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UTEP football: News, notes, and injury report

Observations from Saturday's scrimmage.

Alex Nicolas

Here are some quick hit updates from Saturday's scrimmage.

Injury update

UTEP freshman safety Mookie Carlile was doing agility drills in shorts before the scrimmage and appears close to returning. UTEP is in need of another safety to return and Carlile looks to be close.

Out with injuries on Saturday were receivers Terry Juniel (foot), Brandon Moss (shoulder), Elliot Oldham (unknown), and defensive lineman Foster Dixson (finger).

The injury bug has been effecting depth at the receiver spot, and in the secondary so far to start the season.

Aaron Jones, and Alvin Jones were held out for obvious precautionary reasons, not current injury reasons.

Gray-shirt watch

UTEP's class of 2015 freshman have started to trickle into town.

Watching Saturday's scrimmage were offensive lineman Greg Long, and defensive lineman Denzel Chukwukelu.

More could be here already or on the way, we will keep our eyes out.

Johnson's big day

Everything we've seen from Kavika Johnson's high school highlights unfolded right in front of our eyes on Saturday.

The 6'1 play maker displayed his impeccable foot work, and ability to make plays off play fakes and play actions, and also drew an intangible praise from a veteran receiver.

"Kavika he's a play maker," junior wideout Jaquan White said, "When he comes out there he's a field general, he's very athletic.  So when he comes out there and he orchestrates everything and tells us what to do, we do it."

He even lined up twice at running back.

"You'll see Kavika on the field, anybody that's an athlete, and that can help us win games, you're going to see them out there," Sean Kugler said.

Johnson was effective in keeping the defense off-balanced in the red-zone and has took off in his execution and versatility out of the Wild Miner, giving UTEP something it hasn't yet under Kugler: offensive diversity.

"I just tried to go out there and contribute anyway I could," Johnson said, "My line did a great job of giving me time back there and my wide receivers ran great routes, we came up with some big plays."

Smooth offense

Not only was the offense able to move the ball, all of the substitutions and pre-snap functions were all clean, with no drop off in whoever was the quarterback.

UTEP will use a number of packages, and skill position rotations this season, but there wasn't a single pre-snap confusion or delay of game penalty, as Patrick Higgins and the quarterbacks had things in perfect order.

The offense also had zero interceptions, exchange fumbles on hand-offs. or snaps from under center, and only gave up one turnover off a high snap which ended up being the last play of practice.

"I've been pleased with the quarterbacks throughout the entire camp", Kugler said, "There hasn't been a lot of clock issues, formation issues, turnovers they have been minimal with these guys.  They have kept the interceptions down, they haven't fumbled the ball."

Metz tested

Continuing with the young talent being used in different capacities, Saturday was a de-facto test for Ryan Metz at a couple of positions, but all came in one drive.

In a four to six play segment, Metz lined up at quarterback, and at wide receiver, even getting targeted on a fade pattern toward the goal line.

During the segment Kugler jokingly asked Metz if he was tired yet, almost signaling this was not only a physical test, but a mental one too.

"Yeah he found out running those routes gets you a little more tired than just dropping back at quarterback." a smiling Sean Kugler said.

"He's got outstanding speed, he's a great athlete and much like Kavika we got to find a way to get him on the field.  He understands the route structure, he's extremely fast, he's competitive."

The Defense continues third down excellence

The offense was greatly improved from last Sunday, but the defense continued a trend that made them successful in 2014; getting off the field on third downs.

A collection of rookies and veterans made a number of stops to halt drives in the scrimmage on third down situations.

And despite the injuries in the secondary, the next man up attitude was in definite full effect in the secondary.

Freshmen Micheal Lewis  Adrian Hynson, and Kalon Beverly saw the most increase in reps with the second teams.

Beverly and Hynson combined for 15 tackles in the scrimmage, while senior Nathan Stukes also saw plenty of looks at nickel, and at strong safety.

"I think we came out and executed well," Beverly said, "I like that pressure so it can help me in my better years and I think I can handle that."

For now Beverly will stay at corner, while Lewis, Hynson, and Stukes will rotate at the safety spot along with LaQuintus Dowell,  Kelvin Fisher Jr., Trent Trammell, Traun Roberson and also Mookie Carlile once he returns.

Nik Needham and Da'Carlos Renfro were the main corners in the scrimmage with Beverly.

Linebacker depth was on display

UTEP has three "starting" linebackers per say, and a big position battle in camp has been the important fourth linebacker with a number of guys showing they can fill in that role.

Last year it was strictly four, and sometimes a five guy rotation, but this year that number could grow to seven, and maybe eight.

Freshmen Stephen Forester, Justen Tatem,  juniors Cooper Foster, and Tyler Leasau all saw significant reps with the second team and could all be in the mix for package depth.

"Cooper Foster has done an outstanding job, Forester and Tatum they've had outstanding camps," Sean Kugler said, "I feel better about about the depth at linebacker than before I went into camp."

Up Next

UTEP will take two days off on Sunday, and Monday as class starts on Monday at UTEP, then resumes practice on Tuesady in a game week like mode to prepare for September 5th's opener at Arkansas.

What we expect on Tuesday is a quarterback to named (maybe, don't be surprised if no one is named), and a more clearer picture on which freshmen will be red-shirted as the scout team jerseys will be handed out.

The team will host their annual "Fan Appreciation Day" on Friday, Aug. 28 in conjunction with the ever-popular Minerpalooza.

A pep rally that will feature the UTEP football team, men's and women's basketball teams, Marching Miners, UTEP Cheerleaders and the Golddiggers will begin at 6:45 p.m. (MT) in the P-9 parking lot (right next to Kidd Field/Sun Bowl).

After the pep rally, fans will be able to obtain autographs from their favorite football players in the Larry K. Durham Center at 7:30 p.m. Posters will be provided by UTEP Athletics and fans will be allowed to bring one extra item of their own to get signed by the athletes; the plus-one item limit will be strictly enforced.