In The Dig: It's Gameweek and this Dig is jam packed with UTEP and C-USA information. Some local products earn their stripes, several Miners are in (and out) of NFL Camps, and there are a lot of fresh faces in the C-USA. Hell, we even get a cameo from Arnett Moultrie. Is is Saturday yet?
The Hot Seat: It's that time of the year again. Time for every national sports writer to try and guess which college coach will be fired after (or during) this season. ESPN's Mark Schlabach is looking El Paso's way.
The Miners lost six of their last seven games in 2010, including a 52-24 loss to BYU in the New Mexico Bowl. Price has a 40-45 record in seven seasons at UTEP, and his teams haven't won more than six games in each of the past five seasons. His contract at UTEP runs through 2012, but lagging attendance -- the Miners' average home attendance was 29,350 in 2010, a 38.7 percent drop from 2005 -- has sounded alarms.
No Expectations? The UTEP Miners were picked to finish dead last in the C-USA this season. Mike Price believes the QB transition from Trevor Vittatoe to Nick Lamaison may have many doubting the Miners.
"We're picked there because we only have a couple of guys coming back as starters," Price said of an offense turning over at nine positions. "For the first time in seven years we have a new quarterback, that has something to do with it. And somebody has to be last. It's hard to project these kinds of things when you haven't seen the team play, especially when we have new players.
He wasn't. Price summoned Scott into his office to hell him he was no longer a walk-on, that he needed to sign some papers to get a scholarship for his senior year.
Miner TV: The UTEP Athletics department has tons of new content on their Youtube page. They've done a great job adding player profiles and of course daily video from Mike Price's post-practice press comments.
A Word from the AD: UTEP Athletic Director Bob Stull is back to posting weekly articles in El Paso, Inc. UTEP is branding UTEP's zero week game at "Staycation Weekend." Can this win most depressing marketing campaign ever?
There are a lot of great promotions in place for our opener. The theme is "Staycation Weekend," and we’re encouraging our fans to stay in town and be a part of UTEP football for the holiday weekend. Ticket prices for the game are only $10, $15 and $20.
Tough News for TV: The Chicago Bears released ex-UTEP quarterback Trevor Vittatoe Monday.
Lets Go Q! Ex-UTEP safety Quintin Demps is fighting for a roster spot with the Houston Texans.
No Palmer in Cinci: Jordan Palmer was released by the Cincinnati Bengals.
But the undrafted rookie from UTEP has impressed me as well. He looked good in the preseason opener against the Bills, catching a team-high three passes for a game-high 58 yards. He followed with a nice one-handed grab along the right sideline in Wednesday’s practice.
The REC: UTEP has a new and improved student rec center. It sounds amazing.
The new state-of-the-art gym includes an indoor 1/8-mile running track, multiple levels devoted to free weights and cardiovascular equipment, a 12,000-square-foot hardwood floor, an indoor soccer court, a recreational area for a future juice bar or food vendor, fully equipped locker rooms, and most noticeably, a "one-of-a-kind" climbing wall, according to Brian Carter, associate director for recreational sports.
Random Hoops Notes
What Might Have Been: Ex- Miner hooper Arnett Moultrie earned a glowing profile from Yahoo! Sports' Jason King. He's going to be a game changer at Missisippi State.
A 6-foot-10 transfer from Texas-El Paso, Moultrie averaged team-highs in points (16.8) and rebounds (11.2) during the Bulldogs’ five-game exhibition tour of Europe earlier this month. Half of the 56 rebounds Moultrie snared on the trip came on the offensive end, and he posted double-doubles in four of his team’s five games.
Wolf(ram) in Town: Ex-UTEP hoops stud Brandon Wolfram is back in the 915 and he's trying to fix your credit. Seriously.
With professional basketball behind him, Wolfram, 32, is now making his mark in the credit recovery business. He started Credit Development Solutions last year and will soon be changing the name to West Texas Credit Advisors – a move he hopes will broaden his business appeal. "When I came back to El Paso and was looking for job, there was not much available," Wolfram said. "I was introduced into this field and decided to run with it."
Coaches on Coaches: The C-USA Network has some nice interviews with the leagues coaches. Check it out here.
The Guide: The league office also has an electronic media guide. Check out 44 pages of C-USA love here.
The Houston Cougars
Is Case Keenum a Doctor Yet? ESPN gives Keenum a shoutout- it seems "comebacks" are "hot."
4. Comebacks: A handful of impact players are coming back from injuries that caused them to miss all or a significant part of the 2010 season: Houston QB Case Keenum, Notre Dame QB Dayne Crist, Northwestern QB Dan Persa, Oregon State WR James Rodgers, Arkansas WR Greg Childs and Purdue RB Ralph Bolden.
Cold Case: Here is a very nice profile of Keenum from the Houston Chronicle. Keenum is a competitor.
Keenum was running the anchor leg of a 1,600-meter relay, but it's what he did at the end of the race that blew Sandifer's mind. "He and a guy were coming down the backstretch neck-and-neck, and Case got to within about 5 yards of the finish line and he dove," Sandifer said in bewilderment. "He just flat-out dove to the finish line to beat the guy.
No Dough, No Show: How sad is the Damaris Johnson story? The league loses one of their best players. TU loses their best playmaker. Oh well, we'll live.
They Could Use Him: Have you seen Tulsa's schedule? Sooners, Cowboys, Bronco's, oh my!
The Golden Hurricane, considered one of the favorites in the Conference USA race, play three top 10 teams in the first four weeks - OU, OSU and Boise State. If that isn't enough, TU also plays a conference road game in the first month.
A New Defense for Ruffin: Ruffin McNeill is moving ECU from a 4-3 to a 3-4. You have to be surprised that McNeill would abandon the system he played in and has coached for so long.
McNeill said the move from a four-man front and 4-3 alignment to the 3-4 - three linemen and four linebackers - was based on several factors. First, it fit better with the personnel on the roster. The Pirates have a surplus of linebackers, but last season injuries exposed a lack of depth along the defensive front.
Appalachian What University? ECU's athletic director thinks Appalachian State would be a logical fit to Conference USA should the league need a new member. I hope he was just being nice....
Who's the QB? The Herd will start a freshman or a sophomore against the #24 West Virginia Mountaineers on Sunday (ESPN). Well, can it really get much worse than Brian Anderson?
Holliday will choose between freshman Rakeem Cato and sophomore A.J. Graham at quarterback and freshman Travon Van and sophomore Tron Martinez at running back. Martinez started three games a year ago and played in 11, while Graham saw action in two games in a backup role.
Rough Warriors? Marshall and TU have horrific schedules early. Marshall has Virginia Tech, West Virginia, and Louisville on their slate early. Check out this stat.
Marshall (35). The Thundering Herd open against six straight 2010 bowl teams, four of them on the road. All told they play seven road games.
The Memphis Tigers
A New Starter: Last year I think we were all impressed with Memphis freshman QB Ryan Williams. The kid had the size and arm strength of a big time college QB. Well, he transferred to the Miami Hurricanes. Something tells me he will never play in a bowl game.... Anyway, sophomore Andy Summerlin is the new Tiger QB.
Summerlin, who missed last season with a shoulder injury, moved atop the depth chart in the spring after the departure of close friend and fellow Floridian Ryan Williams. Williams started 10 games as a freshman last fall but did not report to spring practice and eventually transferred to the University of Miami.
It's Always Basketball Season in Memphis: Ex-Laker Luke Walton is now an assistant basketball coach on Josh Pastner's staff. Now Pastner has him and Damon Stoudamire on his bench,
The Non-Rivalry: Memphis opens up with Mississippi State. Here's a preview of that game from SB Nations For Whom the Cowbell Tolls. History is not on the Tigers side.
Opponent: Memphis Tigers Head Coach: Larry Porter Last Year's Record: 1-11 Series History: Mississippi State Leads 32-11 Last Meeting: Mississippi State won 49-7,9/24/2010
The UAB Blazers
High Expectations: Last year I always thought Neil Callaway painted himself into a corner by constantly talking about the Blazers need to make a bowl game. Well, here we go again.
An Odd Bye: UAB us the only FBS team in the nation to not have a game in Week 1.
A Glance Up 1-10
Bobcats in Cruces: NMSU opens up against the Ohio Bobcats.
A bowl team the past two years - the Bobcats played in the New Orleans Bowl last season (48-21 loss to Troy) and the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in 2009 (21-17 loss to Marshall) - and a favored program coming out of the Mid-American Conference. Ohio returns much of their offense - led by a strong line - is unproven on defense and is good on special teams. They're a well-coached club under former Nebraska head man Frank Solich. The 7.5-point spread in Ohio's favor going into Saturday's contest tells much of the story.
Shameless Plug: Already mentioned this earlier, but if you have an iPhone, check out the Rush on the new SBNation iPhone app. It's pretty damn cool.
It's Good to be Back. Thanks so much for your patience and... Go Miners!