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Report: UTEP Pulls Scholarship Offers from Two California Commits (Updated)

With National Signing Day approaching on February 2, the UTEP Miners may have found themselves in an awkward position.  It seems the Miners may have more incoming recruits who have committed to UTEP than scholarships available for them.  Consequently, UTEP coaches are now reportedly pulling scholarship offers from at least two verbal commits and instead asking them to grayshirt during the Fall 2011 semester. 

What is a grayshirt?  What it basically means is that a recruit will sign with a school next week on signing day but won't actually join the team until January, 2012.  Usually, a student who grayshirts will attend a community college (or pay their own way at the school) for the fall semester until their scholarship kicks in the next semester.  A student's scholarship offer will be honored, just a semester later than usual.  A player who grayshirts obviously can't practice with the team in the fall semester.  

The NCAA five-year clock doesn't begin until the player enrolls as a full time student, so gray-shirting is a delayed form of red-shirting.

Fred Robledo of the San Gabriel Valley Tribune is reporting that UTEP's coaches have asked a pair of Baldwin Park High School UTEP commits, Wardell Crutchfield and Demetrius Jackson, to grayshirt next season.  According to the report, UTEP has pulled their scholarship offers from the recruits just over a week before signing day.  Crutchfield and Jackson were sequentially the 2nd and 3rd commitments of the 2011 class and both verbally committed to UTEP in August of last year.  Jackson is a cornerback prospect and Crutchfield plays outside linebacker.

Also, note that Felix Chavez of the El Paso Times is reporting that Cole Freytag, who committed to UTEP yesterday, will grayshirt at UTEP next fall.  Chavez notes that Freytag will attend UTEP part-time in the fall before joining the team in the fall 2012 semester.  Fretyag, obviously, committed after knowing he would grayshirt.  

UTEP's recent junior college recruiting binge has undoubtedly played a part in these new developments.  Mike Price has commitments from seven junior college transfers (some of whom have already signed) and is reportedly recruiting at least one more (Mt. SAC receiver Mike Edwards).  Darren Woodard is a cornerback and Josh Fely and A.J. Ropati are both linebackers.  So, UTEP's need for players that can contribute immediately may be causing the Miners to seek the grayshirts while gambling that their high school recruits won't sign elsewhere a week before signing day.

Ideally, UTEP will build a program with high school talent like Crutchfield and Jackson.  They can redshirt, learn the system, hopefully improve and contribute for 3-4 years.  Last season, UTEP had a lot of success with their junior college signee, cornerback Travaun Nixon, who was an All C-USA selection in his first season as a Miner.  Mike Price has never been shy about signing JUCO players and many of them, like Nixon, have contributed immediately and effectively. 

It's unfortunate, if its true,  that these athletes were told that UTEP was "pulling" their offers so closely to signing day.  Sadly, it's part of the recruiting business as we know it today.  I'm sure that many other schools will be forced to take similar steps and I'd bet that many would not extend the grayshirt offer like UTEP has.

Robledo notes that Jackson has already visited Stony Brook and San Diego University and will visit Portland State this weekend.  Crutchfield has visited Georgetown and San Diego as well.  We'll know next week if UTEP will manage to hang onto both prospects, via the grayshirt, or if they will move on.  Either way,I;m sure that Miner fans will root for them to both succeed wherever they play..  

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