UTEP's quarterback depth took a hit tonight when quarterback Tim Curry decided to leave the program. it appears potential playing time was the determining factor in his decision. Bret Bloomquist of the El Paso Times reported the story on his blog. Miner Illustrated noted via twitter:
From Coach Mike Price: Tim Curry will be leaving UTEP for a chance to play for three years at another school.
Curry was considered the centerpiece of Mike Price's 2008 recruiting class. Rivals rated Curry, out of Elysian Fields, the 29th best quarterback prospect in the nation that year. Curry redshirted in 2008 and served as backup (along with James Thomas when healthy) to Trevor Vittatoe for most of last year.
This spring, as Trevor Vittatoe missed the first several practices due to suspension and with Thomas out due to injury, Curry battled with walk on Carson Meger for a chance to move up the depth chart and seize the #2 spot on the depth chart. Curry, at 6'4, 210 lbs., has all the physical tools needed for a college quarterback at the D-1 level. Despite his advantages, both in size and arm strength over Meger, Carson's surprising, consistent play seemed to give him the nod over Curry. No doubt, the arrival of former New Mexico quarterback Tate Smith also had an impact on Curry's decision to leave the team. Rumblings from camp had Meger ahead of Curry with Smith showing potential as well.
The '08 recruit Curry looked unlikely to hold off Tate Smith in the battle for No. 4 quarterback this fall.
No hard feelings here, Curry worked hard as a Miner and we all wish him the best. If he feels he has a better chance to play elsewhere, I think that's something we can all understand. But, we do have to take a look at UTEP's QB situation.
The Depth Chart
After Trevor Vittatoe, senior James Thomas II is still listed as the primary backup. Thomas is more than capable of being effective but he's been hampered with injury problems throughout his career. He's also spent ample practice time at wide receiver. Thomas is good, and has been great as a change of pace "wildcat" type quarterback, but he isn't an every down threat passing the ball. In three years, Thomas has attempted just 13 passes on game day.
That leaves Meger and Tate Smith. Meger looked good during spring ball. He's listed at 6'0, 195. After a scrimmage last spring, I wrote the following on Meger:
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.
Meger is a gamer. He's excellent in play action and will be good in the short passing game. Is he ready to play D-1 football? No. If asked to play this season there will be a steep learning curve. Down the road, he is a viable backup candidate with good potential.
Tate Smith is still a bit of an unknown quantity. He played some at New Mexico. He definitely provides some much needed depth. From his official bio:
completed 7-of-21 passes for 82 yards (2 INTs) while rushing 18 times for 25 yards ... saw his most extensive action against eighth-ranked BYU, when he was in for 17 plays and completed 5-of-10 passes for 60 yards with a pick ... led the Lobos 80 yards in six plays, down to the BYU 19, in the closing minutes before taking three sacks
That leaves the true freshman Javia Hall. Vittatoe, Thomas, and Hall are the only scholarship quarterbacks now on the UTEP roster. Hall was rated the 34th best quarterback in the nation by Rivals last year and a three star prospect. He was stellar at Dallas Skyline High. He was so good there that replacing him was the focus of this Dallas Morning News article. DMN writer Rainer Sabin wrote that Hall was sorely missed at Skyline, more than players who signed at Texas and Oklahoma.
One signed with Texas and another with Oklahoma . Two of their teammates accepted offers from Texas A&M and Colorado State. But of all the key contributors Skyline sent to Division I football programs last season, it was guy who picked UTEP that was perhaps the most important one.
His name was Javia Hall. He was the team's quarterback and last season he threw 2,600 yards, 33 touchdowns and only two interceptions.
Hopefully, Javia Hall is as good as advertised. We may find out sooner than we ever thought possible.