UTEP football to honor Luke Laufenberg at Saturday’s season opener


EL PASO, Texas – UTEP head coach Dana Dimel spoke with the media Monday in advance of the team’s season-opener versus Houston Baptist on Saturday, Aug. 31 at Sun Bowl Stadium in El Paso.

Head Coach Dana Dimel

Opening comments:

“We are looking forward to playing some football. It seems like fall camp went really quickly for us, as it always does. We had a good trip up to Ruidoso and then came back, so the last couple weeks we have been hitting it pretty hard. I have been happy with the way the team has been working and what we have been putting out on the field to this point. As a coach, you are really stressing your two-deep and the development of depth on your football team. We know how important that is. We are going to be defined on how good our second and third (teams) are, as well as our first. That has been a big emphasis for us throughout the whole fall camp. I feel like we’ve developed some good depth. Obviously, we had to replace a lot of guys in the secondary when you look at losing some key starters from last year’s football team. The secondary was an emphasis, and then the linebacker position on defense. We are going into the first game and feel like we have gone out and recruited some players that have the athletic ability to be able to play for us in the secondary. Now, we are looking for them to step up in their first starts.”

“We are looking forward to the ballgame against Houston Baptist. We invite everyone to come out and see us play. Our team is really looking forward to having a good crowd and a fun environment on Saturday.”

On the possibility of a rotation at quarterback:

“I really haven’t thought about a rotation at quarterback right now. Brandon [Jones] is going to be the starter and it is going to be his to go with initially.”

On rotating the running backs:

“I like to rotate running backs. I think it is good to get guys into the flow of the game because each guy can bring a certain different angle to how they carry the ball and how they attack a defense. It will just depend on how the game plays itself out right now. We have talked about that with Coach [Reggie] Mitchell and how we plan on using the running backs as of today. That will change throughout the course of the week, but right now, we will just see how the flow of the game goes.”

On opening the season against Houston Baptist:

“We are just trying to play good, quality football no matter who we are playing against right now. That is our biggest thrust right now is to come out and do the things we need to do and play a disciplined football game. That is going to be important for us, to try and play as clean of a first game that you can play. We all got to see a couple college games that were played this past weekend and they weren’t the cleanest of games. They were kind of raggedy. I will definitely put a lot of emphasis with our team to try and play a really clean football game.”

“Houston Baptist runs the Texas Tech style of offense. They have a young coordinator that came out of that offense. They try to go as fast as they can. They try to throw the ball. That is their big thing. They have a talented running back. They have a returning starter at quarterback who is a very good player. I feel like they are solid up front. I like what they have up front with their offensive line. Their receivers have some good height to them and run well. There is some definite skillset to what they have on offense.”

“Defensively, they were a young team last year. They have a variety of different looks. They try to mix up their looks quite a bit. They got quite a few quarterback sacks last year. They have five of their leading tacklers are coming back on defense. Three of their secondary players are returning as well. Those guys have some good height and good range on them.”

“They are an athletic football team being right there based out of the city of Houston. They are able to recruit some athletic players. We will be going up against some good size and speed on Saturday.”

On the offensive line:

“We are really looking forward to having all these guys back. Even the guys who got to play last year are a year better now. To me, that could be a strength of our football team. When our football teams are the best, we are strong up front. We need to be strong up front to be a good football team. They can be the leaders of our whole unit if they play the way I expect them to play.”

“It is game week. I have been wanting to say that all summer. It is game week to where we are now four days away from putting the ball on the tee and playing the game. It is an exciting time of year but I can tell you from a coach’s standpoint it is also a very nervous time in the year. It is a time when you are excited to go play somebody else. Your team is tired of hitting each other, we’ve hit each other all spring, we’ve hit each other all fall camp. I think everybody is ready to go play a game, but that coach in you says, ‘Are we ready yet? Have we crossed every T, dotted every I? What if they do this? We need to cover this.’ And sometimes you are just best to go play the game.”

On the offense starting fast versus Houston Baptist:

“I think starting fast is important. I think we want to come out of the gate with a lot of emotion and enthusiasm, but we want to be consistent. You have to be careful about putting all your eggs in one basket. I do want us to start fast, but we have to be a team that just learns how to handle prosperity and adversity. I’ve always said that. It’s funny because Jordan Palmer came back to talk to our team and that is one of the things he talked about. How do you handle prosperity? How do you handle adversity? Obviously, I want to start a game fast, but we have to be able to handle it either way.”

On position battles during fall camp:

“There have been some really good battles throughout camp, which is what I want to see. The one that is unfolding right now is Ykili Ross, the transfer from USC, and he is trying to get himself in a position to get himself on the field. He is really pressing some of our defensive backs for playing time. I really like what he brought to the table. There has been an ongoing one at wide receiver with the addition of Jacob Cowing and Devaughn Cooper coming into the fold. Those two have raised the bar of the play at the wide receiver position. Also, with Kavika Johnson and Walter Dawn redshirting last year and now coming back. They have added a lot of competition to that position. I thought Alan Busey just came into camp and knew there would be competition, so he raised his game. Tre’Shon Wolf has kind of set himself apart from last spring and into this summer. He has set himself apart and is performing at an elite level. That wide receiver position has been very competitive. As of late, having Trent Thompson back and healthy, Jess Trussell has kind of helped to push Trent and elevate Trent’s game. The other competition that has been ongoing is the battle for the backup quarterback spot behind Brandon and Kai. The battle between Gavin Hardison and Mark Torrez has really come down to those two right now. It could change as the year goes along. That has been an interesting battle as well.”

The UTEP football team will pay tribute to the late Luke Laufenberg at Saturday’s season opener versus Houston Baptist in the Sun Bowl.

Laufenberg passed away at the age of 21 on Thursday, Aug. 22 after battling cancer for two years.  A tight end from Argyle, Texas, Laufenberg joined the Miners for 2019 spring ball after playing at Mesa Community College in 2017.

“Luke Laufenberg touched our hearts and souls forever,” UTEP head coach Dana Dimel said.  “His spirit and fight are reminders of what it means to play and coach the game of football.  He was a fighter, a champion and a wonderful person.  He was a very talented young man who left a huge mark on everyone he came in contact with.  He was a wonderful individual and will not be forgotten on our football team.  Our student-athletes learned from how he prepared himself and the way he handled adversity.  I know Luke loved playing football for UTEP and he will forever be a Miner!”

The tribute to Laufenberg will take place between the first and second quarters at Saturday’s game.  A framed jersey will be presented to the Laufenberg family.  UTEP players will wear black “Luke” stickers on their helmets throughout the 2019 season.

Laufenberg played his senior season at Argyle Liberty Christian High School in Argyle, Texas, where he was named 2016 Offensive Newcomer of the Year and honorable mention All-District.  He initially walked on at Texas A&M before continuing his football career at Mesa Community College, where he appeared in six games prior to being diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma.

Kickoff for Saturday’s game is at 6 p.m.

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