB Alvin Jones
18 – The Baylor QB

The History

After redshirting in 2015, Josiah Tauaefa broke out as one of the most explosive freshman athletes in the state and country last season. His dominance came after coach Frank Wilson shifted Tauaefa from the defensive line to middle linebacker last spring, and the move certainly paid off. In addition to earning Conference USA Freshman of the Year honors, Tauaefa was a first-team all-conference selection and was selected to the Football Writers Association of America Freshman All-America team – each honor was the first of its kind for the UTSA football program. Tauaefa certainly earned the national recognition after finishing the season with 115 tackles, nine tackles for loss and six sacks.

Coming out of Lake Dallas High School in Corinth, Tauaefa received only a handful of Division I offers despite putting up big numbers. The San Antonio Express-News detailed how North Texas (under former head coach Dan McCarney) didn’t show any interest despite being right down the road, which eventually served as motivation for the young linebacker. He was a two-time district defensive MVP and was the newcomer of the year as a sophomore at Lake Dallas.

The Skillset

Tauaefa has drawn comparisons to former Pittsburgh Steelers great Troy Polamalu, and the similarities stretch far beyond the long flowing hair. Tauaefa’s physicality is well documented, and he played with a lot of intensity after making a position change prior to last season. His work ethic helped him develop into a defensive leader early in his career. Tauaefa is a fan favorite in San Antonio and brings a lot of energy to the field, where he was one of the most productive freshmen in the country.

The Impact

The fact that Tauaefa was able to adjust to play at such a high level in his first season at middle linebacker shows just what he is capable of over the next three years. After being overlooked in high school, he proved a lot of people wrong and will only continue to grow heading into this season. After allowing almost 34 points per game to opponents in 2015, Tauaefa helped the Roadrunners improve to an average of less than 28 ppg allowed last season. There is still room for the defense to improve, and with a lot of hype surrounding the program heading into the year, Tauaefa will be key to guiding the Roadrunners to another bowl appearance.

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Brady Keane is a Contributing Writer for Dave Campbell’s Texas Football. Follow him on Twitter: @BradyKeane.

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