2009 CFN UTEP Preview
UTEP WR Jeff Moturi
UTEP WR Jeff Moturi
Posted Jul 18, 2009

CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - UTEP Miners

UTEP Miners

Preview 2009

By Richard Cirminiello    

- 2009 UTEP Preview | 2009 UTEP Offense
2009 UTEP Defense | 2009 UTEP Depth Chart
- 2008 UTEP Preview | 2007 UTEP Preview | 2006 UTEP Preview 

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Head coach: Mike Price
6th year: 30-30
28th year overall: 159-152
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 26, Def. 27, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 17
Ten Best Miner Players
QB Trevor VIttatoe, Jr.
2. WR Kris Adams, Jr.
3. WR Jeff Moturi, Sr.
4. S Da'Mon Cromartie-Smith, Sr.
5. LT Mike Aguayo, Sr.
6. S Braxton Amy, Jr.
7. CB Cornelius Brown, Sr.
8. OG Cameron Raschke, Sr.
9. NT Steve Riddick, Sr.
10. RB Donald Buckram, Jr.

2009 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 4-8

2009 Record: 0-0

9/5 Buffalo
9/12 Kansas
9/19 at New Mexico St
9/26 at Texas
10/3 Houston
10/10 at Memphis
10/21 Tulsa
10/31 UAB
11/7 at Tulane
11/14 at SMU
11/21 at Rice
11/28 Marshall

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 5-7
2008 Record: 5-7

8/28 at Buffalo W 42-17
9/6 Texas L 42-13
9/20 New Mexico St L 34-33
9/27 UCF W 58-13
10/4 at So. Miss W 40-37 2OT
10/11 Tulane W 24-21
10/18 at Tulsa L 77-35
11/1 Rice L 49-44
11/8 at UL Lafayette W 37-24
11/15 SMU W 36-10
11/22 at Houston L 42-37
11/29 at East Carolina L 53-21

Enough is enough. After three straight losing seasons, popular head coach Mike Price needs to guide his Miners back to the postseason.

After raising the bar and expectations with eight wins and a bowl invite in 2004 and 2005, UTEP has slumped lately, going 14-22 and lacking the ability to finish. The Miners consistently do a poor job of closing out games and seasons, taking at least a two-game losing streak into each of Price’s five years in El Paso. Last year’s edition had two season-ending shots at bowl eligibility, but dropped a close call with Houston and got annihilated by East Carolina to finish 5-7.

The problem at UTEP has had a familiar and perennial ring to it—the offense will score, but the defense allows more. The Miners have no problems putting points on the board behind the passing of Trevor Vittatoe and the receiving of Kris Adams and Jeff Moturi. However, the defense is a sieve, allowing 470 yards and 37 points a game in 2008. Until that changes, even modestly, this is a sub-.500 program, which will be vulnerable week-in and week-out.

While it’s unlikely that UTEP will do better than Price on the sidelines, at what point does the school grow intolerant of this recent trend of mediocrity? A fourth straight losing season would surely test the administration’s patience, making this a crossroads year for the coach and the program.

What to watch for on offense: The receiving tandem of Kris Adams and Jeff Moturi. Although it won’t make many headlines outside West Texas, this is one of the sneaky-good receiving duos in America. Both have a chance to play beyond UTEP, which is not something you normally hear about Conference USA wideouts. Adams and Moturi are big, fluid, and paired with a quarterback, junior Trevor Vittatoe, who’ll get the most out of their talents. Alone, either of these guys is an all-star. Together, they’ll combine for at least 100 catches and 20 touchdowns, causing fits for opposing secondaries.

What to watch for on defense: Progress from the secondary. The only way is up, right? After getting shredded on a weekly basis, the Miners are banking on making strides with the help of a good mix of youthful enthusiasm and veteran leadership. Four regulars are back, joining underclassmen, like safeties Nick Sampson and DeShawn Grayson, who’ll be looking to inject some new energy into the unit. Although a miraculous turnaround isn’t going to happen, the defensive backfield should be a little tighter if health doesn’t become a concern.

This team will be far better if … Osia Lewis’ 3-3-5 defense shows signs of improvement in Year 2. The Miners were abysmal a year ago, finishing No. 11 in Conference USA in total defense and scoring defense. No matter how good the offense performs, it’ll always be an uphill battle when the defense is yielding 470 yards and 37 points a game. At New Mexico, Lewis’ defenses were perennially among the nastiest in the Mountain West. If he can guide UTEP to similar results in this league, the impact on the program will be profound.

The Schedule: The Miners get the non-conference slate out of the way in September before diving into league play with a whopper against Houston. Buffalo is hardly a layup, even though the defending MAC champion is in a period of transition, and forget about the games against Kansas and Texas. A run of three straight road games to kick off November would normally be nasty, but it's not really that bad playing Tulane, SMU and Rice. There's no East Carolina or Southern Miss from the East.

Best Offensive Player
: Junior QB Trevor Vittatoe. Yeah, Vittatoe is going to leave school in two years with just about every school passing record, but he’s so much more than just a stats compiler. The face of the program and one of the team leaders, he brings a winning attitude and unwavering confidence to a team that sorely needs both. Oh, he also puts up some pretty impressive numbers, too, tossing a UTEP-record 33 touchdown passes a year ago.

Best Defensive Player: Senior miner Da’Mon Cromartie-Smith. After Braxton Amy was lost for the season, Cromartie-Smith seamlessly assumed a more prominent role in the secondary, finishing with 77 tackles and earning honorable mention All-Conference USA recognition. While decent as a pass defender, he really packs a wallop as a run defender, using his 6-2, 205-pound frame like a linebacker.

Key player to a successful season: Junior S Braxton Amy. Last year’s defense was designed with Amy in mind, but he missed the entire season with an ACL tear. Healthy again, he needs to pick up where he left off in 2007, when he had a team-high 112 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, and two sacks. The defense sorely needs an identity and a presence, which the versatile junior showed capable of doing in his first two seasons.  

The season will be a success if
... the Miners win seven games and bowl for the first time in four years. When you play in a smaller league, like Conference USA, you can only go so long without postseason exposure before becoming an endangered species. UTEP is in danger of being added to that list. It plays in a wide-open and has one of the best quarterbacks to ever play in El Paso. For the sake of the program and head coach Mike Price, it’s time to earn a bowl invite.

Key game: Sept. 5 vs. Buffalo. If UTEP is going to have a successful season, they’ll need to build some momentum in the early going. The Miners got destroyed by the Bulls, 42-17, in New York last season, and will need to avenge that loss in order to prevent a rocky start. With the Big 12’s Kansas and Texas on the September slate, an opening day visit from Buffalo must wind up in the win column.

2008 Fun Stats:
- Kickoff return average: Opponents 26.9 - UTEP 20.4
- Fumbles: Opponents 19 (lost 13) - UTEP 17 (lost 6) 
- Rushing yards per game: Opponents 198.7 - UTEP 122.3

- 2009 UTEP Preview | 2009 UTEP Offense
- 2009 UTEP Defense | 2009 UTEP Depth Chart

- 2008 UTEP Preview | 2007 UTEP Preview | 2006 UTEP Preview 


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2009 UTEP Preview - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 18, 2009
2009 UTEP Preview - Defense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 18, 2009
2009 UTEP Preview – Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 18, 2009

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