Some offensive give, some defensive take, and a possible major injury headlined UTEP’s final spring scrimmage in the Sun Bowl Friday night.
“Kind of like our spring has been all along, both sides of the ball have shown tremendous flashes,” UTEP coach Sean Kugler said. “They are competing against each other. We got through the entire spring really with only one injury, and that’s [running back] Quardraiz Wadley. He has a shoulder injury, which we’re going to have to evaluate and see how that works going into the fall camp. Everybody else is completely healthy heading into fall camp, so we accomplished a lot this spring.”
UTEP quarterbacks went a combined 19-for-33 for 157 yards, and threw three touchdowns, while the defense piled up a combined five sacks, and four tackles for loss to end the Miners 2017 spring workouts.
The scrimmage started with a 75-yard the move the ball segment in where Ryan Metz drove the first team offense 12-plays and 57 yards before his drive was stopped inside the defense’s 18-yard line.
Zack Greenlee was next up in the segment with the second team, and drove them 75-yards in 11 plays, capping the drive off with a nine yard scramble for a touchdown. Greenlee was 4-for-4 passing on the drive, competing a 22-yard strike to tight end David Lucero during the drive.
Overall, Metz went 12-for-17 for 94 yards, Greenlee 4-for-7 for 43 yards, and freshman Mark Torrez ended the night 3-for-9 for 20 yards.
“I thought Ryan was solid moving the ball,” Kugler said. “We got it stalled down there in the red zone, [and] he threw a nice fade ball there at the end for a touchdown. Ryan has had an outstanding spring. He is a leader and he works hard. Zack Greenlee moved the ball well tonight.
Metz’s touchdown pass came late in the scrimmage during the goal line segment as he hit Tyler Batson for a touchdown. Batson caught two passes in the scrimmage.
After the offense’s relative success early on, the defense took things over from there.
Safety Michael Lewis, who missed all of last season due to academic issues, was sticking his nose in the run game notching four tackles, and a tackle for loss.
UTEP’s defensive line was also active as freshman and El Pasoan Josh Ortega, and sophomore Denzel Chukwukelu each notched a sack.
The star of the day was defensive back Jerrel Brown who had four tackles, a TFL, a pass breakup, and a sack in the scrimmage.
The UTEP defense was without starters Alvin Jones, Dante Lovilette, and Devin Cockrell who were all held out to allow some other defenders some snaps under the lights.
UTEP’s defense was also tough against the run, allowing just 72 yards on 26 carries from UTEP running backs.
“I think we’ve got a lot of talent there,” Kugler said of the current running back group. “We’ve got Ronald Awatt, Kevin Dove, TK Powell who was injured all spring and he’ll be back healthy in the fall, and then we add [incoming freshman] Josh Fields as well. We may add one more to that group. It’s a young group, but a very talented group. My biggest concern there would be more protection-wise when you have young guys like that, but we’ll be creative and make sure that we get that handled.”
Walter Dawn has been moved over full-time to running back, and ran for 29 yards on 11 carries adding a 3-yard touchdown run. Freshman Ronald Awatt ran nine times for 22-yards, and Kevin Dove carried six times for 21-yards.
“Walter Dawn is going to be a full-time running back and you saw him there stick the guy on third and one. Just because he’s small doesn’t mean he’s not tough,” Kugler said. “He can catch the ball. He’ll generate a lot of yardage back there catching the ball and also running the ball. He’ll be there full-time, and we’re leaving Kavika Johnson full-time at wide receiver. You saw what he can do tonight. He is going to be a talented player for us.”
Receiving wise, Johnson caught four passes for 29 -yards, Terry Juniel added five catches for 47 yards. UTEP’s new tight ends also got in the action as David Lucero caught two passes for 26 yards, and Josh Weeks caught two balls for 11-yards and a short touchdown pass.
As UTEP wraps us the spring, and looks toward the fall, Kugler expressed some optimism for the Miner faithful.
“They’ve got a chip on their shoulder, they’re hungry, they work hard and there are no issues with these guys,” he said. “They come to work every day. I really like the team. This is the group we’re going to move into the season with, and I feel good about that.”