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Stull: Spring ball boosts optimism for football - El Paso Inc.: Local Features

Stull: Spring ball boosts optimism for football

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Posted: Sunday, April 22, 2012 6:00 pm | Updated: 10:48 am, Mon May 14, 2012.

The UTEP football spring game, held on April 6, looked a little different from past years.

With 18 players sidelined due to injury – most notably six offensive linemen – depth was severely lacking.

As a result, the coaches weren’t able to conduct a draft and divide the squad into two teams. Instead, the format was basically offense – blue team, versus defense – white team.

The blue won 29-0, but the coaches came out of the game feeling optimistic on both sides of the ball. They were pleased that the offense made dramatic strides over the course of 15 spring practices, despite missing several key personnel in the line. They were also happy that the defense showed signs of being a dominant force.

The offense racked up 493 yards in the spring game, but 150 came on three plays. Quarterbacks with no-contact jerseys were also able to scramble for additional yardage, making the final numbers look a little misleading.

One thing is for certain: The Miners have found their No. 1-tailback after losing three quality seniors – Joe Banyard, Vernon Frazier, Leilyon Myers – from last year’s team.

Sophomore Nathan Jeffery rushed for 122 yards in the spring game and looks like he can be sturdy enough to carry the ball 20 to 30 times a game this fall.

Nick Lamaison is entrenched as UTEP’s starting quarterback after throwing for 1,718 yards in 2012. But the Miners have experienced backups in Carson Meger and Jay Hall.

And freshman Blaire Sullivan showed vast potential for the future this spring, demonstrating that he can beat people both with his arm and his feet.

The most experienced member of the wide receiver corps, Michael Edwards, needs to get healthy this summer after missing part of spring ball with a groin injury.

UTEP’s four quarterbacks completed passes to 12 different receivers in the spring game, suggesting that the Miners have some numbers to work with in the passing game.

The defense is pretty well set heading into the spring, with Horace Miller, Marcus Bagley, Germard Reed and Greg Watkins penciled in as starters in the line.

The projected linebackers are Josh Fely, Jamie Irving and Aubrey Alexius, with Darren Woodard, DeShawn Grayson, Richard Spencer and Drew Thomas forming the secondary.

The Miners certainly have the personnel to generate a better pass rush than they did in 2011. And that will certainly come in handy when they open the season against top-five Oklahoma and one of the premier quarterbacks in the nation, Landry Jones.

Season tickets are on sale at by calling (915) 747-6150. Just a reminder, we have a wonderful home schedule, not only with the vaunted Sooners but also I-10 rival New Mexico State, SMU, Tulane, UCF and Rice coming to the Sun Bowl.

Tickets start as low as $60 for youth general admission and $90 for adult general admission. And our family pack is still a great deal with two adults and four children getting in to every game for just $198.

As always, thanks for your support. Go Miners!

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