Special thanks to Quantumii USA (Twitter here) for helping to keep the Miner Nation apprised of all the latest recruiting developments.
First, Josh Fely, a middle linebacker, out of San Diego Mesa Junior College committed to UTEP on Monday. Fely is a 6'0, 220lb linebacker that Scout.com rates as a three star prospect overall. Scout had this to say about his strengths:
An instinctive middle linebacker, Fely doesn't just rack up a bunch of stats hopping on piles from his middle linebacker position, he makes plays. He sees the play early and has the athleticism to get in the backfield or go sideline to sideline for a tackle. Because of his vision and instincts, he's also solid in pass protection. He has average speed, but his anticipation and quickness get him in on nearly every play - Scott Kennnedy, Scout.com
Last season, Fely had 104 tackles and 14.5 tackles for loss. He's also reportedly a good student and carries a 3.2 grade point average. The video above is a highlight tape of Fely's. While Scout says he doesn't have great speed, its apparent from the tape that he has above average lateral quickness and instinctive tackling skills. Fely chose UTEP over offers from Boise State and Nevada among others.
The second commitment is James Robinson. Robinson is a 6'5, 325 pound offensive lineman. Scout.com lists him as a guard. Obviously, with Anthony McNac and Rod Huntley both graduating the Miners interior offensive line will be an area of focus on the recruiting trail and it would make sense for UTEP to bring in a JUCO guard to help fill the void next season.
Robinson chose UTEP over an offer from the Pac 10's Washington State. Robinson originally signed with Fresno State in 2008 coming out of high school but went the JC route instead. In 2008, Robinson did receive some interest from Southern California and made an official visit there. Robinson was seen as a defensive tackle prospect coming out of high school but has excelled on the offensive side of the ball.
Good News & Bad News
While UTEP received two commitments as noted above it looks like the highest rated remaining member of the 2011 class is now looking at other schools. Defensive back Zoey Williams, out of Sugar Land Dulles, is now reportedly garnering interest from Missouri and New Mexico among other suitors. Williams is ranked as the 48th best cornerback prospect in the nation by ESPN. Click here for my full report on Williams commitment. ShoeMeMizzou.com, a Missouri Scout site, reported that Williams is now expressing interest in the Tigers and that a visit could happen soon.
Don't forget that UTEP has already lost the two other highest rated prospects in the 2011 class. First, Brandon Durant, the only Texas Top 100 prospect to commit to UTEP decommited in favor of the Missouri Tigers. Also, Jonovan Griffin, a quarterback/athlete prospect out of McKinney Boyd backtracked on a UTEP commitment and decided to attend Oklahoma St.
Also, on December 1, Rivals.com's Brian Perroni noted that Lovett Gibson, a wide receiver commit out of Cedar Hill is now wavering on his commitment to UTEP. Gibson is still a UTEP commit but all signs point to him changing his commitment over to Rice.
Why all the movement?
Some of it is natural. It's hard to fault any 17-18 year old kid for changing his mind as to where he wants to go to school and spend the next four years of their lives. When Big 12 powers Missouri and Oklahoma State start making offers, it's hard for UTEP to compete on the recruiting trail.
I will say that it doesn't help UTEP's cause that there is tons of speculation out there as to whether Mike Price will return to coach the Miners in 2011. Coach Price has told the press that he intends to be back in 2011 but there has been no official announcement from the school. Price himself stated before the season to the Birmingham Newsthat he wanted to go out on a high note and alluded to retirement.
If Price is coming back, I don't see why UTEP has waited this long to make an official announcement. If he's not, I don't see why UTEP has waited this long to declare the New Mexico Bowl his last game. It would allow Miner fans to honor him and would allow other coaches and agents to start showing interest to UTEP AD Bob Stull before other jobs become available. Note that Tulane and UAB both announced a week ago Monday that their head coaches will be returning in 2011.
Maybe Zoey Williams and Lovett Gibson would be less likely to decommit if they knew absolutely that the coaches that recruited them and earned the commitment to begin with will be in El Paso waiting for them in August. Conversely, if a change is made, a new staff will need as much time as possible to keep the 2011 class together and Williams and Gibson would surely be at the top of the keep list. So, now all we, and they, can do is wait.
For the Latest Recruiting News Be Sure to Check the UTEP Football Recruiting Section.