When Dana Dimel was officially announced as UTEP’s head coach, he inherited a program that just went 0-12, had ZERO 2018 commits with no recent offers, and no identity in the world of recruiting.
Things looked bleak and the questions mounted pretty quickly.
How would UTEP piece together a legit class in a month coming off a 0-12 season? How would the new staff be received? Are they going to offer ranked prospects with stars beside their names, or go the Kugler route?
In four recruiting weekends Dimel and his staff answered those questions with flying colors and gave UTEP a recruiting presence in the state of Texas UTEP hasn’t built since Mike Price roamed the sidelines without the interim label.
Will this class turn UTEP into a C-USA contender this coming season?
Probably not, but don’t sleep.
What this class did was lay the foundation by not only adding future Miners, but the bigger picture is the brand UTEP’s coaches built and sold to recruits and high school coaches, which according to some recruiting insiders put other C-USA schools on high notice.
Everyone in El Paso has been excited about UTEP’s social media blitz since Dimel took over and it’s equivalent to what coaches at P5 schools do, and will be a major factor in UTEP’s recruiting plan going forward.
Welcome to college football in 2018, UTEP fans.
One of my biggest concerns about this new staff was UTEP’s reception from the most important people who make things happen in recruiting: Texas high school football coaches.
Both Dana Dimel and offensive coordinator Mike Canales put those worries to rest with my conversations with them. Their experiences and resumes speak volumes when they walk into a high school fieldhouse.
“I think our mentality with the experience of all of our coaches who all have been in Power Five conferences.” Offensive coordinator Mike Canales said about the new staff. “You recruit differently, your mind set is different. So I’m going to recruit like I was in the SEC, so we all are going to bring our own style of how we recruit and understand how you are going to aggressively recruit.”
Canales was one of the first coaches visible on Twitter and it’s paid off, starting with the Kai Locksley commitment that generated a major buzz.
“I think when you do that, and you’re on Twitter and on social media and you’re connecting, the kids see that.” Canales added. “Our brand is UTEP, the Pick. So those kids see what’s going on, and when you have as many followers as some of our coaches have, crazy things can happen.”
Crazy things like signing the top JUCO quarterback in the county, signing impact JUCO players of need, and rebuilding UTEP’s scholarship count along the offensive line and at quarterback.
UTEP signed 14 kids from Texas, an area UTEP wasn’t really visible under Sean Kugler. UTEP still grabbed kids from those areas with Kugler, but the new staff will use their connections to make signing kids out of Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, and Houston a regular norm.
“We really tried to hit San Antonio, we did well in the Metro-Plex was which was really exciting.” Dana Dimel said. “We did well in Houston which obviously there’s connections there. So we spread it around pretty good among the four major quadrants in the state.”
And that’s why I feel UTEP brought in a strong class, but it’s more than just the kids brought in for 2018.
In my opinion, UTEP hit two birds with one stone in just a month’s time.
First and most importantly for the now, UTEP hit the quarterback jackpot. Kai Locksley, and the other JUCO products will make major impacts along the depth chart this fall in addressing UTEP’s glaring needs.
Now for the future UTEP’s coaching staff built a powerful brand, and made clear to fellow C-USA school’s that they hope be in the mix for those coveted three-star prospects, and this staff also proved their P5 prowess with a refreshing approach when it comes UTEP football recruiting.
The road to recovery will be difficult for the UTEP football program, but the foundation for future success was laid out in just a short time, and an expected small class turned into an unexpected huge class with potential for the now and the future.