We are roughly 50 days away from the September 1st kickoff against Oklahoma, and with that, I figured it was time to take a look at the projected starters and depth charts for the UTEP football team. We'll go ahead and break that up into two segments: Offense, and Defense/Special Teams. This week, we'll be looking at the offense.
First up, is the quarterback spot. Of course, senior Nick Lamaison will be leading the way for the Miners. The 6'1 210 lb QB out of West Covina, CA is now in his second year at UTEP. Last year, as a junior, Lamaison was in and out of the lineup due to injuries, but showed plenty in his time on the field.
In 2011, Lamaison went 130 of 224 (58%) for 1718 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. He finished the year with a QB rating of 131.2. While his numbers aren't absolutely stellar, a lot of that can be attributed to his lack of protection. On the season, he was sacked 19 times. Hopefully that number will be greatly reduced in 2012.
The depth chart, I'm sure, isn't exactly set in stone, but here's what we are projecting:
Up next are the running backs. In 2011, our rushing attack was a major strength for our offense, but after graduating our three top backs, we will need to figure out how to fill those voids in a hurry. The top returning back, and projected no. 1 is sophomore Nathan Jeffrey.
Last year, Jeffrey rushed 26 times for a total of 166 yards and one touchdown. While he didn't get the ball a ton, he showed flashes of brilliance on occasion. Against NMSU, he rushed 5 times for 48 yards, and had similar performances in games against Tulane (4 for 43), and South Florida (6 for 39).
Jeffrey also caught 10 passes for 124 yards and two scores. Overall, he held an average of 6.4 yards a carry, and 12.4 yards a reception. The only other returning back who had a carry last year is fellow sophomore Josh Bell (3 carries for 4 yards). Here's the projected depth chart at RB:
- Nathan Jeffrey
- Josh Bell
- Laquintas Dowell/Paul Franklin/Autrey Golden
On to the wide receivers. Returning from 2011, are two of Nick Lamaison's top targets: senior Mike Edwards and sophomore Jordan Leslie. Edwards, who also transferred with Lamaison from Mt. San Antonio College (CA), was UTEP's leading receiver in 2011. He hauled in 50 catches for 657 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Leslie, in his freshman year, was the third leading receiver for the Miners, just behind senior Donovan Kemp. Leslie had 30 grabs, for 430 yards and two scores. Only two other Miners who recorded catches last year are back in 2012: Malcolm Trail (3 for 16) and Devin Patterson (1 for 12).
Here's a projected depth chart at wide receiver (keep in mind the top 2-3 receivers are considered starters):
- Mike Edwards
- Jordan Leslie
- Malcolm Trail
- Ishmael Harrison
- Devin Patterson
Also returning from 2011, are the Miners' top three tight ends. Kevin Perry, who caught 17 balls for 203 yards and a score, will likely be the top tight end to begin the season. But, Eric Tomlinson (6 for 83, 2 TDs), and Craig Wenrick (4 for 103, 2 TDs) should also be getting significant playing time as well.
Here is the projected tight end depth chart:
- Kevin Perry
- Eric Tomlinson
- Craig Wenrick
- Katrae Ford
Last, but certainly not least for the Miner offense, will be the line. This unit suffered tons of injuries in 2011, and the spring of 2012 wasn't much different. The bad news in 2011 was that the lack of stability within this unit, due to injury, meant very inconsistent play.
On the other hand, because of those injuries, many key reserves were thrust into the starting lineup, and gained some very useful experience. Thus, this unit will turn out to be the most experienced groups that the offense has.
From left to right, the starting offensive line looks like this: LG - Brander Craighead, LT - Jerel Watkins, C - Eloy Atkinson, RT - Kyle Brown, and RG - James Nelson. But, considering the injuries, guys like James Robinson, James Martin, and Paul Santillan should be ready a moments' notice.
The success of the Miners' offensive unit will rely heavily on the play of the line. Last year, Nick Lamaison showed his ability, but because of a lack of protection he was unable to stay healthy, and the team as a whole suffered. If we want to see our Miners in a bowl game this year, the offensive line will have to be much improved from a year ago.
From QB Nick Lamaison to his top two receivers, and from an explosive sophomore tailback to an experienced offensive line, this group certainly has got some great pieces to work with. Of course, there is more to it than just having the talent, and the offense will have to put it all together quickly for a successful 2012.