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UTEP Football: QB Competition Takes Center Stage in First Spring Practice

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Some rust, some big plays, and plenty of speed showed out in day one.

The biggest position battle on UTEP's depth chart is the quarterback race which for the second time in as many seasons, it will feature a three-way battle for the starting job.

Monday's first practice of the spring featured plenty of individual work, some 7-on-7 periods, and a team period, but no pads and contact were allowed in day one.  Even though no physicality was on display, the coaches got a good look at all three quarterbacks.

"I saw some good plays made on both sides of the ball." Sean Kugler said.  "Some mistakes were made on both sides of the ball, we'll correct that.  They'll get back in the playbook, I think we have three very capable quarterbacks."

For what it's worth, Mack Leftwich took the first snaps in 7-on-7, and in team work, but the reps were split up evenly as the practice went on, and will continue that way the rest of the spring.

"I told the group this morning, all three of them have started for us, all three have won games." Kugler said of the quarterbacks.  "It's going to be an open competition with the new system."

The main things Kugler is looking for is the overall understanding of the system, managing personnel substitutions and the clock.  But more importantly making plays on third downs and in the red zone.

"They'll get equal reps." Kugler said.  "There may be some days where one gets more than the other, but at the end of the day they'll all get equal reps because we have to give them a fair opportunity to be evaluated."

With equal reps comes a very close battle, something that was shown on Monday with each quarterback having negative, and positive moments.

Ryan Metz was solid overall, Kavika Johnson looks to have improved his arm strength, and Mack Leftwich shook off a slow start and ended practice strong in the team period.

"Just a lot of studying, meetings, and watching film." Mack Leftwich said of the process of picking up the new offense.  "Right off the bat the terminology is completely different, you will maybe see a little bit more creativity in this offense."

Long ways until a starter is even close to being named, but you can still see plenty of improvement is needed not only from the quarterbacks, but from the skill guys as the offense continues to get a feel for Brent Pease's system.

Defense shows off speed

If there was one thing that stood out from Monday's workout is the speed of UTEP's secondary.

Now everyone looks fast running around in shorts, but UTEP's corners, and safeties did a great job ball hawking, and in coverage, from 7-on-7 to team periods.

"The new defense is really easy compared to last year." Gino Bresolin said.  "The objective is to just to make everything simple so we can play fast."

While the defense showed some simple base looks, the potential of adding different variables from the spring to fall could make UTEP's defense tough to prepare, and execute against.

"With one thing, we can add ten more things based off one front, so it's very versatile." Bresolin said.

Silas Firstley showed off some cover, and lateral ability at outside linebacker.   Brian Madenzium looked sharp at defensive end, and Kalon Beverly, and Nik Needham each recorded interceptions in 7-on-7 and in team periods.

"We just get to play faster." Bresolin said. "We don't have to think about everything at one time, it just one direction.  It's a super easy defense."

Random notes

Aaron Jones was running, and doing conditioning work on the side along with defensive end Luke Elsner.

Wide receiver Terry Juniel, and safety Devin Cockrell were full participants in Monday's workout.

UTEP showed a few instances of some high tempo offensive looks in a few segments.

Metz hooked up with Tyler Batson for a long TD play, Leftwich also found Cole Freytag on a long TD play, both were during the team periods.

Bresolin was working at long snapper on field goal attempts, and Cooper Foster was long snapping punts.