Former Miners Nick Usher, Hayden Plinke, Darrin Laufasa, Cole Freytag and Jerome Daniels will be heading to NFL Camps.
Usher was picked up by the Seattle Seahawks. He was a three-year starter and saw the field in 49 games for the Orange and Blue. Last season, he started all 12 contests and earned All-C-USA honorable mention after leading team in tackles for loss (8.0-41), sacks (5.5-31) and quarterback hurries (five). The linebacker ranked third on team with 77 tackles (35 solo) and added two pass breakup and a blocked kick. He ranked tied no. 8 in C-USA in total sacks and finished career ranked tied no. 10 with five other Miners in career sacks (12.0). Usher was invited to play in the NFLPA Bowl. Prior to being a linebacker, Usher played three seasons as a defensive lineman. During his junior campaign, Usher recorded 46 tackles (27s/19a), a career-best 10 tackles for loss, one forced fumble, five quarterback hurries, 3.5 sacks and a blocked kick.
The Seahawks also signed Plinke. He played two seasons with the Miners, started in 22 games and was on the John Mackey Award watch list both seasons. Plinke started all 12 contests as a senior and earned All-C-USA first team honors after producing a record-setting season. The tight end stomped and raced past defenders on way to eight receiving touchdowns, the most ever by a UTEP tight end during a single season. Plinke led team in receptions (38) and touchdowns grabs and ranked second in receiving yards (456). He registered a career-long 72-yard touchdown during a season-finale victory against North Texas. Plinke also participated in the NFL combine and the NFLPA Bowl.
Laufasa will be heading to the Cincinnati Bengals. He started 44 games for he Miners at fullback. His blocking efforts helped pave the way for Jones to rush for a single-season program-record 1,773 yards. The team capped 2016 season with a season-high 555 yards of total offense, including a season-best 384 yards rushing (most since 1983) and four scores during a victory against North Texas. During his junior season, Laufasa recorded 183 rushing yards on 33 attempts (5.5 avg.) and a touchdown. Laufasa rushed for a career-best 85 yards on eight carries (10.6 avg.), including a career-long 66-yard touchdown run during a come-from-behind overtime victory at rival NM State. He tallied a career-best 100 all-purpose yards against the Aggies.
Freytag received a tryout with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The El Paso native played for the Miners in 45 games and earned the starting position as a senior. The wide receiver led the team last season in receiving yards (520) and receiving yards per game (43.3), while ranking second in receptions (36) and receiving touchdowns (five). The El Paso native produced a career-high 95 yards on four receptions while adding a season-long 46-yard touchdown catch during a victory against rival NM State. Freytag tallied a career-high seven receptions for 84 yards and a nine-yard scoring catch against Old Dominion. He also hauled in a 30-yard touchdown reception, while recording 45 yards on three catches during a season-finale victory against North Texas. Freytag also saw action on special teams for the Miners.
Daniels was invited to a mini-camp tryout with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was a four-year letter winner that started in 35 games for the Miners. During his senior campaign, Daniels played on an offensive line that paved the way for Aaron Jones to rush for a single-season program-record 1,773 yards, while Jones also became UTEP’s all-time leading rusher. The Miners averaged 185.5 rushing yards per game and scored 20 touchdowns on the ground. As a junior, he played on an offensive line that led Conference USA in sacks allowed with only 12. During Daniels sophomore season, he was on an offensive line unit that only surrendered 13 sacks in 13 games (ranked first in Conference USA and eighth nationally).