UTEP heads to Denton to face North Texas this weekend. We reached out to Adam Martinez from Mean Green Nation to give us an inside look at the #NewDenton.
Miner Rush: First off, this North Texas turnaround is an underrated and an amazing turnaround, where did this turnaround start, and what is the programs new overall ceiling?
Adam Martinez: Well the official start was the hiring of Seth Littrell, but a seminal moment for the program (later confirmed by SL himself) was the drive to start the comeback last season against Rice.
NT had just been shut out by Florida and at that point in the previous five quarters of football has 0 points and 36 total yards of offense. The drive began with a miracle catch that saw two Rice defenders fall down on a heave into double-coverage. NT would score a TD that drive and come back to win in OT. The fans around me in Rice Stadium were beginning to wonder aloud if this guy was the right hire. By the end of the night, everyone was ecstatic.
MR: Describe Mason Fine in one word?
MR: How has Jeffery Wilson evolved his game under Graham Harrell’s offense?
AM: MGN Podcast co-host Aldo Avina says he runs harder between the tackles than in previous years. For me, Jeff Wilson has shown a lot in pass protection which is under appreciated generally.
He always caught the ball well, and showed more of it last year, but hasn’t been featured as much in the pass game this season. That is less because he can’t — he’s really good catching the ball — but because the WRs are doing a hell of a job doing that.
MR: Give me two defensive players UTEP fan should know about?
AM: Aldo says Eric Jenkins, the JUCO transfer that led the team in INTs last season. He stepped up after losing his starting gig in the offseason and has something like 4-5 pass breakups since the Southern Miss game. He’s aggressive and always noted as someone to watch by opposing secondaries.
I say Andy Flusche, DE. While other guys on the line have had good individual games — Rod Young was good last week — Flusche has quietly had a good season. He is hard to block and is always in the backfield making stuff happen. Has been underrated this season because he doesn’t have a ton of sacks.
MR: Does Graham Harrell like Mexican food and could you see him jumping at the opportunity at a head coaching offer at let’s say….UTEP?
Going with ‘of course’.
Haha while it would be super interesting in stoking some kind of sports hate between these two teams to see Graham leave for UTEP I can’t see it happening this season. I do think a HC job is in his future relatively soon. His dad is a coach and Graham has always been given lots of responsibility — as QB he called lots of plays under Leach — and moved up to OC quickly.
Harrell is probably one really good NT season away from being poached — like an 11-win season. The timing of the UTEP gig may not work out but a Leach disciple is not a bad hire.
A guy who might be intriguing and just the right amount of available at the end of this year? Kid Briles from FAU. He has the offense, and might be ready to get out of the Lane/Art shadow and get back to Texas. There are enough ties to Texas to make recruiting a little smoother...
Honestly UTEP is in such a bad way right now that a good team should win easily. Is NT a good team? Well, we will find out. The key will be in making it not fun for the Miners early. UTEP still has good players and they can easily be motivated to play outside of their minds if an upset is within striking distance. If NT come out and puts up 17 quick points? Well, the incentive is gone.
The good news (for NT) is that they have done exactly that this season.
NT 55 UTEP 10
Special thanks to Adam for his help, Check out Adam’s work over at Mean Green Nation, and give them a follow on Twitter @meangreennation