The Dig: 21 Days Till UTEP Miners Football Kicks Off Edition

 


In The Dig:  It's the Bret Bloomquist Show as Double B has some nice positional articles and a feature on Trevor Vittatoe; We Finally Wrap up the Myron Strong Saga; The Rush has notes on three Miners trying to make a dent in the NFL; Rod Huntley Suffers a Foot Injury; A Punter Falls Into UTEP's lap at the last possible second; & A former Michigan St. Spartan basketball player reportedly takes a visit to UTEP.  Tim Floyd participated in a Q & A with UTEP Athletics where he gave us some schedule details (Pacific, BYU, Georgia Tech & Texas Tech Are Scheduled, MIners talking with New Mexico).  Clearly, it's back to business for Tim Floyd- and the Miner Nation is behind him.....

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Notes From Fall Camp

New Names & Faces:  

Bret Bloomquist of the El Paso Times has done a truly excellent job covering Camp Socorro for the Miner Nation.  Here, he has a nice piece up on the defensive tackles. As noted in the Rush's "Top 5 Newcomers" post, DT is a position where we will be acquainted with several new names and faces.  Good insight here.

Redshirt freshman Germard Reed has taken the lead at left tackle, while the nosetackle is a wide-open battle between Isaac Tauaefa, Jamie Fehoko and Eastwood's Ruben Muñoz. Of the preceeding four players, only Tauaefa has seen action, and that was limited last season.

Judgment Day:  

Bloomquist also has a nice piece up on UTEP quarterback Trevor Vittatoe.  What will be TV's legacy when his career at UTEP winds up?  

The rest of his legacy is less certain. In three years with Vittatoe as starter, the Miners have authored all sorts of superlative offensive records while going 13-23, though that's not because of specific failures on Vittatoe's part.

A Serious Loss & A Notable Discovery

First, the Bad News:  Bloomquist had another article- one with great news and terrible news at the same time.  The bad news first, involves an injury to right guard Rod Huntley, who might be UTEP's best offensive lineman.

Guard Rod Huntley and safety DeShawn Grayson, likely starters, were out. Huntley has a stress fracture in his foot that will have him in a boot and require periodic rest all season.

Taking his place was sophomore Paul Santillan. Brandon Miller was at safety in Grayson's place

 

Now, the Good News:  The article also reports that the Miners may have stumbled upon a punter.  Walk-on and transfer Ian Campbell out of Mount San Antonio College drove up to Socorro to try out with the team.  He came away the team's #1 punter after booming a kick 55 yards.  This is great news as now kicker Dakota Warren can focus on field goals, PAT's, and kickoffs.  The whole tryout story is a good read.  Mike Price told Bloomquist:

"The best thing about camp, our biggest question mark, thekicking game, we've solved that," Price said. "Now it will be a strength for us. Dakota Warren is doing a great job with kickoffs and field goals, Kevin Perez is kicking the ball very well. They are both better than our kicker from last year (Logan Barrett)."

Here are some highlights for Ian Campbell.   The kid has a serious leg.


Even More Double B:

Finally, Bloomquist has an excellent look at the state of UTEP's secondary.  

That starts with junior Antwon Blake, an experienced backup who has taken charge of the unit. At the other spot there is an emerging battle between senior Martel Strange, who despite his seniority hasn't played much, and sophomore Drew Thomas, who has played the position for just two years after starring as a running back in high school and being recruited to UTEP as a receiver

Last Call:  

Bloomquist also has a nice feature up on UTEP's offensive line.  The LG/C situation is still up in the air.

McNac missed most of last fall with a high ankle sprain but returned in the spring and after a slow start, was coming on hard at the end. "We're all feeding off each other, trying to get better," he said. "The best five will be on the field. I'm glad to be out here. Spring was fun because after sitting out, it was the first time I could suit up and play football."

A Growing Legend:  

KTSM caught up with UTEP linebacker's coach Robert Rodriguez  Rodriguez has been tearing up the recruiting circuit for the Miners and coach Mike Price has some very nice words on the newest member of his staff.

Head Coach Mike Price added, "Robert Rodriguez, El Paso's finest, is going to be a great coach, he's really a good coach right now. He's a natural leader, a natural coach, a natural football player and coach, so I am very impressed with Robert."

Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey Joe Muench:  

Only Joe Muench can write a post saying UTEP's offensive and defensive lineman aren't any good without taking the time to mention the names of any actual offensive or defensive linemen.  Those of us who know anything at all about UTEP's offensive line know that it will be one of the Miners greatest strengths in 2010.  Here's my "Ultimate Offensive Line" preview.  

There really is no reason to predict 8 wins, or even 7, for this year. Too many questions. And remember the offensive and defensive lines make so much difference. Has UTEP really recruited good linemen that are better than the linemen on other teams? No they have not.

More Thoughs from Camp:  

Craig Evans, of KyyotesDen.com, is doing some writing for Miner Digs- UTEP's Rivals Site.  Craig is a die hard Miner fan who goes out of his way to capture interviews with UTEP's players that he freely shares with Miner fans everywhere.  Here, he has a look at last Tuesday's practice where he felt the Miner coaches were upset with the level of effort of the team.

Tuesday's practice was a little different. As I watched, it seemed to me that the energy, and intensity was down from what I had seen on Monday. There were a few players sitting under the trainer's canopy, and trainer Dawn Hearne was visibly unhappy with what she was seeing. 

Good Texans:

 The Hunt Family has made an incredible $5 million donation to UTEP.


Miners in the Pro's

A Second Chance for #42:

 Former Miner safety Da'mon Cromartie-Smith has been resigned by the Pittsburgh Steelers.  The Examiner has some details.  

With Harris out, the Steelers chose to add rookie free agent Da'Mon Cromartie-Smith in his place on the training camp roster.  Cromartie-Smith was originally signed with the Steelers as an undrafed rookie free agent this past spring.  He was released prior to the beginning of the start of training camp.  He played college football at the University of Texas-El Paso (UTEP).  At 6'2" and 210 lbs. the Steelers are hoping he will add depth to the team.  The Steelers announced on their website that he will wear number 42 on his jersey.

Camp Fight:

 Former Miner Oniel Cousins is in a dogfight to become the starting tackle for the Baltimore Ravens.

The Ravens were hoping that Oniel Cousins, the third-year project out of UTEP, would step up and grab the position, but that was hardly the case last night.

Bad Timing:

Quintin Demps is possibly my All-Time favorite UTEP player.  He's making a hard push to reassert himself as the safety of the future for the Philadelphia Eagles.  His efforts had a minor setback though when he was injured in a preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Quintin Demps injured his knee on the game's opening kickoff in the Eagles' 28-27 win over the Jaguars Friday night. Demps suffered a knee sprain and was on crutches after the game. Demps was filling in for cornerback Ellis Hobbs, who was given the night off from returning duties

Not a Miner but a Beloved El Pasoan:

 Former Socorro High school, and Texas Longhorn, baseball star Omar Quinanilla has tested positive for taking performance enhancing drugs.  Quintanilla has been suspended by MLB.

 

Wrapping up the Myron Strong Saga

It's over, now, time to move on from the mess that unfolded last Thursday which culminated with Myron getting his side of the story out right here at the Rush.  I think most Miner fans will wish him the best.  Also, I think Miner fans stand firmly behind Tim Floyd.  None of us know exactly what went down to lead to the dismissal because UTEP isn't going to talk about it anymore, which is probably the best thing to do from their side.  Floyd, thankfully, has moved on to more important things- like recruiting former Michigan State guard Chris Allen (more on that below).  

There's no denying that the dismissal was a PR disaster, and here are the final links from news sources around the country who picked up the story.  If you want to get a sense of how quickly the story spread- here are just a few of the articles that covered the Strong dismissal.

Yahoo! Sports.  The Dagger College Basketball Blog.  

Floyd dismissed malcontent guard Myron Strong from the UTEP basketball team Thursday, citing Strong had violated team drug policy. The school had not given a specific reason in its brief statement, but Dan Wolken of the Memphis Commercial Appeal got Floyd to bite on the specific reason of a drug-related no-no.

The Houston Chronicle- Steve Campbell's Cougar Blog.

CBS Sports Gary Parrish- 5 For Friday.

But the truth is that Strong has never been the type of student-athlete to warrant credibility on these matters, proof being how he's about to enroll at a fourth college in four years. Beyond that, Strong acknowledged failing a drug test administered by the athletic department after Floyd was hired. So it's not like the next Shane Battier was just dismissed from UTEP.

Rush The Court.

Ballin is a Habit.

The Big Lead.

ESPN (Insider).

MI's Danny Levario thinks Strong was throwing stones from a glass house.  

 

UTEP Basketball:  Moving On; Juicy Schedule a Nice Way to Start

Coach Floyd did a Q & A with UTEP Athletics on Saturday where he discussed the roster, his recruiting schedule, and his outlook on the C-USA's scheduling recommendations.  The true message of this video?  We're Moving On to What Matters.

More than that, Floyd notes that UTEP might open up the season against Pacific University, take on Texas Tech and BYU.  That's on top of the Legends Classic Tournament where UTEP will take on Georgia Tech and possibly Michigan or Syracuse.  The Miners have also, according to Floyd, initiated talks with the New Mexico Lobos about a series over the coming years.  



Recruiting Hits- Football

The Blind Side:  San Diego (Westview) Offensive Tackle Taylor Reich will take an official visit to UTEP.  UTEP was the first school to offer Reich who is starting to draw more suitors.  Scout ($) has the story.

San Diego (Calif.) Westview offensive tackle Taylor Reich is looking forward to his senior season, where he hopes to land more offers... "UTEP offered me and Nevada has verbally offered me," said Reich. "I'm pretty excited about the UTEP offer and recruiting is going alright right now. ...

Recruiting HIts- Basketball

A Major Transfer:  Chris Allen was recently dismissed by Tom Izzo at Michigan State.  Now, he's considering transferring to UTEP.

According to Gary Parrish:

Allen was removed from the Spartans last week after he "failed to meet all obligations" necessary to be a member of the team. The 6-foot-3 guard from Georgia averaged 8.3 points at Michigan State last season. If he enrolls at a Division I institution, Allen will sit out this season per NCAA transfer rules and play one season at his new school in 2011-12.

Izzo told the following to the Detroit Free Press:

It’s been no secret that Chris Allen’s been in a tenuous position since spring. There were multiple obligations that Chris had to meet in order to return for his senior season. While he did make progress through the summer, he has failed to meet all the obligations and will not be a part of our program this fall.

FoxSports.com's Jeff Goodman tweeted that Allen has already visited UTEP.  Hopefully, Chris has learned from whatever happened to lead to his dismissal.  It's no secret that he's a really talented player who would  be able to help UTEP immensely.

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A Close Race:  The Rice quarterback race is heating up- Nick Fanuzzi is in the lead over Taylor Cook and Taylor McHargue.... for now.

Silence:  New Mexico St. Coach Dewayne Walker has banned his team, and coaching staff, from using Twitter during the season.

Dissing the Hometown:  The Round Up is NMSU's student newspaper.  Apparently the students think NMSU should make a stronger effort to recruit Las Cruces area kids.

According to the New Mexico State University Football official Web site, the team roster includes four players who graduated from Las Cruces High School, but some Las Cruces natives say four players from the hometown are not enough.    "It is a shame that coach Walker doesn’t want to recruit from Las Cruces," NMSU student Jeremy Gonzales said. "There is so much talent here."

More Mbakwe:  Minnesota Golden Gopher, and accused felon, Trevor Mbakwe has agreed to complete a six month intervention program rather than face formal charges related to the alleged assault that we all discussed a few weeks ago.  This deal sets the stage for the Memphis Tigers to continue their pursuit of Mbakwe, assuming Minnesota lets him transfer.

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