RUIDOSO, N.M. – After some light-hearted fun on Thursday, the UTEP Miners got right back down to business on Friday morning with a physical day five of practice at the MCM Eleganté Lodge & Resort in Ruidoso.
The majority of the session was spent working on individual position drills, including on the offensive line, a group that enters the 2019 season with a wealth of experience after enduring an injury-ridden 2018 campaign.
“We have a lot of competition going on up front and you have to have that in order for guys to get better,” offensive line coach Mike Simmonds said following practice. “You need people pushing you. We have some young guys rising to the top. We are really excited about some of the guys we brought in here with recruiting because we are going to be playing some freshman. We started a couple last year and I know that is probably going to end up happening again this year.”
UTEP returns just one offensive lineman who started all 12 games in 2018 in redshirt sophomore Bobby DeHaro, but the Miners were able to get the younger guys in the group plenty of experience due to the injuries suffered last season. Simmonds is hopeful the experience gained a year ago combined with the incoming freshman translates well to the gridiron this fall.
“Your older guys have to be on the field, your older guys who have been in the wars,” Simmonds said. “Greg Long didn’t get a chance to play last year, so I am excited to see him get back out there. We need the older guys to be in that lineup and kind of pave the way for this offense. Those young guys could be in a reserve role and we use them when we need them. We are going to end up starting some young guys this year again, but they are going to be more skilled then last year of course because they got some game time under their belts.”
Long, who is entering his redshirt junior season for the Miners, missed most of the last two seasons due to injury, while Derron Gatewood sat out the entire 2018 season because of injury.
“Derron is a true natural-born leader for us,” Simmonds said of Gatewood returning to the lineup. “Unfortunately, he lost last season, but he got it back with a medical redshirt. He is going to be a rock for us inside. He is very intelligent. He is a force on the inside and we are excited to have him lead this group.”
Gatewood, a redshirt senior from Odessa, is one of the experienced veterans on the offensive line, and is looking to end his Miner career on a high note in 2019, beginning with the work done by the unit this week in Ruidoso.
“It is a nice environment out here and I feel like the whole team has bought in,” Gatewood said. “We have been putting consistent practices in and everyone has finally bought in. I feel like we are getting on the right track. It is a great feeling just knowing I get to be back out here with my brothers and actually be on the field with them instead of the sidelines this year. It is about being out there with them and being a leader to make sure we stay on track and win some games. This offense is going to be a tight unit that will be physical, fast and smarter about everything we do so we eliminate mistakes.”
UTEP returns to the practice fields at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday morning for a two-hour session. Fans are invited to spend Saturday afternoon mingling with the 2019 Miners at the annual Community Day, which is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. at the MCM Eleganté Lodge & Resort in Ruidoso, New Mexico.
The 2019 season begins with the Miners playing hosts to Houston Baptist on Saturday, Aug. 31 in the Sun Bowl. Kickoff for the season-opener is set for 6 p.m. MT.
UTEP Football Season Tickets are on sale now and prices have been reduced at all levels from the 2018 season. The UTEP Season Ticket Office is located at Brumbelow Building Room 109 (next to the Don Haskins Center). Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tickets can also be purchased online, or by calling (915) 747-6150.
For complete coverage of UTEP Football, be sure to follow the Miners on social media at @UTEPFB (Twitter/Instagram) or visit the official home of UTEP Athletics at UTEPMiners.com.