UTEP football began spring drills today at Glory Field. UTEP's practice is the first of 15 with the annual Orange and Blue game slated for Friday, April 6 at 6 p.m. in the Sun Bowl.
UTEP, which finished 5-7 a year ago, returns 45 letterwinners and 13 starters from a year ago. The Miners have seven starters returning on offense, four on defense and two on special teams.
Senior QB Nick Lamaison returns as the Miners' starting signal caller. Lamaison threw for 1,718 yards and 12 touchdowns. UTEP also returns its top-two receivers in senior Mike Edwards and sophomore Jordan Leslie who combined for 1,087 yards and five touchdowns.
While its offensive line gained plenty of experience last season, UTEP lost the meat of its running game with the departures of Joe Banyard (69.3 ypg), Vernon Frazier (36.2 ypg) and Leilyon Myers (30.7 ypg and 12 TDs). The trio combined for 1,634 of the Miners' 1,859 yards last year. Sophomores Nathan Jeffery, who ran for 166 yards, and Josh Bell look to fill the void.
The Miners lost an experienced group on defense but LB Jamie Irving returns to the gridiron after redshirting the 2011 campaign. Starters DL Germard Reed, DL Horace Miller and CB Drew Thomas and S DeShawn Grayson highlight the Miners' defensive personnel coming back with LB Josh Fely, DB Richard Spencer and DL Greg Watkins also bringing with them experience.