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UTEP football: Offense improves in final scrimmage, Ishmael Harrison to miss significant portion of the season

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The offense showed great strides in today's scrimmage, but a major injury ended up being the big news from the final scrimmage of camp.

UTEP's offense scored seven times in the red-zone, while greatly cleaning up the drops, and penalties in the final scrimmage of camp on Saturday morning.

The quarterbacks went a combined 24-for-48 in the workout for 231 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions.

Kavika Johnson had the best day out of all of the quarterbacks, finishing 8/14 for 98 yards adding two impressive red-zone touchdown passes on the day, the talented freshman also ran for another two touchdown scores.

Johnson completed a jaw dropping 20-yard threaded-and-needled bullet to Jaquan White out of the new Wild Miner look highlighting his impressive showing.

Mack Leftwich went 8/18 for 71 yards, while Garrett Simpson had a short day after only one drive due to an ankle injury.

"Overall not a bad day", Mack Leftwich said, "Unfortunately we came out a little slow we would like to start faster, but I was proud of the way we bounced back and responded."

Leftwich again ran with the first team offense, while Simpson's drive came with the two's.

Simpson was exceptionally sharp in his lone drive of the day.  Shredding the defense and going 4/5 for 45 yards, all while finishing the drive off with a 16-yard strike to Cole Freytag for a score.

He rolled his right ankle while celebrating the score, and had an ice pack on it the rest of practice, Kugler confidently indicated Simpson should be back on Tuesday when a starter is expected to be named.

Overall its was a very efficient scrimmage from an offensive stand point, but the defense did have it's share of moments as well, particularly in the early move the ball segment.

"It was a good scrimmage, got some move the ball the segments in which I felt the defense won two out of the three." Head coach Sean Kugler said. "Red-zone, the offense was outstanding they were on fire, all three groups. All the quarterbacks produced down there."

The offensive line was once again on point as the offense ran for 180 yards on 37 carries led by walk-on running back TK Powell who led all rushers with 57 yards and a touchdown run.

UTEP's receiving corps had a strong bounce back day from last Sunday's scrimmage led by freshman Warren Redix who hauled in four catches for 51 yards.  Junior Jaquan White added three catches good for 58 yards and a touchdown.

"The key was just being on the same page, and everyone just doing their job," Jaquan White said of the passing game success in the scrimmage. "When everybody gets back healthy we're going to give people a run for their money, we have so many athletes that it's crazy."

I counted maybe one drop on the day if any at all, and even Cedrick Lang was also productive in short yard situations with 2 catches for 15 yards, each resulting in a first down in where moving the chains was the main goal in both situations.

"Cedrick Lang is coming along at a rapid rate," Kugler said of the 6'9 tight end. "Even this past week his growth has been outstanding."

The quarterbacks did a very good and efficient job of spreading the ball around to UTEP's deep skill positions with the diversity of play calling and different packages in the red-zone also helping the offense execute.  The offense only gave up one turnover which ended up being the final play of the scrimmage.

"Just being diverse, we've always wanted to be diverse," Kugler said of the offense's execution in the red-zone. "I think personnel wise we have the guys who can do that.   All those guys were making plays today."

While UTEP's offense shined in portions, the defense will have to battle through another tough blow due to injury in the secondary.

Senior defensive back Ishmael Harrison could miss a good chunk of the season, and even possibly the entire season according to coach Kugler.   Harrison joins fellow starter and all-conference candidate Devin Cockrell on the unfortunate injury shelf for 2015.

"I'm sick about Ish because he had such an outstanding camp, maybe as good as anybody on the defense, and he is going to be out for while, potentially the year," Sean Kugler said.

"It's a shame, I love the kid and he did such a great job, but next man up has got to as good of a job, or a better job"

The young freshmen who will replace Harrison wasted no time in responding to the news with a strong showing in the scrimmage.

Kalon Beverly was a blanket with dreads in coverage, and finished the day with nine tackles, and a sack that ended practice in where he also forced a fumble, and recovered the loose ball on the same play.

Harrison's replacement at safety appears to be red-shirt freshman Adrian Hynson who had five tackles today working mainly out of the safety spot, fellow freshman defensive back Michael Lewis also saw a lot of snaps in the scrimmage.

Hynson, the highly touted, and versatile defensive back from Corpus Christi says he is ready for his opportunity to finally see the field in a high volume role.

"Felt like we did good day, everyone was doing their job," Hynson said.  "Like Kugler says its the next man, it is a big step up but I feel like I'm going to be ready, the coaches are getting me ready and this camp really did help me out."

Linebacker Jimmy Musgrave was all over the place once again with four tackles, Kelvin Fisher Jr. added three tackles and a pass break up to pace the hard hitting defense who dished out a few nice hits on the day.

Both defensive ends, Nick Usher, and Roy Robertson-Harris each had a tackle for loss in the just under two hour workout on the Glory Road practice field.

A strong scrimmage like Saturday's is a perfect way to end what was an overall productive, and uber competitive camp for UTEP.

With breakout stars, new packages with deep personnel behind them, and UTEP's recruiting depth being on full display as the main takeaways,  the Miners now shift to full out preparation for Arkansas.

"Very pleased with the progress we've made on both sides of the ball," Sean Kugler said, "Just like our entire camp there has been great give and take, good physicality, didn't seem to be a lot of errors and penalties, but all in all a good scrimmage to wrap up a good camp. "

"We're going to evaluate this one hard just like have with all of our practices, and when we start on Tuesday we're going to begin our preparation for Arkansas."