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Tuesday , June 19 2018
Home | Tag Archives: UTEP Spring football

Tag Archives: UTEP Spring football

HP Sports In Depth: UTEP Football to Host Spring Game Friday

The UTEP football team will conclude spring drills this Friday at 6 p.m. with the annual Spring Game in the Sun Bowl.

Gates will open to the public at 5 p.m. and admission is free. Parking will be available north of the P-9 lot and at the lots around the Sun Bowl.

Concession stands will be open for fans, and various food trucks will be parked in the concourse, adding to the variety of snacking options for fans. Additionally, the first 300 students to arrive at the game will receive a free tank top.

As for the game, football fans will get to see a variety of different lineup combinations, a live scrimmage and simulated game situations. Special in-game videos will pit the players against the coaches in a variety of grueling activities.

After the game, the seniors and head coach Sean Kugler will sign complimentary spring game posters. There will also be a free football clinic for youth 13 and under.

Roster Rundown

UTEP returns 44 lettermen (21 offensive, 21 defensive and two special teams) from the 2016 team. The Miners have 14 starters (five offensive, seven defensive and two special teams) coming back. The offensive line will once again be counted on to provide stability with three starters returning from last season, including All-American Will Hernandez.

On defense, the linebacker core returns three starters (Alvin Jones, Dante Lovilotte and Jayson VanHook). Jones and Lovilotte rated first and second on the team in tackles last season. They combined for 182 tackles and 12.5 tackles for loss. UTEP will also have 22 newcomers in the mix, with 17 coming out of high school, three junior-college transfers and two division I transfers.

Depth Cart Breakdown

The Miners’ two-deep roster has a distinct El Paso flavor to it, with 12 projected starters (five offense, five special teams and two defense) hailing from the Sun City. There are also five immediate back-ups (four offense, one special teams) currently featuring El Pasoans. In terms of experience upperclassmen are expected to account for 18 (nine offense, seven defense and two special teams) of the 27 positions listed on the depth chart.

Protecting the Field

The offensive line for the Miners brings experience to the depth chart this season. The unit lost two starters from last season but return Will Hernandez, Tanner Stallings and Derron Gatewood. Leading the way for the squad will be Hernandez, who in 2016 became the first UTEP offensive lineman to garner All-American honors.

The senior has started every game (37) at the left guard position during his three years with the Miners. The Miners also return three linemen that have starting experience.

Adding depth will be 2016 All-Conference USA freshman team recipient Greg Long. Long started a game at right guard before starting three at left tackle. At the opposite side of the line, junior Jerrod Brooks started the first half of the 2016 campaign at right tackle.

Also returning for the unit will be Derek Elmendorff. The senior has combined for 19 starts at right guard and will look to contribute this season.

All-American Status

Offensive lineman Will Hernandez has started every game in his three years with the Miners. Last season, Hernandez was the first offensive lineman at the school to receive AP All-American second team and FOX Sports’ All-American honors. The senior was also first offensive lineman since 2009 to earn All-Conference USA first team recognition.

Hernandez’s national recognition didn’t stop there, garnering Pro Football Focus Pass Protector of the Year. The Miners capped season off with two showings of more than 500 yards of total offense, including a season-best 384 yards rushing in victory over North Texas.

Amazin’ Metz

Ryan Metz played in 11 games, starting seven during the 2016 season. Metz completed 64.7 percent of his passes, the second-best completion percentage during a single season in program history. Metz tossed 14 touchdowns, the most passing scores by a Miner since 2010. Metz also led the squad with 1,375 yards on 130-of-201 passing and only four interceptions.

In fact, the El Paso native increased his touchdown passes from 2015 (six touchdowns) and decreased his interceptions from the season prior (seven interceptions). Metz’s 141.14 passing efficiency was the program’s fifth best single-season performance, while it ranked sixth in Conference USA. Metz produced big numbers during a 5OT win at UTSA.

Metz tied his career high with three touchdown strikes against the Roadrunners and threw for 211 yards on 15-of-23 passing. Metz was named one of eight Manning Award Stars of the Week following his performance in San Antonio. Metz produced two more solid outings in front of his hometown fans, throwing three more touchdowns against Houston Baptist and registering two passing scores, including a career-long 72-yard toss against North Texas. Metz also showed fancy feet, as he tallied a career-long 42-yard dash against the Mean Green.

Alvin’s Impact

Alvin Jones is returning for his senior season in 2017 at the linebacker position. In 2016, Jones played in 10 contests, making eight starts and missing two games due to injury. The El Paso native earned All-Conference USA second team honors after leading the team in tackles 93 (44 solo) and ranking tied 11th in C-USA in total tackles. Jones also led team with 72 tackles on rushing plays and ranked fourth in C-USA in tackles per game (9.3).

The Burges High School graduate added 6.0 tackles for loss (28 yards), 2.5 sacks (22 yards) and a pass breakup. Jones has 241 career tackles (seventh most at UTEP since the 2000 season), 10.5 career sacks (needs 1.5 to crack the program’s all-time top 10 list), 29.5 career tackles for loss (needs 1.0 to etch name on all-time top 10 list).

Jones opened his junior campaign with a 12-tackle performance, including, a tackle for loss, during a victory against rival NM State. Jones brought his best to the table when he established a caree best with 16 tackles (seven solo) against FIU.

The total tackles against the Panthers were the most by an individual UTEP player since the 2013 season (17 tackles). Five weeks later, Jones amassed 16 more tackles (11 solo) at Rice, while chipping in with a sack against the Owls. His junior season was capped with another 12-tackle outing, while registering a sack and 1.5 tackles for loss during a dominant victory against North Texas.

Making the Change

UTEP head coach Sean Kugler brought in four transfer players to make immediate impacts in 2017. Tight ends David Lucero and Josh Weeks, and a pair of defensive players, LB Kalaii Griffin and DB Kahani Smith, will don the Orange and Blue in 2017.

After Hayden Plinke graduated, Lucero and Weeks will look to fill the tight end gap. Lucero, who is 6’5 and 230 pounds, saw action in all 12 games at Arizona Western College, catching nine passes for 91 yards and a score in 2016.

Weeks, who also possessees great physical attributes (6’4, 255 pounds), played in two games at BYU (three rec., 23 yards) in 2015. Griffin registered 40 tackles (30 solo) in nine games played at Ventura Community College in 2016. Smith was a playmaker at Riverside Community College, seeing action in 11 games at the strong safety position.

Smith notched 36 tackles, four interceptions, 11 pass breakups and three touchdowns (a pick-six and two scoop-and-scores).

Bowl Mania

UTEP will face eight opponents in 2017 who made a bowl game in 2016. The Miners will open with Oklahoma (Sugar Bowl) on Sept. 2 in Norman,Okla.

After UTEP’s contest at NM State on Sept. 23, the next seven opponents are Army (Heart of Dallas Bowl), WKU (Boca Raton Bowl), Southern Miss (New Orleans Bowl), UTSA (New Mexico Bowl), Middle Tennessee (Hawai’i Bowl), North Texas (Heart of Dallas Bowl) and LA Tech (Armed Forces Bowl). Syracuse and Duke lead the list with 11 bowl opponents each, while South Florida will see 10. Florida and Tulsa will face nine bowl opponents, and East Carolina will take on eight in 2017.

UTEP Football’s Spring Practice Starts Monday

The UTEP football team will kick off its spring training on March 6 at Glory Field.

The Miners will practice Monday, Wednesday and Friday’s from March 6-April 12. The team will have a week off from March 13-19 for spring break. The team will conclude the spring season with the annual spring game on April 14 at 7 p.m.  at the Sun Bowl.

Admission is free and fans will receive a free commemorative spring-game poster during the post-game autograph session with the seniors for the 2017 season.

The Miners enter the 2017 season returning 44 letterwinners and 14 starters (five offense/seven defense/two special teams). Leading the way for the offense is All-American Will Hernandez. The offensive lineman started all 12 games in 2016 and was named to the All-Conference USA first team.

The offense capped season off with a season-high 555 yards of total offense, including a season-best 384 yards rushing, which was the most since 1983.

On defense, UTEP is led by Alvin Jones who earned All-C-USA second team after leading team in tackles with 93 total. The linebacker in his career has notched 241 tackles, 10.5 sacks and 29.5 tackles for loss.

The Miners will open the 2017 campaign on the road against No. 5 Oklahoma on Sept. 2 and will then return home on Sept. 9 to face Rice. Season tickets go on sale tomorrow and can be purchased by calling the UTEP Season Ticket Office at (915) 747-6150. For more ticket information visit, www.utepathletics.com/tickets/utep-tickets.html.

Defense Makes a Stand at UTEP Football Scrimmage

The UTEP football team continued spring drills on Friday morning with a scrimmage in the Sun Bowl, and the performance on one side of the ball stood out.

“I’d say the defense dominated the day overall,” coach Sean Kugler said.  “[There was] a lot of pressure on the quarterback.  I think there were five sacks.  [Linebacker] Johnny Jones was active inside getting some sacks.  I thought Brendan Royal really did a nice job at strong safety setting the edge.  I think he had two or three tackles for losses.

“They did well in the short yardage segment, and they did a great job in the goal line segment.  They won the move the ball segment.  And the one group kept the [one offense] out of the end zone in the red zone segment.  It was a great day for the defense.”

Statistically, Jones compiled two sacks and a pass break-up.  Nik Needham picked off a pass, Dashone Smith added two tackles for losses and Kalon Beverly chipped in with two pass break-ups.

The offense managed three short scoring runs, one each from quarterbacks Kavika Johnson and Ryan Metz and another from running back TK Powell.

Metz had the best numbers among the signal-callers, completing 6-of-10 passes for 59 yards.  Johnson was 1-of-8 for 10 yards. Cole Freytag was the only Miner with more than one catch (he had two), while Orion Prescott (10 carries for 30 yards), Powell (six for 25 yards) and Treyvon Hughes (10 for 22 yards) set the pace in the ground game.

“I think the number one offense did some good things, and the number two offense kind of struggled mightily today,” Kugler said.

Spring camp is winding down.  The Miners will conduct their final scrimmage next Friday (April 15) in the Sun Bowl as part of the “UTEP Spring Football Fest.”  The free admission event will feature a fan fest from 5-7 pm at the North end of the stadium, including a live performance by local band Formal Intent.  A pep rally will ensue at 6:30, followed by the game at 7.  A total of 1,000 hot dogs will be given away to fans and students at the fan fest, and there will also be inflatables and games for the whole family.

Kugler is pleased with his team’s performance heading into the final week.

“Kids are doing a good job,” he said.  “They are playing with effort.  And again, we are looking at a defense that is probably down five starters and they’re flying around having fun.  That’s fun to look at as a head coach.”

The Miners are getting by with two quarterbacks for now, as Mack Leftwich recently underwent shoulder surgery.

“[Ryan and Kavika] both moved the ball a little bit, and then they had some inconsistent plays,” Kugler said.  “They dealt with some things like snap issues and there were some drops.  I thought the receivers had too many drops today.  There were some well-placed balls that should’ve come down as catches.  Sometimes you’ve got to evaluate that and not put it on the quarterback.”

There was a double dose of good news on the defensive front as linebacker Nick Usher (broken foot) returned to practice and safety Devin Cockrell’s long-term prognosis is good.

“It was good to get [Usher] back,” Kugler said.  “He was in there on a limited basis.  He wants to be out there all the time.  It’s got to be a slow process for him.  I’m going to have to monitor keeping him off the field more than he is on the field.”

“Cockrell will be back.  I’ll probably hold him out the rest of the spring, but we got good news on his knee.  It’s not a major knee injury that’s going to require surgery.  I think right now all of our injured guys are really on track.  I think we’re going to get back every single one of them, which makes me happy.”

After next week the Miners will have 14 spring practices, plus a spring game, in the books.

“It’s huge because we’re implementing a new offense and defense,” Kugler said.  “Just the fact that these guys are getting all the terminology down so when we go to camp in the fall, they’ll have a good understanding of that.  They’ll also be here all summer training in the weight room and those type things.

“I really think the kids on both sides of the ball have done a nice job learning the systems, I think the coaches have done an excellent job of teaching it, and the thing I like is they’re having fun and playing with energy on both sides of the ball.  That’s what you want out of the spring … come out of it without injuries and enjoy it.”

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