POSTED: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - 3:29pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - 6:24pm
The UTEP football team will kick off 2011 spring drills with an 11 a.m. practice on Thursday (March 31) at Glory Field. Per NCAA rules, the Miners will have 15 spring practices including the annual Orange and Blue game on Saturday, April 30.
UTEP, which made its third bowl appearance in seven seasons under coach Mike Price last year, returns 44 lettermen and 14 starters. In a departure from recent years, the Miners are relatively set on defense (nine returning starters) but have their share of question marks on offense, most notably who will be under center for the season opener versus Stony Brook on Sept. 3.
The candidates to take the reins of the UTEP offense are senior Tate Smith, sophomore Carson Meger, redshirt freshman Javia Hall and junior college transfer Nick Lamaison. Trevor Vittatoe, who broke all of the school’s passing and total offense records, has exhausted his eligibility following a four-year run as the team’s starting quarterback.
UTEP will also have to replace all five starters in the offensive line and establish depth in the receiving corps following the departure of Kris Adams (team-leading 47 catches for 1,070 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2010) and its top two tight ends from last season.
The Miners do appear to be set at running back with the senior triumverate of Joe Banyard, Vernon Frazier and Leilyon Myers, who combined to rush for 1,070 yards and 16 scores a year ago.
One of the challenges the UTEP coaching staff faces this spring will be integrating five junior college transfers into the mix – Lamaison, offensive lineman James Robinson, defensive back Darren Woodard and linebackers Josh Fely and A.J. Ropati.
Fely and Ropati should get plenty of reps with all three of the Miners’ starting linebackers from last season – Isaiah Carter (ankle), Jamie Irving (shoulder) and Royzell Smith (shoulder) – sidelined for spring drills while recovering from surgeries.
Other players expected to miss spring workouts due to injury are freshman DL Brandon Forge, senior LB Greg Holleman, freshman DB Traun Roberson, junior OL Paul Santillan, junior DB Richard Spencer and junior DL Isaac Tauaefa. Senior WR Donavon Kemp will be limited after undergoing knee surgery.
In addition, coach Price announced on Tuesday that junior WR Marlon McClure is suspended for the spring in order to focus on academics.
2011 UTEP Football Spring Practice Schedule
Thursday, March 31 11 a.m.
Saturday, April 2 10 a.m.
Tuesday, April 5 4 p.m.
Thursday, April 7 4 p.m.
Saturday, April 9 10 a.m.
Tuesday, April 12 4 p.m.
Thursday, April 14 4 p.m.
Saturday, April 16 10 a.m.
Monday, April 18 3 p.m.
Wednesday, April 20 3 p.m.
Friday, April 22 4 p.m.
Saturday, April 23 10 a.m.
Tuesday, April 26 4 p.m.
Thursday, April 28 4 p.m.
Saturday, April 30 Spring Game (TBA)