UTEP's 2011 Signing Class
By Travis Stewart // TexasFootball.com
UTEP's 2011 signing day
Funny — the only other FBS school in Texas that has the words "University of Texas" in it besides the one in Austin just couldn't take a more different approach from the one Mack Brown has relied on for more than a decade.
While UT has consistently turned to in-state high schoolers to fill out his signing classes, Mike Price and the Miners have never shied away from out-of-state kids and JUCO talents to bolster the ranks. 2011, as we should expect, was no different — Price brought in ten out-of-state signees, seven of which came from two- or four-year institutions. That's just the way the man works, and while it does make it difficult to do research and watch film (which is why UTEP is the last one we publish every year) it does bring together a multicultural flair to the team and, of course, provides evidence that he's willing to do what it takes to find the guys that fit his system.
Like North Texas, UTEP had an immediate opening at quarterback that desperately needed filling. So Price went out and brought in two, one of whom has been a popular internet search name for the past year after he briefly enrolled at Tennessee. Balance was clearly not the priority here, as it was at several other in-state schools this season, as Price aggressively targeted some areas, while leaving others almost entirely blank. Risky, but when you need kids at a certain place, you do what you have to in order to keep things running.
Strength: Price needed new receivers and new linemen, and he picked up eight in all — three guys who should play tackle, one each at guard and center, and then three wide receivers with very different skill sets. That's smart recruiting. On the line, Price went for size, and he hit that ball out of the park in big Trint Jenkins, who is going to be one of the tallest men in college football at a whopping 6-foot-9. But in reality, the other two tackles, Lindblade and especially James Martin, are far more ready to contribute at the FBS level. Speaking of Martin, Price was wise to lock up a trio of Mt. San Antonio College kids in Martin, WR Mike Edwards and touted QB Nick Lamaison, who will probably enter the spring as the penciled-in starter for 2011. The Miner staff also picked up four linebackers, at least two of which (Josh Fely and Trey Brown) could possibly push for time right off the bat. Finding that many kids across those four spots (OL, QB, WR and LB) who could sniff the field right away is solid work … even if a little unsettling.
Weakness: Well, all that success at those positions came with a price, and that pound of flesh is obvious — corner and defensive line. As average as UTEP's defense has been as of late (it got better in 2010!), bringing in just one defensive lineman (end Roy Robertson) and just one corner (Darren Woodard) was risky, especially when one of them (Robertson) is extremely raw. It may not have an immediate impact on things, but that now puts the pressure on the staff to lock up solid options at both, especially defensive tackle, in the 2012 class. If they miss out again in that group, then there will probably be trouble. You can skimp on one spot for one year and be OK. But two in a row means you'll inevitably be relying on sophomores with few upperclassmen to guide them eventually. Or you just go JUCO again, and the cycle continues.
The big name: Tough question here, as this class has a lot of kids that are somewhat under the radar. I'd say Lamaison, both because of his promising pedigree, his ridiculous on-field success at Mt. SAC, and because of the immediate need for him in El Paso. But you could also make very convincing arguments for Brown and Ishmael Harrison. I'd actually be a little surprised if all three weren't on the field in some capacity in 2011. If I could tag a sleeper in this group, I might hedge my bets on Gage Sharp, who is deserving of the chance he's getting. Outside of those four guys, I'd say everyone is in about the same boat.
Final thoughts: It's impossible to grade recruiting classes accurately as a whole, but UTEP's are always tough, partially because the Miners bring in large amounts of JUCOs (always wild cards), and partially because the in-state prepsters they supplement them with are usually unknowns themselves. I actually liked 2010 and 2009's classes better than this one, but I also wouldn't be shocked if UTEP brought in another two or three kids over the next few weeks. After all, they graduated 25 seniors and signed just 21 kids. If SMU can graduate 12 and sign 28, then clearly there's room for late additions here.
UTEP has needed a centerpiece linebacker for sometime, and Brown could eventually be that guy. He's actually been on the table as a prospect for many schools for sometime, and he's got plenty of game experience — he's been starting on varsity since his freshman year. At athlete-laden Lancaster, that's saying something.
Get used to seeing linebackers — there are at least four in this group. Darling started out the year as one of the top 36 linebackers in the state, and at his size, should certainly be lined to play in the interior. Though Seguin didn't make the playoffs this year, it nearly gave up less than 20 points per game.
One of the trio of offensive stars from Mt. San Antonio College in California, Edwards could simply run by people on fly and post patters in 2010. C-USA isn't known for stellar secondaries, but that's going to be tougher to do in 2011. Having his QB (Lamaison) will help. That's a rare weapon.
A two-year first-team all conference pick at Mesa College who will have two years of eligibility left at UTEP. Most outlets have him listed as an outside backer, but he has potential on the inside, too. Maybe just now fully recovered from a brutal ankle injury in his junior year of high school. Screws, plates — the works.
A grayshirt this semester who will join in the fall. A classic example of a good ole' fashioned football player — an excellent athlete with versatile skills who topped 300 yards in passing, receiving, rushing and returning in 2010. Definitely a receiver and should offer some real toughness.
The thing that immediately jumps out at you is his route-running — he does an excellent job of squaring off his cuts to put himself where he needs to be. On hitches, that's effective. On posts, it's deadly. Could be a very good option in the intermediate passing game. Might play right away.
Can't argue with his credentials — his work in the secondary was a big reason why Steele ended up winning the 5A DII state title at Cowboys Stadium. Arguably one of the top four senior defensive backs in all of San Antonio this year. Likely a fit at strong safety.
There's a reason why the tallest guy I remember playing in the NFL was 6-foot-10 — if you're athletic at that height, you usually play basketball. No doubt Jenkins is physically imposing in the extreme, but he needs some fundamentals work and careful conditioning (knees, I would fear). Project guy and maybe the tallest in NCAA football.
One of Matt Malatesta's top 100 postseason recruits in Houston, which is pretty decent indicator of ability. Came on strong in 2010, though — he didn't get a mention in our preseason magazine. May have started the year as the team's fourth-best lineman.
One of three Mt. SAC players in this class. Extremely successful quarterback at Mt. SAC, but is well-traveled — he's been there twice, sandwiched around a brief appearance at the University of Tennessee, which fell through with Lane Kiffin took off for USC.
The final Mt. SAC trio — the left tackle for the highly-productive offense. Experienced pass blocker that should have some comfort with the system, especially if Lamaison and Edwards are hooking up on timing routes.
This safety is a head-hunter — he wants to hit you, and he wants to hit you hard. Looks for the big shot enough that it might foul him up from time to time. But you can't fault his relentless ball-seeking skills and a fierce aggression on the field. Just need a little form tackling coaching.
Playing center is tough — snapping the ball and being ready to absorb the shock of contact isn't human instinct. But Patterson actually gets a good push off the line in the run-blocking game, which I think is his strength. Makes interior running a bit easier.
Definitely going to need some time and coaching — he's a raw prospect, but a very promising one. He's got great athleticism, and his frame is perfect for a go-getcha defensive end. He's all upside, really. Won't see him for some time, I bet.
I know very little about Robinson besides what the school has released from his signing, but he should play guard and has two more years of playing time left. Should be in the rotation right away.
Could really play either inside or outside linebacker and has good size for the position. Probably not as good a prospect as Fely or Brown, but shoot, A&M's Dat Nguyen could only make high school all-state as a punter — second team. So anything can happen.
Still growing, which could considerably alter his positional future. Played a lot of different positions in high school (QB, TE, DE, etc.), but it would be a stretch to see him at anything other than DE or TE eventually. With no slam-dunk TE prospects in this group, that'd be my guess.
Almost certainly a safety and one that tackles better than most at his position. A rare guy who can hit like that and still keep the speed and agility to return kicks and punts. Could play receiver if needed, but I think he's going to end up in the secondary, where he's needed more.
Got a lot of talk in the preseason on his potential and enjoyed an excellent senior season before losing to eventual champs Plano Prestonwood in the playoffs. A mobile dual-threat who still sports a big frame. Lamaison is the better prospect, but Sullivan has promise.
Ran well in 2009 and did even better in 2010 — rushed for almost 1,400 yards at a near 10 yards per carry pace. Last year, scored a touchdown roughly once every six carries, this year once every ten. He consistently finds room to break the game open.
Probably going to end up at cornerback, which is fitting for his ballhawking skills. Will probably be pressed into immediate rotation action out of necessity.
|Player||HT, WT||40||Pos.||High School|
|UTEP MINERS 2011 SIGNEES (21 signees)|
|Trey Brown||6-0, 205||4.6||LB||Lancaster|
|Tyrone Darling||5-11, 200||4.41||LB||Arlington Seguin|
|Mike Edwards||5-10, 185||4.45||WR||Mt. SAC (CA)|
|Josh Fely||6-0, 220||4.6||LB||San Diego Mesa College|
|Cole Freytag||6-1, 180||4.6||WR||EP Coronado|
|Ishmael Harrison||6-0, 190||4.5||WR||Red Oak|
|Shane Huhn||6-0, 190||4.43||S||Cibolo Steele|
|Trint Jenkins||6-9, 330||5.25||OL||Victory Christian (OK)|
|Ryan Lindblade||6-7, 275||5.15||OL||Richmond Foster|
|Nick Lamaison||6-1, 210||4.6||QB||Mt. San Antonio College (CA)|
|James Martin||6-6, 285||5.05||OL||Mt. San Antonio College (CA)|
|Derrick Morgan||6-0, 205||4.55||DB||Cabrillo JUCO|
|A.C. Patterson||6-1, 305||5.25||OL||Bishop Gorman (NV)|
|Roy Robertson||6-6, 240||4.6||DL||South Grand Prairie|
|James Robinson||6-5, 325||5.25||OL||City College of San Francisco|
|A.J. Ropati||6-2, 230||4.6||LB||Los Angeles Harbor College|
|Kishon Sanders||6-2, 230||4.65||TE||La Salle (CA)|
|Gage Sharp||6-0, 190||4.49||DB||The Colony|
|Blaire Sullivan||6-3, 195||4.7||QB||SA Central Catholic|
|Xay Williams||6-0, 200||4.32||RB||Carrollton Ranchview|
|Darren Woodard||5-11, 170||4.45||DB||Kilgore JUCO|