POSTED: Saturday, March 10, 2012 - 3:56pm
UPDATED: Saturday, March 10, 2012 - 8:19pm
Sophomore running back Josh Bell ran for a 65-yard touchdown, providing the offensive fireworks on a cold and overcast morning in the Sun Bowl as the UTEP football team scrimmaged for about 65 plays on Saturday.
“We sure had a good scrimmage today,” UTEP coach Mike Price said. “It was a lot of fun. We scrimmaged without Nathan Jeffery, who has a sore knee, and Bell played very, very well. He kind of made the team today. He’s a walk-on who has been a backup.”
The only other touchdown came courtesy of a 38-yard pass from Nick Lamaison to freshman Felix Neboh as the first-string defense turned in a dominant performance.
“We had trouble moving the ball against them,” Price said. “Three of our best offensive linemen [Eloy Atkinson, Brander Craighead, James Nelson] are not playing, so it’s forcing our other guys into producing and getting action. I think it’s going to help us in the long run, but right now it’s a little tough, especially against the ones. You didn’t see us break any long runs, but our defense is playing pretty good right now.”
All four Miner quarterbacks (Jay Hall, Lamaison, Carson Meger, Blaire Sullivan) saw action. UTEP coaches took the no-contact red jersey off the redshirt freshman Sullivan in the early stages of the scrimmage, looking to see what he could do with his feet as well as his arm. He did not disappoint, rushing for 20 yards on his first four scrambles.
“I think he’s going to be a real good quarterback,” Price said. “He can run the ball, and he threw some nice passes today. Spring ball has been a good test for Blaire. We called some quarterback draws and some zone reads specifically for him [today].”
With Lamaison firmly entrenched as UTEP’s starting signal-caller, the biggest question remains who will be his top passing targets in 2012. The Miners are looking to build depth in the receiving corps after losing players who combined to account for 90 catches a year ago.
UTEP’s leading returning wideout, senior Mike Edwards, saw limited action on Saturday with a pulled groin.
“Mike and Jordan Leslie are playing very well,” Price said. “Our tight ends have had six good practices, and now Kevin Perry is back with us full-time from the basketball team.
“One of the reasons why we’re taking this break in the middle of spring ball is to analyze what we did with the tight end position, what we did with our shotgun offense, and some of the changes that we’re making offensively. We want to see what we like, what we don’t like and what we need to work on.”
The Miners will take 10 days off for spring break before returning to the practice field on Tuesday, March 20. The spring game is set for Friday, April 6 at 7 p.m. in the Sun Bowl.
Price acknowledged that the defense is well ahead of the offense at this point.
“We’ve made some slight adjustments there, but they seem to be pretty focused in on what they’re going to do and the package that they’re going to run,” Price said. “The offense is still searching a little bit and looking to evolve a bit more.”
Still, everything looks to be headed in the right direction with the season opener versus Oklahoma a little less than six months away.
“The coaches are telling me that we’re much better now than we were a year ago both on offense and defense,” Price said.