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Five More Miners Heading to NFL Camps

Former Miners Nick Usher, Hayden Plinke, Darrin Laufasa, Cole Freytag and Jerome Daniels will be heading to NFL Camps.

Usher was picked up by the Seattle Seahawks. He was a three-year starter and saw the field in 49 games for the Orange and Blue. Last season, he started all 12 contests and earned All-C-USA honorable mention after leading team in tackles for loss (8.0-41), sacks (5.5-31) and quarterback hurries (five).

The linebacker ranked third on team with 77 tackles (35 solo) and added two pass breakup and a blocked kick. He ranked tied no. 8 in C-USA in total sacks and finished career ranked tied no. 10 with five other Miners in career sacks (12.0). Usher was invited to play in the NFLPA Bowl.

Prior to being a linebacker, Usher played three seasons as a defensive lineman. During his junior campaign, Usher recorded 46 tackles (27s/19a), a career-best 10 tackles for loss, one forced fumble, five quarterback hurries, 3.5 sacks and a blocked kick.

The Seahawks also snagged Plinke. He played two seasons with the Miners, started in 22 games and was on the John Mackey Award watch list both seasons. Plinke started all 12 contests as a senior and earned All-C-USA first team honors after producing a record-setting season.

The tight end stomped and raced past defenders on way to eight receiving touchdowns, the most ever by a UTEP tight end during a single season. Plinke led team in receptions (38) and touchdowns grabs and ranked second in receiving yards (456). He registered a career-long 72-yard touchdown during a season-finale victory against North Texas. Plinke also participated in the NFL combine and the NFLPA Bowl.

Laufasa will be heading to the Cincinnati Bengals. He started 44 games for he Miners at fullback. His blocking efforts helped pave the way for Jones to rush for a single-season program-record 1,773 yards. The team capped 2016 season with a season-high 555 yards of total offense, including a season-best 384 yards rushing (most since 1983) and four scores during a victory against North Texas.

During his junior season, Laufasa recorded 183 rushing yards on 33 attempts (5.5 avg.) and a touchdown. Laufasa rushed for a career-best 85 yards on eight carries (10.6 avg.), including a career-long 66-yard touchdown run during a come-from-behind overtime victory at rival NM State. He tallied a career-best 100 all-purpose yards against the Aggies.

Freytag received a tryout with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The El Paso native played for the Miners in 45 games and earned the starting position as a senior. The wide receiver led the team last season in receiving yards (520) and receiving yards per game (43.3), while ranking second in receptions (36) and receiving touchdowns (five).

The El Paso native produced a career-high 95 yards on four receptions while adding a season-long 46-yard touchdown catch during a victory against rival NM State.

Freytag tallied a career-high seven receptions for 84 yards and a nine-yard scoring catch against Old Dominion. He also hauled in a 30-yard touchdown reception, while recording 45 yards on three catches during a season-finale victory against North Texas. Freytag also saw action on special teams for the Miners.

Daniels was invited to a mini-camp tryout with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was a four-year letter winner that started in 35 games for the Miners.

During his senior campaign, Daniels played on an offensive line that paved the way for Aaron Jones to rush for a single-season program-record 1,773 yards, while Jones also became UTEP’s all-time leading rusher. The Miners averaged 185.5 rushing yards per game and scored 20 touchdowns on the ground.

As a junior, he played on an offensive line that led Conference USA in sacks allowed with only 12. During Daniels sophomore season, he was on an offensive line unit that only surrendered 13 sacks in 13 games (ranked first in Conference USA and eighth nationally).

Former Miners Jones, Plinke invited to NFL Combine in Indianapolis

Former Miners Aaron Jones and Hayden Plinke were selected to participate in the NFL Scouting Combine onFeb. 28-March 4 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The last Miner to get invited to the combine was Eric Tomlinson in 2015. The tight end currently is on the New York Jets roster.

The athletes will participate in medical examinations, interviews, test, NFLPA meetings, strength test and on-field workouts. Running backs will take part on on-field workout on March 3, while tight ends will be on the field on March 4.

Eleven athletes from Conference USA schools were selected to participate in the combine. LA Tech led with three invites, followed by UTEP and WKU with two. Jones is the only running back, while Plinke is one of two tight ends invited from the league (Jonnu Smith, FIU).

Jones set multiple school records during his prolific junior season including earning AP All-American third team and All-C-USA first team honors. The El Paso native rushed for a single-season school-record 1,773 yards, while climbing his way to the top of the program’s career-rushing list with 4,114 yards, breaking John Harvey’s 28-year old record.

Jones averaged 7.7 yards on 229 carries and scored 17 rushing touchdowns (third most in program history). Jones added three more receiving scores, while tallying 2,006 all-purpose yards (fourth best single-season performance in school history). Jones capped the 2016 campaign with a career-high 301 yards and a career-best four rushing touchdowns against North Texas. Jones’s 301-yard effort is the second most yards rushed in a single contest in UTEP history.

Jones is currently ranked third in the nation with his 147.8 rushing yards per contest.

Plinke started all 12 contests and earned All-Conference USA first team honors after producing a record-setting season. The senior stomped and raced past defenders on way to eight receiving touchdowns, the most ever by a UTEP tight end during a single season. The tight end led team in receptions (38) and touchdowns grabs and ranked second in receiving yards (456). He registered a career-long 72-yard touchdown during a season-finale victory against North Texas.

The Miners will begin spring training on March 6 at Glory Field.

Miners Hayden Plinke, Nick Usher to Participate at NFLPA Bowl

Seniors Hayden Plinke and Nick Usher will represent UTEP at the 2017 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl on Saturday at 2:15 p.m. MT on FS1.

 The Miners will travel to Carson, Calif. to participate in a first-class professional experience while introducing them to the business of the National Football League. Founded in 2012, the annual game gives prospective NFL players the best opportunity to showcase their talents to potential employers and fans.

UTEP's Plinke vs most of the Southern Miss Team from Oct 2015 game | Photo: Gulflive.com
UTEP’s Plinke vs most of the Southern Miss Team from Oct 2015 game | Photo: Gulflive.com

Scouts from every NFL club and other professional leagues attend the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl’s practices and game.

Plinke started all 12 contests and earned All-Conference USA first team honors after producing a record-setting season. The senior stomped and raced past defenders on way to eight receiving touchdowns, the most ever by a UTEP tight end during a single season.

The tight end led team in receptions (38) and touchdowns grabs and ranked second in receiving yards (456). He registered a career-long 72-yard touchdown during a season-finale victory against North Texas.

Usher started all 12 contests and earned Conference USA honorable mention after leading team in tackles for loss (8.0-41), sacks (5.5-31) and quarterback hurries (five).

The linebacker ranked third on team with 77 tackles (35 solo) and added two pass breakup and a blocked kick. He ranked tied no. 8 in C-USA in total sacks and finished career ranked tied no. 10 with five other Miners in career sacks (12.0).

Three UTEP Football Players Named First Team All-C-USA

IRVING, Texas – UTEP junior offensive lineman Will Hernandez, record-breaking junior running back Aaron Jones and record-breaking senior tight end Hayden Plinke earned first team All-Conference USA honors on Tuesday, as selected by the league’s 13 head football coaches.

Junior linebacker Alvin Jones was named second team All-C-USA, while senior linebacker Nick Usher, junior punter Alan Luna and sophomore punt returner Terry Juniel earned honorable mention honors.

UTEP has now had 20 first team All-C-USA selections in 12 seasons as a league member. It’s also the first time since the 2008 season that four Miners were selected all-conference.

North Texas vs UTEP, Sun Bowl Stadium 11.26.2016
North Texas vs UTEP, Sun Bowl Stadium 11.26.2016

Jones set multiple school records during his prolific junior season. The El Paso native rushed for a single-season school-record 1,773 yards, while climbing his way to the top of the program’s career-rushing list with 4,114 yards, breaking John Harvey’s 28-year old record. Jones averaged 7.7 yards on 229 carries and scored 17 rushing touchdowns (third most in program history). Jones added three more receiving scores, while tallying 2,006 all-purpose yards (fourth best single-season performance in school history).

Jones capped the 2016 campaign with a career-high 301 yards and a career-best four rushing touchdowns against North Texas. Jones’s 301-yard effort is the second most yards rushed in a single contest in UTEP history.

Jones is currently ranked third in the nation with his 147.8 rushing yards per contest.

will hdz
Will Hernandez | Photo Courtesy UTEP

Paving the way and creating holes for Jones is Hernandez, who has started all 37 games in his career at the left guard position. Hernandez helped UTEP rushers gain 185.5 yards per game, currently ranking fourth in C-USA. UTEP tallied 20 rushing touchdowns.

Hernandez’s efforts on the offensive line also yielded 22 sacks (1.83 avg.), ranking fourth least allowed in C-USA. The Las Vegas, Nev., native helped the Miners gain a season-high 384 yards rushing (most since 1983) during a dominant 52-24 victory against North Texas. UTEP also tallied a season-high 555 yards of total offense against the Mean Green. UTEP gained 323 yards rushing against Houston Baptist, while opening the season with 518 yards of total offense, including 289 rushing yards in a victory over rival NM State.

Plinke produced big numbers, as the Hillsboro, Ore., native set a UTEP tight end record by hauling in eight receiving touchdowns in 2016. Plinke led the Miners with 38

ODU vs UTEP
ODU vs UTEP

receptions, while ranking second with 456 receiving yards. Plinke led all C-USA tight ends in touchdown receptions, while his scores ranked tied sixth with three other players in C-USA. Plinke earned a John Mackey Honorable Mention following his performance at UTSA.

During UTEP’s 5OT win against the Roadrunners, Plinke tallied 84 yards on four receptions, including a game-extending two-point conversion in the third overtime of the contest. Plinke also registered a career-high two touchdown receptions against Houston Baptist.

Jones is the first UTEP running back to earn first team honors since Donald Buckram (2009), Hernandez is the first UTEP offensive lineman since Mike Aguayo (2009) to earn first team honors, while Plinke is the first UTEP tight end to be named All-C-USA, while he’s also the first to be named first team since Brian Natkin earned such honors in 2000 in the Western Athletic Conference.

Alvin Jones led the Miners with 93 tackles despite missing a pair of contests due to injury. Jones produced monster numbers in a pair of contests, tallying a career-high 16 tackles against FIU, while matching that number at Rice. The El Paso native opened his junior campaign with a 12-tackle outing during a victory against rival NM State. Jones then capped the season with a 12-tackle performance in a 52-24 drubbing of North Texas.

Usher led the UTEP defense with 5.5 sacks and 8.0 tackles for loss (41 yards). The Los Angeles native ranked third on the team with 77 tackles, while adding two breakups, a team-leading five quarterback hurries and a blocked kick. Usher tallied 2.0 sacks and seven tackles at no. 11 Texas, while registering a sack and nine tackles during a 5OT win at UTSA.

Luna averaged 41.0 yards on 62 punts (2,542 yards), with a career-long 69-yard boot. The El Paso native currently ranks ninth on the program’s all-time list with 5,427 career punt yards. Luna averaged a career-best 51.0 yards against Southern Miss, while at LA Tech, placed three punts inside the 20-yard line, while two were inside the 10-yard line.

Juniel opened his UTEP career by tallying 104 yards on six punt returns with a long of 42 yards in the season-opening victory against rival NM State – it was the most return yards in a single game since the 2006 season, while it was the single-game high in C-USA. The Surprise, Ariz., native currently ranks third in C-USA in punt return average (9.2), while his 22 returns and 203 yards led the league.

UTEP’s Plinke Earns Mackey Honorable Mention

NEW YORK, N.Y. – UTEP tight end Hayden Plinke earned a John Mackey Tight End of the Week honorable mention on Wednesday.

Plinke’s performance at UTSA on Oct. 22 helped propel the Miners to a thrilling 52-49 victory in five overtimes. Plinke bulldozed over defenders, as he registered a season-high 84 yards on four receptions. The senior also hauled in a season-long 54-yard reception on a third-and-two play in the third quarter that helped set up a touchdown that brought UTEP within seven points.

Plinke also added a two-point conversion, the first of his career, in the third overtime to extend the contest.

On the season, Plinke leads the Miners in touchdown receptions (three), ranks tied second in receptions (17) and ranks third in yards (187). His trio of scores is the most by a UTEP tight end since 2004, while Plinke’s scores are tied for the most touchdowns by a Conference USA tight end.

Virginia Tech’s Bucky Hodges was named the John Mackey Tight End of the Week, while Louisville’s Cole Hikutini and Alabama’s OJ Howard earned honorable mentions.

UTEP will host Old Dominion in the 85 Homecoming game on Oct. 29. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. in the Sun Bowl.

UTEP’s Plinke Garners John Mackey Watch List Recognition

Hayden Plinke received John Mackey Award Preseason Watch List recognition on Wednesday.

Given annually to the most outstanding collegiate tight end, the award recipient is selected by vote of the John Mackey Award Selection Committee and the 2016 Mackey Award recipient will be announced on Dec. 7, 2016 and then presented live on Dec. 8, 2016 at The Home Depot College Football Awards Red Carpet Show on ESPNU.

plinke2The tight end is one of four Conference USA student-athletes making an appearance on the watch list. The senior garnered John Mackey midseason honors last season before suffering an injury, which required him to miss the last game of the season.

Plinke finished the season ranked second on the team in receptions (37) and receiving yards (405). He registered a career-high 87 yards on four receptions versus Texas Tech. The senior also recorded career-best nine receptions for 85 yards during the Miners’ first win against Rice since 2010.

This is also the third year in a row that the Miners have had a tight end recognized on the John Mackey Watch List.

UTEP will open the season at home against I-10 rival NM State on Sept. 3 at 6 p.m. MT. Call 747-6150 today to purchase UTEP season tickets.

UTEP’s Plinke named to Mackey Award Midseason Watch List

UTEP transfer Hayden Plinke was named to the 2015 John Mackey Award Midseason Watch List on Wednesday.

The tight end leads the team in receiving yards (240) and rates second on the squad in receptions (18). In the Miners home opener against Incarnate Word, Plinke caught four passes for 80 yards, including a career-long 57-yard reception.

The junior led UTEP in receptions (four) and yards (87) against Texas Tech, including a 42-yard catch. His yards versus the Red Raiders were the most for a UTEP tight end since Jamar Hunt in 2008.

This is the second consecutive year that UTEP has a tight end named to the Midseason John Mackey Watch List. Plinke is one of seven Conference USA tight ends that are named to the list.

The Miners will return to action at home on Oct. 24 against Florida Atlantic at 5 p.m. MT.

Author: UTEP

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