National Signing Day 2011: UTEP Miners Commitment List & Open Thread

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[Note by Adrian Mac, 02/02/11 2:53 PM CST ]  The Class is Closed:  The 2011 UTEP Miners football class is a wrap.  The big surprises were that UTEP signed a second JC cornerback (Derrick Morgan) and a defensive end from Pasadena (Kishon Sanders).  UTEP lost two commits on national signing day, including QB Antavius Sims to the Washington Huskies.  Clint Simon did not sign with UTEP either.  I have deleted those players boxes below.  So, after the jump, you'll find full profiles of each member of UTEP's 2011 recruiting class. -- Adrian Mac

Twenty UTEP Miners commits (so far) covering four states and three time zones.   Today, the Miner Nation extends from El Paso to Tulsa, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and of course to Houston and Dallas.  National Signing Day 2011 is here and this post is your UTEP Miners National Signing Day  Open Thread.  

As verbal commits become UTEP signees, I'll update the status of each prospective player.    When I make an update to a player's box, I will try to make a note in the comments to direct your attention to it.  If any of you happen on UTEP recruiting news, please FanShot it or drop it in the comments so I can update this post accordingly.   Also, if a recruit decides to sign elsewhere, I will note that below.


Nick Lamaison | Quarterback | Mt. San Antonio C.C.  (Walnut, CA)
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Photo Courtesy of Knox Animal


6' 1" / 212 lbs/ 4.6  Videos: [1] [2]  Commitment Story

Rankings:
- ESPN:  Does not rate JC transfers.
- Rivals:  Not rated.
- Scout:  Not rated.  

SIGNED.

Notes:  Nick Lamaison might be the most important recruit in this 2011 class simply because UTEP desperately needed an experienced, strong-armed quarterback on the roster who could push UTEP's less experienced signal callers in practice.  

Lamaison led Mt. SAC (JUCO) to a Junior College National Championship last season while completing 66.7% of his passes for over 3,500 yards,  Lamaison also had a stellar 38 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions.  Nick is the front runner for UTEP's starting quarterback position recently vacated by four year starter Trevor Vittatoe.

Quick Hits:  Once signed with the Tennessee Volunteers, but went back to Mt. SAC after coach Lane Kiffin left Tennessee for USC.

 

A.J. Ropati | Linebacker | Los Angeles Harbor JUCO (Carson, CA)
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Photo Courtesy of A.J. Ropati; All Rights Reserved

6' 2" /230/ 4.7     Videos [1] Commitment Story

Rankings:
- ESPN:  Does not rate JUCO players
- Rivals: 3*/ 5.5 Rating
Scout: 2*

SIGNED.  Enrolled in Spring.

Notes:  When I saw AJ's highlight tape,I was compelled to dub him the "Hitman" because of his aggressive play.  He has good size and speed for Andre Patterson's 4-3 defense.  Last season, I felt Patterson's defense was limited to a "bend but don't break" ideology because UTEP didn't have the experience on the defensive line, or the size and speed at linebacker, to be overly aggressive.  Ropati is part of the puzzle that will be expected to fix that. 

This isn't a 3-3-5 linebacker.  Ropati is tailor made for the 4-3 and Miner fans should expect to see him early and often in 2011.

Josh Fely | Linebacker | San Diego Mesa JUCO (Oceanside, CA)

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Photo Courtesy of Josh Fely;All rights reserved.

: 6'0 1/2" /215 /4.6    Videos [1Commitment Story.

Rankings:
- ESPN:  does not rate JUCO players
Rivals: 2*/ 5.4 rating.
- Scout:  3*  (rated as a middle linebacker)

SIGNED.  Enrolled in Spring.

Notes:  I was able to talk to Josh last week.  Miner fans should be happy to know that Fely is already on campus at UTEP and gearing up for spring ball.  I asked Josh what it was about Andre Patterson's defense that pushed him to commit over offers from Boise State and Nevada among others.

"It was the way (UTEP) conducted their defense in terms of line assignments.  Everyone has a responsibility and I love how it all comes together.  (Coach Patterson) coaches gap control up front with the defensive linemen and that allows the  linebackers to make plays in space."

Josh told me that he will begin spring ball at weak side linebacker but will also see some time in the middle.  He also told me that he's adjusting to El Paso nicely.  "I like it a lot.  I'm definitely homesick, being away from my family, but I love it here.  I'm just ready to go and out and play football."

Josh was also impressed with UTEP's facilities.  "I had done some research before my visit but I was blown away by the Sun Bowl when I actually got here.  The weightroom is beautiful."

Quick Hits:  Josh visited UTEP with fellow California JC linebacker AJ Ropati.  The two have become friends and are roommates now in El Paso.

Darren Woodard | Cornerback | Kilgore College (Kilgore, TX)

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Photo Courtesy of Kilgore College

6'1" / 185 lbs, 4.3  | Videos:  [1]  Commitment Story

Rankings:
- ESPN: Does not grade JUCO players
- RivalsNot rated.
- Scout:  Not rated.

SIGNED |  

Notes: Woodard reminds me a lot of current Miner Trevaun Nixon.  Judging by his tape,he doesn't mind helping against the run and is an above average open field tackler.  He has excellent size for a CB and uses his long arms like a basketball player to deflect passes.

Woodard will immediately contribute for UTEP.  I expect him to battle Antwon Blake for his starting position.  UTEP used the nickel package a lot last season, so Woodard might be used there.   I'm not sure if he has 4.3 speed as his video suggests, but I think UTEP will have their best pair of starting cornerbacks in a long time with Darren and Nixon  opposite each other.

James Robinson | Guard | City College of San Francisco (San Francisco, CA)
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Photo Courtesy of James Robinson; All Rights Reserved.

 

6' 5" / 325 lbs/    |   Commitment Story

Rankings:
- ESPN:  Does not rate JUCO players.
Rivals: 2*/ 5.4 rating.
Scout: 2*

Signed.

Notes: .It's not everyday you see a 6'5, 325 lb. guard at any level on the gridiron.  But, that's exactly what UTEP has in JC transfer James Robinson.

The coaching staff really needed to add a veteran guard as UTEP lost both starting guards from last season to graduation.  My guess is that Eloy Atkinson will be UTEP's starting center next season.  Robinson will be in a battle with Nathan McCage and Paul Santillan for the two starting guard spots.  Note that UTEP often uses their interior linemen interchangeably, in an effort to get the best players on the field, so Robinson will immediately be in the mix to replace Rod Huntley or Anthony McNac alongside Atkinson.

Even if he doesn't earn a starting spot, he should be a heavy contributor in 2011.

 

James Martin | Offensive Tackle | Mt. San Antonio JUCO
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via 1.bp.blogspot.com



6'6"/ 300/  | Video [1] Commitment Story

Rankings:
- ESPN:  Not rated. 
- Rivals:  Not rated.
- Scout:   Not rated.

Signed.  Martin is a UTEP Miner.

Notes:   "Frosty" is another JC linemen who is expected to immediately battle for a starting position next year.  He played left tackle at Mt. SAC with Nick Lamaison.

With starting left tackle Will Osolinsky and his backup Lance Evbuomwan graduating, UTEP desperately needed a left tackle that could compete for a starting job immediately.  James Nelson and Brander Craighead have both played predominantly on the right side, but we'll see if one of them moves to the left side to compete with Martin.

Quick Hits:  Martin chose UTEP over an offer from UT-San Antonio.

Blaire Sullivan | Quarterback | Central Catholic HS (San Antonio)
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Photo Courtesy of Blaire Sullivan; All Rights Reserved.

6'4" / 198lbs/ 4.4 | Videos: [1]  Commitment Story

Rankings:
- ESPN:  Not rated.
- Rivals: Not rated.
- Scout: 2*

Signed.  Sullivan is a UTEP Miner.

Notes:  On tape, there's a lot to love about Blaire Sullivan.  He looks like a "gamer." The type of kid that will do anything to help his team win.  I've always said that UTEP's current backup QB Carson Meger was a "gamer" too.  The thing is that Blaire Sullivan possesses far more natural talent and size than Meger does.  He needs to bulk up a bit, but at 6'4, he has the potential to become a prototypical Mike Price quarterback.  His arm strength is good but his accuracy and touch is what really interests me.

Sullivan figures to redshirt in 2011 with Lamaison and Sims moving in.  But, if he works hard, he'll have a chance to back up Lamaison in 2012.  That, of course, will depend on what we see from the highly touted Javia Hall who has to be wondering where his place is in the line of succession after UTEP brought in two JC signal callers and a promising high school prospect.

Xavier Williams | Running Back | Ranchview HS l (Irving, TX)
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5'11" / 195 lbs/ 4.55 |  Commitment Story

Rankings:
- ESPN:  Not rated.
- RivalsNot rated.
- Scout:  Not rated.

Signed.  Xavier Williams is a UTEP Miner.

Notes:  Williams was highly productive and led Ranchview in the Texas playoffs last season but hasn't received the buzz of other areas in the Metroplex.  He's an excellent receiver out of the backfield and has the size and speed to excel at the collegiate level.  I would guess that "Xay" will redshirt this season as UTEP has a stock of senior running backs expected to carry the load in 2011.

Ishmael Harrison | Wide Receiver | Red Oak HS (Red Oak, TX)
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5'11" / 179 lbs/  Vides [1]   Commitment Story

Rankings:
ESPN:  3*. 75 rating. #137 WR prospect

Rivals:  2*, 5.4 rating

Scout:   2* (#226 wide receiver)

Signed.  Harrison is a UTEP Miner.

Notes: For whatever reason, Scout.com dropped Harrison from the 114th best WR prospect and a 3 star prospect in the fall to the #226th best WR and a 2 star prospect overall now.  At Red Oak, Harrison would often line up in the backfield as part of their team's spread offense.  He was used as a runner and a receiver and was productive in both areas.  He has good speed and figures to be a slot receiver at UTEP.  With UTEP's heavy class of 2010 receivers, Harrison will likely redshirt.

A.C. Patterson | Center | Bishop Gorman HS (Las Vegas, NV)

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Photo Couresy of the Las Vegas Sun

6' 0" / 299 lbs/ 4.45 | Videos: [1] | Commitment Story

Rankings:
- ESPN:  2*/  69 rating, #33 center prospect
- Rivals: 2*/ 5.4 rating
- Scout: 2*/  #27 center prospect

Signed.  A.C. is a Miner.

Notes: ESPN ranks AC as the 33rd best center prospect in the nation and Scout sees him as the 27th.  With veteran center Tanner Cullumber graduating, UTEP needed to add a high school center this class.  Patterson is one of the few freshman that might not redshirt simply because UTEP might need him in 2011.  Eloy Atkinson will be the favorite to start, and he's played well, but he's also missed time due to injuries in the past.  Usually, UTEP always redshirts true freshman offensive lineman, but if ever a freshman will have a chance to see the field in year one, it's Patterson at center.

Quick Hits:  AC is the son of UTEP defensive coordinator Andre Patterson and was the first athlete to commit to UTEP this year.

Ryan Lindblade | Offensive Tackle | Foster HS (Richmond, TX)
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6' 6" / 262 lbs/ 4.6 Commitment Story  

Rankings:
- ESPN:  Not graded
- Rivals: 2*/  5.3 rating
- Scout: 2*/ #142 OT prospect

Signed.  Lindblade is a UTEP Miner.

Notes:  UTEP will hopefully sign two high school offensive tackle prospects in Lindblade and Trint Jenkins.  Jenkins, of course, is nearly 6'9 and Lindblade is nearly 6'7 (according to Scout).  Scout and Rivals both rank Lindblade a 2 star prospect overall.

Cole Freytag | Wide Receiver | Coronado HS l (El Paso, TX)
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6' 2" / 180 lbs/ 4.6 | Videos: [1]  Commitment Story

Rankings:
- ESPN:  Not rated.
- Rivals:  Not rated.
- Scout:  Not rated.

Signed.  Freytag is a Miner.

Notes: Freytag starred at Coronado as a quarterback, receiver, and return specialist.  He's just a good football player.  He received heavy interest from a score of FCS programs but chose instead to grayshirt at UTEP next fall.  He'll join the team next spring.  An El Paso kid, it's not surprising that Rivals and other recruiting sites didn't get to grade him.  With his size and speed, he'd surely be a 2 star prospect at the very least.

Quick Hits:  Cole was the District 1-5A MVP and also the MVP of the El Paso Senior All Star Game.

Roy Robertson | Defensive End | South Grand Prairie (Grand Prairie, TX)
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6' 5" / 240 lbs/ 4.62

Rankings:
- ESPN:  Not graded
- Rivals: 3*/  5.6 rating, #60 DE Prospect
- Scout: 3*/  #151 DE prospect

Signed.  Robertson is a Miner.

Notes:  Robertson is a pass rushing force out of a celebrated Texas high school program.  He had offers from Texas Tech and Minnesota among others.  He has the potential to have an NFL frame at defensive end if he continues to add muscle mass.  UTEP simply didn't have anything resembling a pass rush in 2010.  While UTEP has some promising sophomores returning at DE, but Robertson has the natural talent to compete.  Since he won't join the team until the fall, a redshirt is possible, but if he has a productive summer in the weightroom, he could see the field in 2011.

Tyrone Darling | Linebacker | Seguin  HS (Arlington, TX)

 

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6' 0" / 220 lbs   Commitment Story

Rankings:
- ESPN:  2*/ 68 Rating/ # 83 ILB Prospect
- Rivals: 2*/ 5.3 rating
- Scout: 2*/ #64 MLB prospect

Verbal Commitment

Notes:  Darling was recruited by linebackers coach Robert Rodriguez and was one of the kids UTEP spotted at their satellite recruiting camps.  Scout.com said of "Darling:  At times he is aggressive and charges and blows up plays. Other times he is tentative and indecisive. He makes a lot of plays but when he is indecisive it is after a pickup of several yards. When he plays hard he makes tackles in the backfield. Really can hit hard when he attacks."

With the right kind of coach. like say Coach Rod, I think Tyrone can be a really good player for UTEP.

 

Shane Huhn | Safety | Steele HS (Cibolo, TX)
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6' 0'/ 185 lbs/  | Commitment Story 

Rankings:

- ESPN:  2*/ 73 Rating/ # 123 S Prospect
- Rivals: 2*/5.1 Rating
- Scout: 2*/ #138 S Prospect

Signed.  Huhn is a UTEP Miners.

Notes: Huhn played for Texas powerhouse Cibolo Steele High School.  National recruiting guru Jeff Howe said Huhn is "a good ffootball player who has the size to play weakside linebacker."  He added that Huhn "looks like a good fit as an OSS in a 4-2-5" and that "he's not going to blow you away with his measurables but he'll bring it every snap."

Huhn sounds like a versatile athlete.  We'll see where he ends up playing at UTEP, but I'd guess the Miners will keep him at safety, which was another position that was decimated by graduation.

Quick Hits:  Huhn is a native El Pasoan who won a State Championship with Steele.  He's one of 8 SHS players who will sign with FBS schools today.  Check out this profile of Shane from a San Antonio TV station.

Gage Sharp | Safety | The Colony HS (The Colony, TX)
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5' 11" / 185 lbs/ 

Rankings:
- ESPN:  Not graded.
- Rivals: Not graded.
- Scout: Not graded.

Signed LOI.  Sharp is a UTEP Miners.

Notes:  Sharp is one of those prospects that managed to go unseen by the national recruiting agencies.  To be perfectly honest, I can't give an assessment of him because there is no video of him available either.  I know he plays safety and that's about it.

Trint Jenkins | Offensive Tackle | Victory Christian HS (Tulsa, OK)

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Photo Courtesy of the Jenkins Family, all rights reserved.

6'9" / 327 lbs/  Videos [1Commitment Story

Rankings:
- ESPN:  2* 69 grade, #182 OT Prospect
- RivalsNot graded.
- Scout: 2*

Signed:  Jenkins is a Miner.

Notes: Jenkins improved tremendously between his junior and senior years of high school. He obviously has all the size in the world.  He played both tackle spots in high school (and moonlighted on defense and as a kick blocking specialist as well).  Is it possible that Trint could play some defense?  I see no reason why he couldn't be used to block kicks on special teams.  His size gives UTEP options.

Jenkins was able to use his size to dominate at the high school level, but size alone won't be enough in Conference USA.  If he continues to work hard, he has potential to be a steal for UTEP's coaching staff.

Trey Brown | Linebacker | Lancaster HS (Lancaster, TX)
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6' 1" / 210lbs/ 4.65  Video with his Commitment Story

Rankings:
- ESPN: 3*/78 grade/ Ranked the #52 OLB Prospect
- Rivals: 2*/ 5.3 rating
- Scout:  2*

Signed.  Trey Brown is a Miner.

Notes:  Trey chose UTEP over offers from C-USA rivals Memphis and Houston.  He generated recruiting interest from the likes of Oklahoma and Tennessee and at one point was ranked the 78th best prospect in the state of Texas by Rivals.com. Texas Digest  ($) wrote a sparkling story on Brown after he led Lancaster in tackles as a sophomore.

Brown played in a 4-3 defense at Lancaster.  ESPN wrote this about Trey:  "Brown is an active player in space who is capable of covering a lot of ground with his athleticism and speed; possesses good size for the outside linebacker position at the major level of competition."

Sounds good to me.

Mike Edwards | Wide Receiver | Mt. San Antonio College (Walnut, CA)
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6' 0" / 180lbs/4/5  Videos [1]

Rankings:
- ESPN: Does not rate JC prospects.
Rivals: 2*/ 5.4 rating 
Scout:  2*

Signed LOI.

Notes:   The first bit of good news for UTEP coaches as Mt. San Antonio wide receiver Michael Edwards has signed with UTEP.  Edwards was a highly productive receiver on Mt. SAC's JC National Championship team.  He was, of course, teammates with incoming JC quarterback Nick Lamaison and left tackle James Martin.  Lamaison told KROD among others that he was actively recruiting Edwards to join him in El Paso.  As a sophomore at Mt. SAC Edwards caught 69 balls for 1267 yards.  He had 13 touchdowns.  

Kishon Sanders | Wide Receiver | La Salle HS (Pasadena, CA)

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6' 2" / 180lbs/ 5.24 Videos [1]

Rankings:
- ESPN:  Not rated.
- Rivals: Not rated.
Scout:  Not rated.

Signed LOI.

Notes:   Kishon Sanders, a 6'2 WR/DB from La Salle in Pasadena has signed with UTEP.  More on Kishon in a bit.

Derrick Morgan | Defensive Back | Clarksville/Cabrillo JC  (Germantown, MD)


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Photo is Courtesy of the Santa Cruz Sentinel






6' 0" / 195 lbs/ 4.5 Videos [1] [2]

Rankings:
- ESPN:  Not rated.
- Rivals: Not rated.
Scout:  Not rated.

Signed.  Morgan is a Miner.

Notes:   UTEP has received a signed LOI from JUCO DB Derrick Morgan.  Morgan tore his ACL as a senior in high school but rehabbed nicely and finished fourth on the Cabrillo JC team in tackles as a freshman.  Morgan played free safety at Cabrillo.  In 2010, he had 87 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 INT, and was first team all conference.  

 

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