NEW ... 2008 CFN UTEP Preview
UTEP QB Trevor Vittatoe
UTEP QB Trevor Vittatoe
Posted May 20, 2008 2008 Preview - UTEP Miners

UTEP Miners

Preview 2008

By Richard Cirminiello    

- 2008 UTEP Preview | 2008 UTEP Offense
2008 UTEP Defense | 2008 UTEP Depth Chart
- 2007 UTEP Preview | 2006 CFN UTEP Preview 

Head coach: Mike Price
5th year: 25-23
27th year overall: 154-145
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 22, Def. 21, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 20
Ten Best Miner Players
QB Trevor VIttatoe, Soph.
2. WR Jeff Moturi, Jr.
3. C Robby Felix, Sr.
4. PK Jose Martinez, Sr.
5. S Da'Mon Cromartie-Smith, Jr.
6. LB Adam Vincent, Sr.
7. CB Cornelius Brown, Jr.
8. RB Terrell Jackson, Sr.
9. TE Jamar Hunt. Sr.
10. LT Mike Aguayo, Jr.

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2008 Record: 0-0

Aug 28 at Buffalo
Sept. 6 Texas
Sept. 13 OPEN DATE
Sept. 20 New Mexico State
Sept. 27 UCF
Oct. 4 at Southern Miss
Oct. 11 Tulane
Oct. 18 at Tulsa
Nov. 1 Rice
Nov. 8 at UL Lafayette
Nov. 15 SMU
Nov. 22 at Houston
Nov. 29 at East Carolina

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2007 Record: 4-8

Sept. 1 New Mexico W 10-6
Sept. 8 at Texas Tech L 45-21
Sept. 15
at NMSU L 29-24
Sept. 22 Tex Southern W 52-12
Sept. 29 at SMU W 48-45 OT
Oct. 6 Tulsa W 48-47
Oct. 13
E Carolina L 45-42 OT
Oct. 27 Houston L 34-31
Nov. 3 at Rice L 56-48
Nov. 10 at Tulane L 34-19
Nov. 17 Southern Miss L 56-30
Nov. 24 at UCF L 36-20

Is Mike Price entering must-win territory this season? 

While UTEP appreciates its head coach, a third losing season in-a-row would surely make things uncomfortable around El Paso. Price quickly raised expectations with back-to-back eight-win seasons when he arrived, but wasn’t able to keep the momentum going in 2006 and 2007. The Miners’ problems in close games and inability to win late in the year have become scathing indictments of a coaching staff that needs to answer the call in 2008. If the school has any chance of reversing the recent decline, it’ll have to find a bunch of answers on defense and learn how to finish strong. 

While the Miner offense will move the ball, the defense will labor to stop opponents from the FBS. Since that formula hasn’t worked in the last two seasons, why should anyone expect different results in 2008? The Trevor Vittatoe-to-Jeff Moturi connection will again be electric and the running game will be fine even without Marcus Thomas, but until UTEP proves it can make late-game stops, it’s the west Texas version of Rice. 

What to watch for on offense
: Who else is going to step up at wide receiver? The pitch-and-catch combo of Trevor Vittatoe to Jeff Moturi is already the best in Conference USA, but even it will sputter if someone doesn’t adequately replace Lorne Sam, Joe West, and Fred Rouse. The Miners are loaded with good athletes at wide receiver, but not one that caught more than five passes a year ago. The onus falls on unknowns, such as Tufick Shadrawy, Kris Adams, and Pierce Hunter, to make opponents pay for tilting the defense in Moturi’s direction.     

What to watch for on defense
: Osia Lewis’ new 3-3-5 scheme. Playing to its strength, UTEP is taking a lineman off the field and replacing him with a miner, or a hybrid of a safety and a linebacker. The Miners just don’t attract enough stoppers up front to go with a traditional set, opting instead for a smaller, faster D that’ll look to bring pressure from every angle imaginable. Considering how putrid the defense was a year, allowing 37 points a game, what’s the harm in trying something new?                 

This team will be far better if
…the pass defense makes even modest improvement. It’ll be a joint venture that also includes the pass rush, but the secondary has to make more stops at critical moments than it has the last two years. If you participate in enough shootouts, you’re bound to get plunked often, something UTEP knows all too well. No matter how good the offense is, allowing 301 yards a game through the air is a recipe for losing seasons.     

The Schedule: Considering UTEP's recent problems over the second half of the season, it's vital to get off to a hot start. Good luck with that getting the East's two best teams, UCF and Southern Miss, along with Texas and an odd, tougher-than-it-looks opener at Buffalo. Throw in a mid-October road trip to Tulsa, and things could get ugly. As far as the second half, it eases up somewhat getting Rice a week off, but there are three road games in the final including trips to Houston and East Carolina to close.

Best Offensive Player: Sophomore QB Trevor Vittatoe. A year ago, the program was scratching its head over the successor to all-time leading passer Jordan Palmer. Less than a year later, it has its quarterback of the future. And instead of just replacing Palmer, he’s already surpassed him in many ways, limiting his turnovers and ratcheting up his play in close games. After throwing for 25 touchdowns and just seven picks, the best is yet to come for Vittatoe.     

Best Defensive Player: Junior S Da’Mon Cromartie-Smith. With Quentin Demps out of eligibility and Braxton Amy out on medical leave, Smith is poised to become the new star of the defensive backfield. A well-rounded athlete at 6-2 and 205 pounds, he packs a punch as a run defender and holds up well in coverage. In his first full season, he was second to Amy with 93 tackles, adding a couple of picks and seven passes defended.     

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore miner Anthony Morrow. The new defense was designed with Amy in mind, but he’s done for the year with an ACL tear. That puts an immense amount of pressure on Morrow to deliver, filling the lane on running plays and supporting a leaky pass defense. While physically, he has the talent to make plays, adjusting to a new position and an expanded role could take time.      

The season will be a success if ... the Miners reach .500 for the first time in three years. The program has to think in terms of small steps, considering the state of the defense and recent trend. It’s a pivotal season for UTEP and head coach Mike Price, who cannot afford another campaign without tangible signs of progress.

Key game: Aug. 28 at Buffalo. What better way to clear out the stench from last season’s 0-6 finish than by beating an improving Bull program on the road? A crisp performance here might be just what the Miners need to hang with Texas for a quarter or two a week later. Plus, if UTEP has any hope of a bowl game, it must come through whenever a winnable game is on the schedule.

2007 Fun Stats: 
- Rushing yards per game: Opponents 202.9 yards – UTEP 147.7 yards
- Punt return average: UTEP 13.6 yards – Opponents 7.9 yards
- Sacks: Opponents 24 for 238 yards – UTEP 16 for 119 yards