March 12, 2012
Mike Price is living a charmed life in El Paso. Apparently, only at UTEP can a coach guide his team to six consecutive losing seasons, yet still remain on the payroll. Price, though, might finally be running out of good fortune. Although he was brought back for another season, 2012 represents the final year of his contract. In athletic director speak, that’s code for win now or else. Do the Miners boast enough overall talent to get over the hump and back to the postseason in order to salvage the jobs of the current staff?
On paper, it doesn’t appear so. While seven players earned honorable mention All-Conference USA or better in 2011, just two are back in West Texas, P Ian Campbell and C Eloy Atkinson. UTEP is sorely lacking in star power on both sides of the line, pressuring the JUCO and high school newcomers to get out of the blocks quickly.
- A lot of the Miners’ success in 2012 will hinge on the health of QB Nick Lamaison. His live arm and moxie were offset a year ago by nagging injuries.
- The graduations of three seniors, Joe Banyard, Vernon Frazier and Leilyon Myers, have left the program in a bit of a quandary at running back. Sophomores Nathan Jeffrey, Josh Bell and LaQuintus Dowell have battled all spring, a precursor of what’s to come in August.
- Although it might not impact the final score of too many games this fall, UTEP will be more competitive because of the play of its special teams. Campbell and Dakota Warren form what might be the best kicking duo in the conference.
- Seven starters have departed from a Miners D that’s perennially leaky. Ouch. Lamaison might need to be downright prolific through the air just to keep his team within striking distance in shootouts.
- While last year’s O-line returns virtually intact, it must do a better job of keeping the pocket clean. If the Miners are once again near the bottom of the league in pass protection, the quarterbacks won’t have the time needed to check down, and find an open Jordan Leslie or Mike Edwards.
The Entire 2012 Recruiting Class Top 5 UTEP Recruits To Care About
Player writeups by Scout.com
1 . DT Devontae Richardson 6-2, 292, Scout.com 95th ranked, three-star defensive tackle.
2. CB Dashone Smith 5-11, 185, Scout.com 100th ranked, three-star corner.
3. RB Paul Franklin 6-1, 200, Scout.com 106th ranked, three-star running back.
4. CB DaCarlos Renfro 5-10, 175, Scout.com 107th ranked, three-star cornerback.
5. WR MeKale McKay 6-4, 190, Scout.com three-star receiver.
The 2012 Class Was Heavy On...
The Miners have loaded up for the passing game over the past few classes, but the defense needs to finally be addressed a bit more with a talent upgrade. Mike Price went after linemen in 2009, and he’s going to do it again with prospects mostly for the defensive interior.
Team Concerns For 2012:
Linebacker. The UTEP starting three are gone and linebacker is going to be a glaring issue in 2013. It’s going to take a few recruiting classes to improve the front seven, but more than anything else, the team needs bodies. The depth has to be improved across the board while hoping for some of the recruiting classes from the last few seasons to provide the offensive pop.
Looking Ahead To The 2012 Season:
Another year, another collapse over the second half of the season. The Miners have just enough talent returning to hope to finally come up with a more even season, but it all has to start on stopping the run with even thought the entire starting linebacking corps is gone and five are gone from the front seven. Throw in the loss of two starters in the secondary and the D is going to have some issues. The offense needs more from a line that didn’t do anything in pass protection, but four starters are back. The quarterback situation has to be settled between Nick Lamaison and Carson Meger, and a new runner has to take over with the three top backs gone. Punter Ian Campbell should be among the nation's best.