UTEP66: Conference Realignment, Again 9 UTEPâ€™s Defensive Backs 10 The Tremendous Trio 14 The Final Word 16
VOL 1 ISSUE 21
AUGUST 17, 2011
MINER ILLUSTRATED VOL I ISSUE 21
T-minus 17 days till the Miners’ first football game of the season. But who’s counting? Well, I am; as I’m sure many other fans are, along with the UTEP players and coaches. 17 days may seem like a long time from a fan’s perspective, but for the team, 17 days means they don’t have much prep time left. The Miners have less than three weeks to work out any last minute kinks, fill in any gaps, solidify plays and mentally prepare for what may be a very difficult season. Aiming to do all this, the Miners spent last week at Camp Socorro, where the players battled for starting spots as they ran through plays and geared up for the 2011 season. As many expected, Camp Socorro finally revealed this year’s starting QB, Nick Lamaison, as well as some other potential stars. Sal Guerrero, MI’s newest staff writer highlights some of this year’s possible stars and definite leaders in his article on the squad’s defensive backs unit. Guerrero’s insight into this unit shows just why the defense is ready to lead the Miners to victory. Additionally, Chris Avila profiles a trio of JUCO players all hailing from the same school: Nick Lamaison, Mike Edwards and James Martin. This trio’s familiarity with each other will undoubtedly help the Miners’ young offense as they head into their first game. Staying on the topic of Camp Socorro, Josh Puga ponders whether answered everyone’s questions or whether the Miner faithful will have to wait until the season opener to see just what this season will bring. In a bit of a topic shift, UTEP66 touches about the topic of conference realignments and just what that could mean for schools like UTEP. As always, we have some interesting stats in By the Numbers along with quite a few responses from our readers in this issue’s Reader Response. We at MI have enjoyed your continued support throughout the summer season. As we head into this year’s much anticipated fall season, we hope to continue hearing your input at show@ minerillustrated.com, regarding any of the topics we bring up in our magazine and online. And we thank you for your continued support of Miner athletics. So here’s to counting down the days till we see our team rushing onto that field again. Go Miners!
AUGUSt 17, 2011
a publication of Shamrock Media LLC CHRIS AVILA PRESIDENT REBECCA FRAZIER EDITOR-IN-CHIEF JEFF TAYLOR CHIEF PHOTOGRAPHER GUS CONTRERAS SAL GUERRERO ANGEL LUNA ALEX MORALES JOSH PUGA “UTEP66” STAFF WRITERS DANNY LEVARIO DIRECTOR OF BUSINESS OPERATIONS SUZETTE THOMPSON MAGAZINE DESIGN Letters to the editor, general feedback and advertising inquiries: email@example.com
Cover photo: UTEP junior college transfers from Mt. SAC (from L to R) reciever Mike Edwards, lineman James Martin and quarterback Nick Lamaison. Image: Chris Avila
THE BIG PICK
The Minersâ€™ quartet of quarterbacks (Tate Smith, Carson Meger, Javia Hall, and Nick Lamaison) spent all spring and summer coming for the starting spot. Lamaison was named this yearâ€™s starter earlier this week. Jeff Taylor
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Guerrero: No Excuse Not to Buy FB Tickets I have to say that probably the biggest thing I miss about growing up in El Paso is going to the UTEP games as a kid with all of my cousins. I remember having the best time of my life and only having to pay with a canned food to get in while being able to sit wherever we wanted. I hope the people of El Paso support the Miners this year because you don’t know what you have until you don’t have it anymore. I know I miss the fun tremendously. ATXminerFan
Colorado State (3-9 overall in 2010 season) Rice (tough schedule/ morale should be low by season end) Tulsa/Tulane (either one being that last year was a close match) john79924
Luna: Offense’s Success Sits On Price’s Shoulders I agree when the topic on Coach Price taking the reins of the playbook. There was no reason why we should have lost to UAB last year. If it is not obvious by now, Nick Lamaison is in the front running for the quarterback position. Again, do not be so quick in judgment or comment when predicting a losing season. I think the changes in the off-season in staff and incoming players have been beneficial to the program. A bowl season is in sight for the 2011 season. Go Miners! john79924
Puga: Price Motivated By Pre-season Predictions I agree with the statement that a possible 2-1 start will lead the team and fans to a possibly successful season. If you look into the schedule for the upcoming season, UTEP holds a realistic chance of having a 6 win-plus season. Here is my prediction for the season as far as possible victories. This is all based off of a solid defensive performance and growth in the offensive play. Good luck Miners! Wins: Stony Brook (DIV I AA) SMU (fantastic game last season, impressive defensive stop) New Mexico State (struggling team/low morale) Houston (if defense can have a productive pass rush)
Miner Illustrated Magazine: Vol. 1 Issue 20 Wow, what a great article pertaining to the defensive philosophy. It is exciting to view an aggressive defense week in and week out. I, unlike a few others, predict a bowl appearance once again for the Miners. As a few coaches departed during the off season, it appears to have only strengthen the staff and players. The newly arrived coaches bring not only vital experience but a beacon of hope for the upcoming season. Although UTEP may not win them all, it appears Coach Patterson will introduce an aggressive attack plan and entertaining season. I am confident the Miners will capture the six wins needed to appear in another bowl game. Go Miners!
I don’t believe the offense will struggle very much. GO MINERS!!! KiddMiner
Defense Finding Consistency, Offense Progressing I’m really liking where the defense it at. There’s tons of talent and depth at all positions on the defense. Couple that with DC Andre Patterson being in his second year, and we should be seeing the best UTEP defense in a long time. I realize the offense is going to experience a learning curve. I mean other than the RBs, almost everyone is new. Once they get it going though, they’ll be ok. I just hope its sooner rather than later. Overall, I think this Miner team has a chance to be very good. Yes, we lost a lot from last year’s squad, but the defense will be solid, and the offense has the pieces of the puzzle; they just need to figure out how to put it together, quickly. I really see this team winning at least 6 games, and if they get going, 8 wins isn’t far-fetched.
john79924 Anthony Salom Concerned about the offense, really….. Price came in and during his first year retooled the offense with players he did not know and BAM…bowl game. Currently he has players he knows and has worked with for a few years now other than the QB, and people are concerned, please; just look at the offensive numbers UTEP has recorded since Price has been here. Many of the games lost have been because of a weak D, not to say mistakes had not been made offensively, but when you are trying to outscore other teams rather than keeping them from the end zone, well it makes it tough be consistent.
As we get more responses in about any of the work within the magazine or online, we’ll post the best ones here. If we think your opinion or point of view just knocks us off our seats, then we’ll send you a little surprise as our way of saying thanks. Make sure to send your thoughts to our email (firstname.lastname@example.org) because you never know when you might get rewarded for speaking your mind!
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by the NUMBERS 4
The number of interceptions senior defensive back Travaun Nixon had in the 2010 season; the team leader for the Miners. Nixon gained 140 yards in those four interceptions, averaging 35 yards per pick. Nixon’s longest run of 68 yards came in the Miners’ game against Houston. Nixon also had picks in games verses Memphis, Tulane and BYU. Nixon’s four picks tied him for 40th place in interceptions in the country last year. Interceptions seem to be Nixon’s foray. Prior to joining the Miners, Nixon played at Ventura Junior College, where he had six picks during his sophomore year. Three of these interceptions came within the first 18 minutes of a single game. As a freshman, Nixon had two interceptions, and during his high school career, he had 11 total interceptions, of which he returned four for touchdowns. If Nixon can continue picking off passes this season, the defense is sure to be able to put points on the board for the Miners.
none of those returns resulted in touchdowns, Frazier did have the second longest return on the team. Only teammate Marlon McClure had a longer return, and with his unfortunate departure from the team, it looks like Frazier will be the go-to man for Miner kick returns this season. In total, Frazier had 231 offensive yards; all of which were rushing yards. Frazier averaged The number of tackles junior 19.2 yards in 38 carries last season. defensive back Drew Thomas had Though he was not the team’s last season. Of these 42 tackles, 15 were solo top rusher, Frazier has the talent needed to be a star this year. tackles while the other 27 were assists. Thomas is credited with 3.5 Frazier played in 12 games last season, and though he didn’t start tackles for loss last season. In his in any of them, after his impressive second season with the Miners, showing at Camp Socorro last Thomas also had two fumble week, don’t be surprised when recoveries, one against Houston and the other against UAB, and an Frazier starts more than a few games this year. interception in the Miners’ game against NMSU. Thomas played in all 13 games and started in four at right corner. Coming into his third year with the Miners, Thomas is looking to making a big impression UTEP’s record in Sun Bowl openers. on the field. UTEP is also 7-1 against FCS teams with an average win of 45-8 score. Thier meeting against Stony Brook with mark the frist time in school history that the teams both meet. The Seawolves went 6-5 The number of yards senior running back Vernon Frazier gained last year including a 59-14 loss to fellow Conference USA team USF. in his longest kick return last season. Frazier returned for a total of 159 yards last season, averaging 26.5 yards per return. Though
The number of rushing yards senior running back Joe Banyard attained in the 2010 season.
Banyard had 109 attempts, averaging nearly six yards per run. His longest run of the season was a 66yard run against Tulsa; the longest run by a UTEP player in seven years. Along with his 623 rushing yards, Banyard also had 107 receiving yards, averaging 6.3 yards per play. Banyard had 131 yards in kick returns; his longest being a 35-yard return. Overall, Barnyard had 861 yards for the season.
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Excited about the beginning of UTEP’s football season? Aren’t sure about about all of the opponents the Miners face this season? Don’t fret! Miner Illustrated will have everything broken down for you with a special football preview edition of Miner Illustrated Magazine next week. We’ll tell you how other teams matchup and who we think will be the key players for the Miners this season.
m ner illustrated.com
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CONFERENCEREALIGNMENTCOULD CRUSHCOMPETATIVESPORTS UTEP66 This past week, Texas A&M was the latest school attempting to flex its muscle and move into the SEC. Sunday afternoon, after a meeting of SEC school presidents and chancellors, the SEC decided to stay at their 12-team format for the immediate future. How long is anybody’s guess? Expansion will come as it will in the other power conferences forging new alliances and becoming television revenue-producing machines. If NCAA football were the corporate business world, one would have to consider the power conferences and teams as no more than corporate monopolies squeezing out the midmajors and widening the gap between the have and have-nots. Make no mistake, conference realignment is done for one reason and one reason only . . . pure, unfiltered greed spurred and abetted by the television networks and their deep pockets. The big schools fill their pockets while the rest are left to scramble for survival. The endless mega deals, the BCS’s schools’ individual television network deals and the ensuing mega revenue streams they generate for the conferences and individual schools, leaves little opportunity for schools from the Mountain West, C-USA, Mid-American, Sun Belt, WAC and other such conferences to remain competitive. Sure, occasionally a nonBCS school will poke its head out of the pack. However, that’s an exception. Depending on when the SEC expands and assuming it does, the trickle down affect will undoubtedly kick in. If the ACC loses Florida State and the Big 12 eventually loses Texas A&M, the dealing will begin to determine winners and losers in college football. The ACC might look at Syracuse, Rutgers, Pittsburgh, West Virginia,
Louisville or UCF. If the Big 12 only loses one school, which is unlikely, it may well look at Houston, but you can’t dismiss the possibility of Louisville, BYU or Air Force. The impact would continue to flow down hill until the Big East, Big 12 and other conferences have either been weakened or eliminated. Some may say, what’s the big deal? So let’s take a look at the WAC and see how conference realignment has affected it. From a solid, though not a super conference, it has lost or is losing Hawaii, Fresno State, Nevada and Boise State. The replacements: UTSA, Seattle, Denver and Texas State. None of which are not exactly household names, at least not that I know of. I can only assume the WAC’s television revenue
two or three dozen power programs over the past few years adding a significant advantage through mega contracts and thus destroying the competitive balance of college football. Think about it. All major professional sports have some type of revenue sharing and draft to balance the revenue stream to a degree and maintain a more equitable talent level. Individual teams can generate additional revenue from TV contracts and marketing, but the league television revenues are split equally. It’s easy for me to dislike the current set-up, but it’s hard to come up with an answer. Some type of partial revenue sharing for the lesser conferences would be a step in the right direction. Individual schools could still have their own individual contracts. No, it wouldn’t significantly narrow the gap, but what it would do is potentially strengthen the weaker schools and conferences; eventually allowing them to be competitive and put a product on the field that could increase revenues, support and recruiting. We’d also have to look at why with the added revenue from their large TV contracts, the BCS bowl games and their mega incomes goes only to the super conferences. A playoff would eliminate this, but is not likely in the cards. In lieu of a playoff, they could stage play-in games between the Sun Belt/WAC, Mountain West Mid-American and C-USA for the right to play in the fourth BCS Bowl game. The highest ranked team in the WAC or Sun Belt would play the Mountain West Conference Champ and C-USA Conference Champ would play the Mid-American Champ with the winners meeting for an opportunity to play in a bowl game. But of course, this all boils down to one question: is greed a necessary ingredient of collegiate sports?
It’s easy for me to dislike the current set-up, but it’s hard to come up with an answer. will not be enhanced with these additions and, there is little doubt, conference attendance and resulting revenues will plummet as a result of this weaker conference. Who knows what the future holds for the other conferences once the PAC 10, Big 10, ACC and SEC absorb schools that fit their financial profile; leaving conferences, like the Big 12 and Big East, to fight for survival. Eventually, once the revenue advantage is widen, what is to deter the four or five super conferences a few years down the road to take another stab at the gold and restrict their respective super conferences to eight schools each. This would certainly have the networks drooling and sponsors agog. College athletics for years have had schools that generate more revenue through alumni support, marketing and attendance. I have no problem with this. What I do have a problem with is
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DEFENSIVE BACKS READYTO CARRY UTEPTOVICTORY
Senior defensive back Travaun Nixon made his way over players during UTEPâ€™s game against Tulsa last season. The Miners would end up losing, 31-28, to the Golden Hurricane. Michael Reese/UTEP Athletics
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SAL GUERRERO On a sun-soaked Sunday morning in the small town of Socorro N.M., laughter could be heard from a small but lively group of players, who were anticipating the whistle to the start their final day of summer football camp. Dawning helmets and uniforms, the full getup of pads were given up for a comfortable day of learning, putting an end to a long but eventful nine days at the Miners’ annual Camp Socorro. Over the last few years, the Miners football team has had its share of ups and downs. The ups usually came from the offensive side of the ball; the glory given usually to the big-arm quarterback or the speedy-wide receiver. Blame, however, was usually given to the defense, 11 men who at times gave up big plays in games and could not hold off the opposing offense in bowl appearances. After last season’s devastating 52-24 loss at the hands of BYU in the New Mexico Bowl, where the Miners’ defense gave up four touchdowns in the first half, fingers pointed at the defense. Moreover, the defensive secondary was scrutinized for its lack of preparation against the Cougars. With that in mind, the UTEP defense set out to prove the doubters wrong this season, and leading the way are the defensive backs. Since December, the secondary has had a slew of changes; the biggest has been the gain of cornerbacks coach Gabe Franklin, who has injected new life into his players. This newfound energy could be heard and seen during the Miners’ stint at Camp Socorro. The corner backs and safeties were no longer the quiet-kept men of past defenses. There is a difference this year that gives credence to their new mental state. Franklin alluded to his men and their new mindset and leadership. “They [the players] needed to learn the defense and they now know what they have to do,” Franklin said. “They have confidence out there; they go out and play with poise. They don’t worry about assignments; they just react and play football. They have that swagger right now.” The safeties have had their fare share of changes, just like the cornerbacks. This past spring Head Coach Mike Price announced former safeties coach Adam Gonzaga was parting ways with UTEP. Price named Al Simmons as his replacement, which has been a welcomed change. Like Franklin, Simmons has helped change the defensive backs’ way of thinking. In the final three days of Camp Socorro, the swank could be seen during live drills between the offensive units. The corners and safeties were flying to the ball in a fit of controlled rage. Senior Travaun Nixon, who has a nose for interceptions, was ball hawking left and right. Nixon broke up plays on numerous occasions; on one day, he had two interceptions. If that were to happen in a game, no doubt, he would have gone for six points both times. Nixon is just one of the backs on the defenses secondary
1 1 who has showed exemplary play heading into the start of the season. The second-year starter has been poised as one of the leaders on the defense; though he is not outspoken about calling himself that. “I’m not a vocal player; I lead more by example and try and do whatever the coaches tell me to do,” Nixon said. “The other guys follow and try to do the same. I think I’ve been doing pretty well, and the rest of the guys have been picking up on that.” Although Nixon is soft spoken, his play has been louder than ever on the field. Last year as a corner back, Nixon accounted for four interceptions, and by season’s end, he was considered the Miners’ shutdown corner. This season, defensive coordinator Andre Patterson has moved Nixon to safety; a position where he feels Nixon can exploit the opposition offense because he will not be confined to one side of the field. Nixon’s counterpart on the field is another Miner that should make waves on the field this upcoming season. Junior free safety DeShawn Grayson has been a staple on the defensive side of the ball since his freshman year at UTEP. Going on his third year with the team, Grayson has seen his fare share of action since he first played as a true freshman. Last season Grayson racked up 69 tackles and forced two fumbles; an unbelievable statistic for a player who saw most of his action at the free safety position. Grayson is a bit of a two-headed monster so to speak. While on the field in Socorro, he had a seriousness about him that was like the calm before a storm. But the minute Grayson steps off the field, that somber look turns to grins as he can be seen joking around with his fellow defensive teammates. That is who the defensive backs are this year. They have a seriousness about them that has not been shaken heading into this season. Junior defensive back Drew Thomas said that there is no doubt in his mind that their camaraderie has translated well on the field. “We’re all good friends. We have a good time together; some of us even live together,” Thomas said. “You can tell; it shows up on the field during games. We’re real comfortable communicating during the games and practices.” Thomas said that he feels the amount of leadership on the field helps with the focus, and at the same time, being a junior helps ease the tension when problems arise with the younger players. “Now that I’m an upperclassman, some of the other younger guys look up to me,” said Thomas. “[Antown] Blake is pretty much the leader of the group; they all look to us when they need help.” The leadership role that both Blake and Thomas have taken on has helped with the transition from one coach to another. Unlike the players, this was Franklin’s first Camp Socorro, which gave the upperclassman a little bit more leeway in terms of helping out the younger players on the field.
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This was apparent during a Thursday night walkthrough practice. The second team defensive backs worked on the field while Blake and Thomas sat on the sidelines going over progressions with some of the younger backs. Leadership such as this has helped ease some of the cornerbacks into Franklin’s coaching style. This is also Simmons first camp with the team, which has give him time to get to know the players as they grow together as a unit. “We’ve learned a lot from Simmons. I liked coach [Allen] Johnson, but Simmons is a good guy,” Nixon said of his first year safeties coach. “We’ve just got to take it and run with it. We’ve picked up a lot from him.” With the coaches as new to the program as the first year players on the team, senior leadership has come into play even more so than in previous years. Blake said
that the defensive backs made it a point to hang out and build chemistry, especially off the field. “For the most part, most of the older guys hang out with each other,” said Blake. “Some of the young guys come with us, and we show them the ropes of being in college and that type of thing.” According to Blake, the defensive backs tend to not go out too much, especially when hanging with some of the newcomers to the program. He said they usually spend their time at someone’s apartment playing video games to pass the time when off the field and out of the classroom. “We don’t like to party; we just play videos games. I like to play sports games like NBA 2K11 and NCAA Football,” Blake said. Taking some down time will certainly be necessary as the defensive backs will have their hands full
this year. Last season, the secondary gave a total 2,971 yards through the air with opponents averaging 228.5 passing yards per game. The defense also allowed 24 passing touchdowns with their opponents having a 62 percent completion rate. Keeping opponents at bay will not be an easy feat since the teams in Conference USA are known for their passhappy offense. Last season, five quarterbacks threw for 2,900 plus yards in C-USA; all of whom are returning this season. This statistic does not include the return of Case Keenum to Houston, who has thrown for 5,000 yards in two seasons as a Cougar. With these numbers blaring in the faces of the defensive backs and seniority leadership, there is no telling what type of season the backs will have statistically. All that is known is that the secondary is a tight knit group of players
with experience. Although the defensive backs have built relationships with one another that should prove to help them on and off the field, it is their work ethic and willingness to change their mind set that will help guide this unit throughout the year. With the end of camp giving way to smiles as the secondary broke their huddle one last time, the players knew they had done all they could in the nine days they spent there. The season opener against Stony Brook may only be two weeks away, but the defensive unit is all set to turn heads. As Thomas said during an interview the last day at camp, the defensive backs will put everything on themselves this season and control the skies in every way possible.
richardSPENCER Junior defensive back Richard Spencer, who hails from Moreno Valley, CA, has been around the program for quiet some time, having lettered the past two seasons. Miner Illustrated staff sat down with him to discuss Camp Socorro and being back in El Paso. Q: How do you think you personally performed at Camp Socorro? A: I did pretty well at Socorro. I took it day-by-day, not really pushing, just striving to get better and working with my teammates. Q: What is the best thing about Camp, off the field? A: The best thing off the field is about Socorro is just getting to know the freshman that came in and all the new junior college transfers. Molding as a team and bonding is the best thing. Q: Does Camp help with the building of the defense? A: I think so; we had more time to just go over assignments and more time for meetings. We had a walk through every day and that helped with getting to know the defense a little bit
more. Q: How does it feel to be back in El Paso and get back to the routine of being at practice? A: It always feels good to be back in El Paso from Socorro;it’s not so secluded from everyone. We now have more freedom to do what we have to do off the field. Q: I heard you’re big on gaming. What are some of your favorite video games? A: Some of my favorite video games are NCAA Football 2012, any of the Call of Duty games, of course, and I would have to say Gears of War. Q: Antwon Blake said you were the best gamer on the team; is that true? A: Yeah that’s true. No one can beat me at any kind of sports games; it doesn’t matter what game it is. Q: Are any challengers welcome? A: I’ll take on any challengers; if you want to run, my gamertag is yngSpence so hit me up!
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TREMENDOUSTRIO: JUCOTeamatesTogether AgainatUTEP
When the football staff first set out on the recruiting trail after the completion of the 2010 season, they knew there was one specific goal they had in mind: find a new quarterback who could fit into the Miner system quickly and lead the team into the 2011 season with little hiccup. Trevor Vittatoe had just completed his senior season and had carried the Miners for the last four years, effectively managing the Mike Price offensive system well enough that he finished his career with a whopping 12,439 passing yards with 97 touchdowns. Vittatoe was the second full-time quarterback to lead the Miners to a bowl game under Priceâ€™s tenure at UTEP and was without a doubt the most important cog in the offense. During the 2010 season progressed, it became very evident that the current corps of quarterbacks was not up to Priceâ€™s expectations; there was an uneasiness that lingered over the team. During the season, when Vittatoe was out, Price would turn to James Thomas II and it was no secret that a wildcat play was going to be run. It was evident that Price was not comfortable inserting Carson Meger or Tate Smith into games for extended periods of time as it was just too risky; both quarterbacks had not displayed a mastery of the offensive system. Pulling the redshirt of Javia Hall would not have been a wise decision and thus left Price in a sticky predicament for most of 2010. Thus, at the conclusion of the New Mexico Bowl, it became priority number one for Price to find the next leader of the offense. Little did Price know that during his quest to find the next field general for the Miners fortune would smile upon the grey-haired coach with a trio of talent. The staff turned to Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, California for talent, the same school where punter Ian Campbell came from one season ago. The Mt. SAC football program had just captured their second consecutive State and National Community College Championship by defeating previously undefeated City College of San Francisco (11-1, #2 State and National Ranking), 34-7. State Championship MVP Honors went to sophomore quarterback Nick Lamaison who went 23 for 33, threw for 233 yards and 1 touchdown. Offensive MVP honors went to sophomore receiver Mike Edwards who caught 6 passes for 67 yards and 1 touchdown. Defending Lamaison on the field was sophomore offensive lineman James Martin. UTEP had found their quarterback, a receiver and offensive lineman in one fell swoop. Initially, the Miners
Mt. SAC transfers Nick Lamaison posed with teammates James Martin and Mike Edwards after practice during Camp Socorro last week. Chris Avila
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weren’t looking to fill all three of the positions, as there was talent at the receiver and lineman position. “At the time, we weren’t looking for receivers,” cooffensive and quarterbacks coach Aaron Price said of the recruitment. “Nick [Lamaison] said he was scheduled to take a trip to [Louisiana Tech] and Mike Edwards, his receiver was going with him; they wanted to go together. So, we started
1 5 watching film and had some transition at the receiver position at the same time and it kind of fell into place.” The challenge was getting them to visit UTEP and convince all three that El Paso was going to be the place they could call home for the next two years. Interestingly enough, the three players didn’t know they were all going to visit at the same time.
Clockwise from the top: Nick Lamaison, James Martin and Mike Edwards. Chr is Avila
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“It was kind of crazy because the day before my trip, I told the others I was going to UTEP and they all had scheduled trips too,” Martin said. “None of us knew it until the day before so we all just showed up at the airport together and all fell in love with UTEP.” Price’s ability to mold and develop quarterbacks was a big selling point for Lamaison as he knew he would have an opportunity to develop alongside earning a chance to get onto the playing field immediately. “It was really exciting to get recruited by UTEP,” Lamaison said. “To know that the past two starting quarterbacks have had an opportunity to play in the NFL was something I was really excited about. Then, throughout the recruiting process to know they were interested in two of my teammates was something you don’t really hear about too much. It made it really cool to think about the three of us going on to play together at the same school.” For Edwards, the opportunity to play with his friends was just as important as being close to home in California as well as being in a community he felt comfortable in. “Out of the three schools that recruited me, I felt the most comfortable at UTEP,” Edwards said. “On my visit, I felt it was like a big city with a small town aspect thanks to the team and it didn’t hurt that two of my players and friends were also coming here. Also, El Paso is a lot closer to home than Louisiana Tech; it’s driving distance.” Lamaison was able to transfer over to UTEP for the beginning of the spring semester while Edwards and Martin had to wait till the fall. Questions surrounded Lamaison during the spring drills as many wondered if he would indeed be the player that lived up to all the media hype when he committed. For the four weeks in the spring, Lamaison had some troubles learning all of the playbook. “In the spring, I was picking up everything on the run,” Lamaison said.
“Now, I’m reinforcing what I’ve learned and studied so with our position meeting, with how our coaches have prepared us, I feel really comfortable with the offense.” During Camp Socorro, it was blatantly evident that Lamasion had learned the playbook and was much more efficient with the calls than he was in the spring. In addition to Lamaison’s display of knowledge, Edwards also looks sharp during the week as he ran crisp routes and made some amazing catches that only a quarterback-receiver combo that had been together for several years could have made. Add in Martin’s play with the first and second offensive line units at times, you almost forgot that the three were making their first Camp Socorro appearance. You would have thought they had already been playing for UTEP for sometime. The play of the junior college transfers did not go un-noticed. Players and coaches alike responded positively to their play and quickly brought them into the fold. Recievers coach Guy Holiday was impressed during the week of Edwards’ play and ability to learn his routes so quickly. “It’s always good when a quarterback has a familiarity with their receiver and this is such a case,” Holiday said. “Mike has worked really hard and has surprised us by picking up the offense and we really think he is going to do well. He’s in our top three or four receivers right now so he’ll be getting some starts. We are looking forward to it.” Aaron Price echoed the same sentiments about all three players about their work ethic and being prepared for camp. “The guys from Mt. SAC are all hard workers,” Aaron Price said. “It’s not typical for a junior college guy to come in with the intent that those guys have … Usually you don’t establish good work ethic at the JUCO level. These three are different. To be able to come in and contribute right away isn’t usual. Some come in and want to contribute but aren’t quite ready and maybe they
1 7 aren’t in shape. These three came in great shape, ready to contribute. They are going to play a lot of football here.” With Camp Socorro over and less than three weeks away from the first game of the season, Lamaison, Edwards and Martin have already begun to make an impact on the team. Earlier this week, head coach Mike Price officially announced the starting quarterback and it came as no surprise that Lamaison was at the top of the list. Edwards has continued to work with the first and second receiving units, as has Martin with the offensive line units. Official lineups and depth charts have not been relased as of yet, however there seems to be a resounding confident in the newest players from Mt. SAC. Perhaps Edwards said it best about the cohesion of the team and being a singular unit. There is no one person bigger than the other and with Camp Socorro that was able to happen. “We are coming together and gelling.” Edwards said. “That’s what Camp Socorro does; we gel as a team and come together. That’s the whole point of this. You can’t win if you aren’t one team. ” The Miners will scrimmage Saturday night in the Sun Bowl as the team trucks through the remaining weeks of preparation and it’s a guarantee that Nick Lamason, Mike Edwards and James Martin will be battling on the field for the Miners just as they did one year ago for Mt. SAC. The Tremendous Trio will be aiming for another championship this season, a Conference USA championship.
Just another day at Camp Socorro. Chr is Avila
M I N E R I L L U S T R AT E D. C O M
THE FINAL WORD: Did Camp Socorro Provide Any Answers? JOSH PUGA Miner fans are well aware the 2011 football season is going to be a roller coaster ride with plenty of ups and downs. With Camp Socorro in the rear view mirror, some questions have been answered as we inch closer and closer to the season opener versus Stony Brook on September 3rd. First and foremost, it appears the Miners have a starting quarterback. Shocking, isn’t it? All kidding aside; Coach Mike Price announced Tuesday that junior college transfer Nick Lamison will be UTEP’s starting quarterback to open the 2011 season. Most knew it would be Lamaison, and after a steady performance in Socorro, Lamaison seems ready to lead the team. Lamaison still has a ways to go, but it seems Price made the right decision in bringing him in to take over for the departed Trevor Vitattoe. Staying on the offensive side of the ball, UTEP may have some minor concerns due to injuries. One such case is starting tailback Joe Banyard, who had limited action in Socorro due to a tight hamstring that caused him to miss Saturday’s big scrimmage. This shouldn’t be too much of an issue, unless the injury lingers into the season. Overall, the running backs continue to be the strength of the offense. But in order for the running backs and Lamaison to be successful, the question still remains as to whether the offensive line will come together and play at the necessary level. The offensive line fared surprisingly well at camp, but the center position seems to be an area of concern behind starter junior Eloy Atkinson. Atkinson missed some practice time and Saturday’s scrimmage due to an injury. The backup
centers struggled with the centerquarterback exchange having quite a few mishandled snaps that led to fumbles. Atkinson must stay healthy or it could be a long season for Lamaison and the offense. Not to be forgotten are the wide receivers and tight ends; both units have been overlooked with the quarterback battle. There is some nice depth in these units, and fans will be pleasantly surprised after a nice showing by both positions during camp. Without a true star at wide receiver, the Miners will have Donovan Kemp and Russell Carr leading the way, but keep an eye on Jordan Leslie, Monroe Ross and Cliff Tucker to also step up.
to look out for Louisville transfer Horace Miller, who has been doing a nice job at defensive end behind Greg Watkins and Bernard Obi. At linebacker, senior Jeremy Springer leads a talented and deep unit that had a nice showing at camp. With a mix of returning players and junior college transfers, linebackers coach Robert Rodriguez has a lot of flexibility to put the right players out on the field in each defensive situation. In the secondary, senior safety Travaun Nixon had a great camp and will be the anchor leading the defensive backfield. I have to admit I was somewhat concerned about Patterson moving the team’s best cover corner to safety, but that’s why I write and Patterson coaches. Nixon will be in position to make more plays on the ball, and with his playmaking ability, this only opens the door for more defensive scoring opportunities. Picking up the slack at the corner position are Antwon Blake and Drew Thomas; both have plenty of experience and have improved every year with the Miners. Overall, the Miners are putting the pieces together. To be honest, I feel the offense fared better than I expected. The defense wasn’t lights out and still has room for improvement, but they proved they are ahead of the offense as they should be. The biggest wild card has to be injuries; Coach Price and the staff cannot afford to have the injury bug hit them similar to last year. If so, this could be a season to forget. There are still some questions that have to be answered, and although Camp Socorro is a nice preview of what to expect, it doesn’t compare to the real deal awaiting the Miners on September 3rd when we will final get some definitive answers. So let the games begin.
The biggest wild card has to be injuries; Coach Price and the staff cannot afford to have the injury bug hit them similar to last year. Moving to the opposite side of the ball, the Miner defense showed why they are the strength of the team by playing consistently throughout camp. The defense had some struggles during Saturday’s scrimmage, especially after shutting the offense down early and faltering late, but they have a couple weeks to regain their focus before the first game of the season. Defensive coordinator Andre Patterson and the rest of the defensive staff are fortunate to have quality depth at almost every position, which will be a key ingredient to the defensive philosophy of bringing in fresh bodies while the opposing offense is on the field. This will be vitally important for the front seven, which struggled to pressure quarterbacks last season. Most of the returning starters had a productive camp, but Miner fans need
UTEP66: Conference Realignment, Again; UTEP’s Defensive Backs; The Tremendous Trio; The Final Word.