UTEP returns about 43 players on both sides of the ball who are sophomores or older, including quarterbacks, who have seen legit playing time over the past two seasons under Sean Kugler. Thus making it a little hard to predict which freshman will make an immediate impact in 2015 with so many proven upperclassmen returning.
Sean Kugler will have an estimated 32 freshmen on scholarship, 14 of which took a red-shirt or gray-shirt in 2014. With so much front-line depth returning in 2015, it appears the total freshman class of 41 roster spots will be able to develop behind some established starters meaning Kugler has a program going guys.
So which true-freshman breaks out ala Aaron Jones, Devin Cockrell, etc...and which red-shirt freshman cracks the two deep?
Kalon Beverly, 6'1, 175, DB, True Freshman
UTEP fans may not realize how much of a steal Beverly was on National Signing Day, but in three to four years from now Beverly could be the best recruit Kugler has signed to date. The kid has mid-to-low level P5 speed and talent, and should provide UTEP with depth in 2015 at the corner spot. The highly touted corner from New Orleans has track star speed, and his can't miss length will give UTEP an-unknown-to-the-C-USA cover guy who can make a major impact as a true freshman.
Treyvon Hughes, 6'1, 225, RB, Freshman (GS)
With the apparent departure of sophomore-to-be running back David Hamm, Hughes' importance to the UTEP offense grew to new heights from the beginning of June. Hughes had a great spring, and appeared to be just a step behind Hamm for the second running back spot based off the quality of reps in the spring. Hughes told me back in the spring he learned a lot about the mental part of the game in his gray-shirt year, expect Hughes and Aaron Jones to headline an insanely deep backfield this year.
Mookie Carlile, 6'1, 200, Safety, Red-shirt freshman
He just looks like a prototypical, play making hard hitting safety. Tall, long, can cover ground quickly with long smooth strides, and the guy can lay straight wood on a ball carrier with some power. Carlile will probably start the season either second or third on the depth chart at possibly multiple safety positions. But as the practice reps pile up in Ruidoso, his play making ability will show, and it would be hard to keep his talent off the field for long periods of time.
Christopher Misaalefua, 6'5, 355, OL, Red-shirt freshman
This isn't hyping him up, or selling wolf tickets through Orange and Blue goggles, there is no way Misaalefua goes unnoticed by NFL scouts once he puts together three or four season's worth of game film at UTEP. That's pretty bold to say even though the kid hasn't even taken an official snap, but the kid has NFL look at me size, superb athleticism to compliment that elite size, and the Kugler approved nastiness. I would imagine UTEP already has jumbo packages built with Misaalefua heavily involved this coming season. He can play inside or outside along the offensive line, and could become one of the best offensive lineman to EVER suit up in the Sun Bowl for the Orange and Blue. #BoldStatement(s)
Nik Needham, 5'11, 185, DB, Red-shirt freshman
Needham was the spring game star with two interceptions in situation work, and looks to see plenty of time in the mix in UTEP's young secondary. "I just been working everyday," Needham said at the end of spring ball, "Last year being in the shadows I was just watching trying to learn, but this year I'm getting in the mix and making plays." Expect a handful more of plays made by the highly touted defensive back from California.
Warren Redix, 5'10, 185, WR, Freshman (GS)
Redix also had a strong spring game, and worked with mainly the second and third string in an overall strong spring showing. When talking about the wide receiver battles a few weeks ago, Kugler did not count out the speedy El Pasoan, which tells me a strong fall camp could mean a legit spot on the depth chart come September. He and Ryan Metz showed great chemistry, leaving the question of will a breakout receiver help a quarterback win the quarterback competition? Redix has the ability to be that guy.
Kavika Johnson, 6'1 205, ATH, True Freshman
Yes Johnson was recruited to be quarterback, but the recent comment of using Johnson is other capacities by Sean Kugler has me listing Johnson as an offensive athlete until the final depth chart is set in stone. His foot work in the pocket is that of an established college quarterback, as is his pocket awareness. Elite play making ability via his game film is the reason if the quarterback position does not work out this coming camp, you can bet we will see Johnson in some sort of a slash role in 2015. But I would put him right in the thick of the quarterback race heading into Ruidoso until further notice.
Stephen Forester-RS Freshman, LB
Adrian Hynson-RS Freshman, DB
Ryan Metz-RS Freshman, QB
Augie Touris, RS Freshman, TE
Justen Tatum, RS Freshman, LB