The Best Player Will Play.
With Camp Socorro looming with an August 4, 2010, start date, the Miners have finally released a post spring depth chart (full depth chart available here). There have been some surprising movements, especially on defense.
First, Jeremy Springer, who started 12 games last season at MLB has been bumped by junior Jamie Irving. Last season's All-Conference USA Freshman selection at safety, DeShawn Grayson, seemed like a lock to stop backing up Braxton Amy and move along side him in the starting rotation. Rather, he enters fall camp behind veteran Brandon Miller. Also on defense, Anthony Morrow, who has 22 career starts at linebacker enters fall camp behind Isaiah Carter. So, under Andre Patterson we can see clearly that he will play the guys that best fit his 4-3 scheme. Last year? Doesn't matter anymore.
With camp coming up, the Rush thinks its about time we rank UTEP's biggest positional battles, the ones where the competition should be most fierce.
The Stage Is Set: Counting Down the Top 5 Fall Camp Positional Battles
#5: Anthony McNac vs. Tanner Cullumber vs. Eloy Atkinson at Center and Guard
Here's the deal. If McNac can step in at left guard, it allows UTEP to keep veteran Tanner Cullumber at center. The problem is, Cullumber's backup Eloy Atkinson was so good last season in relief, that he may force the coaches to move Cullumber over to guard, relegating McNac to the bench. UTEP's offensive line is very strong on the right side, with veterans Rod Huntley and Alex Solot returning, but McNac's and Atkinson's play in fall camp might be the most important development to watch, because if McNac looks shaky, it could lead to two changes in the lineup. The coaches have to find the right combination of players along the left side of the line, and fast.
#4: Isaiah Carter vs. Anthony Morrow for Will Linebacker
Anthony Morrow who started twelve games in 2008 and six more in 2009, enters fall camp behind junior Isaiah Carter. Carter missed the entire ‘09 season while concentrating on academics, played in 22 of 24 games from 2007-08 and tallied 42 tackles. Morrow finished 11th on the team last season with 30 tackles.
#3: Jamie Irving vs. Jeremy Springer at Middle Linebacker
Was this the biggest shock on the depth chart? Last years starter at middle linebacker Jeremy Springer is listed as #2 behind Jamie Irving. Springer came seeimingly out of nowhere last season for the Miners and was consistent, starting all 12 games. Springer finished 4th on the team with 66 total tackles (25 solo, 41 assisted). Irving was sidelined for five contests last season wiith a concussion.
It's clear that playing MLB in the 3-3-5 is a lot different than doing it in the 4-3. We'll see how this plays out in Socorro. The MLB in a 4-3 is usually the quarterback of the defense, a leader, and it will be great to see how Springer reacts in camp. I expect a fierce competition for the #1 spot.
#2: Brandon Miller vs. DeShawn Grayson at Free Safety
Another surprise is that 2009 C-USA All Freshman selection DeShawn Grayson is listed as #2 on the depth chart behind senior Brandon Miller. Last season, grayson had double digit tackles in two games, 14 against Houston and 10 versus Tulsa. He averaged 6.6 tackles per game. Recall that Grayson backed up Braxton Amy last season and started 5 games when Amy suffered an injury. It looks like he has moved over to free safety, as Amy plays strong safety, in the 4-3 scheme.
#1: Will Osolinsky vs. Evbuowman in the Battle for Left Tackle
Who's got Trevor Vittatoe's blind side? The left tackle has become the most scrutinized and attacked position on the offensive line and two stellar athletes are fighting it out to be the #1 guy. Both Osolinsky, who began last season as the starter at right tackle before suffering an injury (which paved the way for Alex Solot to seize the spot) and Lance are seniors. Lance was a highly sought tight end recruit who began his career at Arizona State before coming to UTEP via the JC route.