Insider Notes: Tidbits from DCTF's UTEP Miners chat - There's a buzz in El Paso

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The trademark for the first few months of Scotty Walden's tenure is 'All in.' That's not official, but that's the energy I felt after talking to the staff.

The Spring Game is a prime example. UTEP had a 'spring showcase' the past few years without tackling. Walden put on a show. UTEP president Dr. Heather Wilson and athletic director Jim Senter drafted the teams. Arizona Cardinals guard Will Hernandez and 10-year NFL veteran Quintin Demps were the celebrity coaches. Walden was on the mic emceeing as UTEP football alums stripped down to their shorts and competed in a 40-yard dash and tug of war at halftime. 

“I’ve got Will Hernandez on the sidelines and I’m calling defensive plays," Defensive coordinator J.J. Clark said. "And I’m like, ‘What do you want here?’ And he says, ‘Blitz!’ And I’m like, ‘All right, Will Hernandez said it, I’m doing it.’”

Walden is at the same time a positive force and a chip-on-his-shoulder guy. He's trying to dispel the myth that coaches can't recruit to El Paso. That's why he brought so many alumni back to the Spring Game. He told me, "It has been done before and it will be done again."

“What Walden preaches all the time, he brought it in physical form for the fans to see,” linebacker Maurice Westmoreland said.

Make no mistake: UTEP is in rebuilding mode. Even with the transfer portal, reclamation projects rarely happen in one year. The 2024 team's record won't matter as much in the long run as the fight they display during it. Walden could have the attitude to make UTEP a Group of Five darling in a couple years. 

“Coach Walden has a phenomenal way of coaching us hard, but also making us love the sport exactly how we did when we were little,” wide receiver Trey Goodman said.


  • Scotty Walden says he hasn't used a physical playbook since his first year at Sul Ross State when the printer broke and the school didn't have enough money to replace the ink cartridges. Most of his playcalls are one word, and the players have quizzes where they each write as many of their assignments for all the calls as they can in three minutes. The results are tracked on an Excel spreadsheet. The offense will snap the football every 12 seconds.
  • Walden has spent time this offseason teaching 'Football 101' to the UTEP quarterbacks, something he wishes he had in college. They go over coverage concepts and different defensive fronts so the QBs can process quickly in the game. It's a battle between incumbent Cade McConnell and Austin Peay transfer Skyler Locklear. The coaches feel they can win with either.
  • Jevon Jackson should be the feature back. The Austin Peay transfer was a FCS All-American in 2023 after rushing for 1,373 yards. Fort Bend Ridge Point alum Ezell Jolly will be the primary backup and has breakout potential according to offensive coordinator Jake Brown.
  • Trey Goodman is the WR1. He was a former high school quarterback at Norcross High School in Georgia who almost went without a college scholarship because he switched positions during COVID, but he emerged as a top player at Austin Peay. He's a cerebral player who's helped establish Walden's culture. Brown also highlighted returning wide receiver Emari White as a holdover from the last staff who had an excellent spring. Kenny Odom is a burner that can hurt teams on the deep ball.
  • Kam Thomas will play a huge role in the offense as a 'Miner Back', a hybrid slot receiver/running back that allows UTEP to snap without subbing. He had 50 catches for 629 yards at Austin Peay last season.
  • Brennan Smith is the top offensive lineman and emerged as the leader in spring football. He played tackle at Austin Peay, but the staff sees him playing in the interior at UTEP. The staff feels confident in its starting line, but depth is a concern.


  • Maurice Westmoreland, a First Team All-Conference USA selection with 7.5 sacks last season, is expected to play a more multiple role in defensive coordinator J.J. Clark's 3-3-5 scheme. Clark thinks he has NFL Draft potential. He has emerged this offseason as a guy to bridge the old UTEP regime with the new. The toughest workout UTEP does in the offseason is called the 'Miner Drill.' On the surface, it's only a 20-yard sprint to touch the line, then a 20-yard sprint back. But the rep has to be perfect, so completing one 'Miner Drill' usually means 10 runs. Before every drill, a player gets front and center to galvanize the team. Walden said at first it was usually an Austin Peay guy because they knew what to expect. One day, Westmoreland got up to energize the team, followed by fellow returning nose tackle Sione Tonga'uiha. That was the first day the team completed the 'Miner Drill' on the first rep.
  • Tonga'uiha and KD Johnson are the favorites to start on the interior defensive line. Clark said Bryton Thompson and Missouri State transfer Devin Goree are battling for the defensive end position. Clark said Thompson had a great spring and could breakout for the team after playing only four games last season.
  • Gardner-Webb transfer Tray Dunson spearheads the linebacker room. Dunson was a former nickel safety who's transitioned to full-time linebacker. But the staff is still waiting for a couple guys to separate themselves. This is the toughest position for UTEP to replace after losing Tyrice Knight and James Neal. Nate Dyman and Tulsa grad transfer Dorian Hopkins were the next two mentioned. 
  • The staff feels great about its secondary depth. Amier Boyd-Matthews had an excellent spring, while AJ Odums is the top returning defensive back. Kory Chapman should see some playing time at nickel with returning starter Josiah Allen. Chapman is described as a 'Ball player's ball player.' Boyd-Matthews and Odums are projected to start at corner, but keep an eye out for Texas State transfer Jaylon Shelton, who has NFL corner size. 

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