Carson Meger passed for 167 yards and a touchdown and Lavorick Williams caught two passes for 84 yards to lead UTEP in their first spring scrimmage. Meger, a left handed quarterback, was effective in play action and looked confident under center for a redshirt freshman. With the desert wind gusting, Meger had good enough arm strength to connect on 12 yard out patterns thrown against his body to the far side of the field. He started out a sizzling 6/8 for 90 yards. Tim Curry, on the other hand, struggled to find any sort of rhythm through the air. Trevor will rejoin the team at their next practice on Tuesday.
Defensively, Andre Patterson's 4-3 defense proved resilient in the red zone. The offense drove the ball into the red zone several times, but only came away with three Mike Scott field goals (27, 37, 32 yards). Scott, a Franklin High grad, displayed good accuracy and surprising leg strength. In the end, Coach Mike Price was optimistic but not thrilled at the teams effort. "It was a good, not great, scrimmage I would say," he said. "We have some work to do. I feel like I'm a judge on American Idol right now, and not a nice one."
Local Flavor: Several El Paso area high school products, not just Scott, had solid performances.Former Montwood High running back Domingo Torres carried the ball four times for 41 yards. Torres displayed quickness and power finishing runs. Eastwood Alum Ruben Munoz was a force at defensive tackle. Running with the first team, Munoz was all over the field and disrupted the Miners offense several times. Munoz's best play may have been when he sniffed out a reverse ran to receiver Evan Davis. Munoz broke through the line and brought Davis down for a huge loss.
Bend But Don't Break: I was thrilled to get a look at Andre Patterson's new 4-3 defense. Obviously, the defense didn't blitz often, but I did notice one occasion where OLB Anthony Morrow flew up the weak side into the backfield before pulling up as per the rules of a scrimmage. Morrow's speed should be a nice weapon in the new scheme. Jeremy Springer played MLB in the 4-3 and he showcased his speed too.
- Limited Formations: The Miners didn't show a lot of diversity on offense. A vast majority of their plays came out of their base 1 back formation with one TE (Jonny Moore) and three wide receivers. Meger, and Curry were primarily under center. In short yardage and goal line situations, the Miners often go double-tight with Elijah Goldtrap and Jonny Moore both on the field (with Moore off the line and often in motion). We didn't see any new wrinkles in the scrimmage. Moore is a ferocious blocker and was a master at staying with his blocks until the whistle blew. With two new quarterbacks, the Miners offense focused on the nuts and bolts of their 1 back offense.
- Mojo: The 6'2 sophomore receiver from Odessa Permian displayed good speed and better hands. This is a team that needs a deep threat. Williams showed that he can be a big play receiver.
- Solid Secondary: Sophomore defensive back Drew Thomas and junior Antwon Blake both had good games. Thomas, and Braxton Amy, both had big hits and were aggressive in pass coverage. Blake had the games only interception. He picked off a Meger bomb in the end zone.
- The Tackles: With starting right tackle Alex Solot also suspended, sophomore James Nelson ran with the first team. Nelson looked good in pass protection, but the running game didn't look great in the early going. Starting running back Donald Buckram was "dinged up," as Price put it, and the offense focused on the passing game. Lance Evbuomwan started at left tackle and also looked impressive.
- Pass Rush: Last season, the Miners struggled immensely trying to get a pass rush. In a league with prolific passing offenses, like Houston and Tulsa, it will be essential for UTEP to get better at getting to the quarterback. The Miners finished last in C-USA with 15 sacks and 106th in the nation out of 120 teams by averaging 1.25 sacks a game last year.
All in all, we saw some good things and some bad things. With James Thomas II out of spring practice with injuries, the Miners needed to see if one of the other quarterbacks on the roster could emerge as a solid backup. Meger doesn't have prototypical size, like Curry does, but you get a sense that he's just a gamer. He really excelled in play-action and with Donald Buckram in the backfield, play action could be a nice way to get him comfortable in game situations. There were some penalties, some turnovers, and some struggles on both sides of the ball. Breaking in two new quarterbacks makes for some stagnant offense, too. The Miners are ironing out the kinks, no doubt, but there's definitely some room for optimism. That's what spring ball is all about.