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2010 UTEP Preview – Offense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 6, 2010


CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - UTEP Miner Offense



UTEP Miners

Preview 2010 - Offense

- 2010 UTEP Preview | 2010 UTEP Offense
- 2010 UTEP Defense | 2010 UTEP Depth Chart
- UTEP Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006

What You Need To Know: UTEP has a fourth-year starter, Trevor Vittatoe, behind center and an All-America candidate, Donald Buckram, carrying the ball. There’s not too much to worry about with an offense that’s forever been the catalyst for the program. Of course, that doesn’t mean the Miners don’t have anything to work on in August. Vittatoe has to rebound from his worst year in El Paso, the left side of the line must be rebuilt, and someone has to replace WR Jeff Moturi and take some heat off go-to guy Kris Adams. They’re the type of problems that can be overcome with extra work in the summer and the emergence of a few underclassmen. Now that Buckram has bloomed, the backfield could be Conference-USA’s best if Vittatoe can channel his sophomore year and shake off a rocky offseason.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Trevor Vittatoe
224-409, 3,308 yds, 17 TDs, 13 INTs
Rushing: Donald Buckram
259 carries, 1,594 yds, 18 TDs
Receiving: Kris Adams
42 catches, 580 yds, 2 TDs

Star of the offense: Senior RB Donald Buckram
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior LT Will Osolinsky
Unsung star on the rise: Junior WR Donovon Kemp
Best pro prospect: Buckram
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Buckram, 2) Senior QB Trevor Vittatoe, 3) Senior WR Kris Adams
Strength of the offense: Balance, a veteran backfield, the right side of the line, big plays in the passing game
Weakness of the offense: Pass protection, the left side of the line, red zone touchdowns

Quarterbacks

Projected Starter: The quest of 6-2, 220-pound senior Trevor Vittatoe to rebound from his worst season as a Miner is off to a rocky start. After being suspended for the first six practices of spring, he missed the tail end following minor shoulder surgery. UTEP needs to see the old Vittatoe from 2007 and 2008 rather than the one that sunk to 224-of-409 for 3,308 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. His numbers were inflated by a huge final game against Marshall that somewhat glossed over an otherwise inconsistent year. Usually accurate and poised in the pocket, he was too often erratic and missed a lot of open receivers.

Projected Top Reserves: Versatile 5-11, 190-pound senior James Thomas is back for one final year to be the team’s jack-of-all-trades. A change-of-pace and the best athlete among the quarterbacks, he’ll be used in packages, such as the wildcat, that accentuate his speed and elusiveness. He won’t hurt you through the air, but he is a unique weapon, who ran for 352 yards and three scores two years ago and can be used as a receiver.

The Miners will need a new starter in 2011, which means this is an important offseason for 6-4, 210-pound sophomore Tim Curry. He has the zip on his passes that the staff prefers and an excellent pocket presence. If he keeps progressing, he’s liable to sneak up on the No. 2 job and pick up some valuable reps.

Watch Out For .... Vittatoe to bounce back from 2009. He was too good in his first two years to suddenly become mediocre. Plus, he has the intangibles and the right demeanor to turn his junior season into a rallying cry and the impetus for a terrific finale.
Strength: Experience. There’s no substitute for game experience, and few quarterbacks in the country have more of it than Vittatoe. He’s a three-year starter, with 1,234 passing attempts and an intimate grasp of the offensive system.
Weakness: Consistency. While not an issue in 2009, UTEP has to wonder what it’s going to get from the position in 2010. Vittatoe was surrounded by a quality collection of receivers, yet completed a league-low 54% of his passes and was 79th nationally in passing efficiency before the outburst in the final week.
Outlook: This will be the epicenter of UTEP’s goal of finally escaping its four-year slump. Vittatoe has dreams of playing in the NFL next year, which should be enough motivation for him to build some distance on 2009. Expect closer results to 2008, when he was one of the best small-school hurlers in the country.
Rating: 6.5

Running Backs

Projected Starters: The singular bright spot in last year’s 4-8 campaign was the improbable eruption of 5-10, 195-pound senior Donald Buckram into a contender for national awards. Oft-injured throughout his career, he finally put it all together for a dozen games, rushing for a school-record 1,594 yards and 18 touchdowns on 259 carries. He also added 30 catches for 453 yards and three scores to lead the country in yards from scrimmage. One of the fastest players in El Paso, he’s a slasher, who isn’t afraid to run between the tackles and does a surprisingly nice job of bouncing off tacklers.

Projected Top Reserves: Behind Buckram is little-used junior Vernon Frazier, a jackrabbit who logged just 10 carries for 25 yards and two scores last season. At just 5-7 and 170 pounds, he’s a situational option, with the blazing speed and wiggle to make a lot of sense as a third-down back.

When UTEP wants to move a pile in short yardage, it might turn to 5-10, 220-pound senior Jason Williams. The biggest and strongest of the backs, he has a strong upper body and the leg drive to pick yards after contact. The team’s second-leading rusher, he carried 40 times for 126 yards and five touchdowns.

Watch Out For .... a Leilyon Myers sighting. Is this the year that the former Washington Husky and Palomar (Calif.) College recruit makes his debut in El Paso? Reminiscent of former Miner star Marcus Thomas, he’s a versatile 6-1, 235-pounder, but has sat out the last two seasons.
Strength: Buckram. He was brilliant a year ago, making something happen nearly every time he touched the ball. A skilled runner and receiver, he forced opponents to respect the ground game for a change, taking some heat off the passing attack. Behind an average front wall, he averaged more than six yards a carry and went over 200 yards on the ground three separate times.
Weakness: Durability. Buckram went wire-to-wire last season, but that was contrary to his history. Although he’s added some good pounds in the offseason, he’s also not very big, and the hits could begin to mount. If the Miners lose their best offensive weapon, the drop-off from there is treacherous.
Outlook: Buckram is a rare gem in West Texas these days and easily the best reason to watch a UTEP game. He’s one of the country’s most exciting playmakers and the type of weapon that’ll keep the Miners in games that it otherwise would be overmatched. If he stays healthy, 2,000 yards rushing might be within reach, especially against a schedule void of defensive heavyweights.
Rating:
9

Receivers

Projected Starters: The decline suffered by 6-3, 195-pound senior Kris Adams a year ago was consistent with that of the entire passing game and QB Trevor Vittatoe. And like his battery mate, he’s looking to recapture the form he had two years. In 2008, he caught 14 touchdown passes, but slipped to just 42 catches for 580 yards and two scores. A rangy acrobat, who’ll go high up to snatch balls out of the air, he has the long stride to get behind the secondary.

At “X” receiver, 6-1, 195-pound junior Donovon Kemp is poised for a breakthrough year after showing big-play flashes a season ago. Although he only made 12 grabs, he turned them into 284 yards and four touchdowns. Like Adams, he’s a fluid and dangerous all-around athlete, but needs to become more consistent in order to earn the confidence of the quarterbacks. Once he does that, he’s liable to give the Miners the one-two punch they had before Jeff Moturi graduated.

After starting six games in 2009, 6-1, 200-pound senior Evan Davis is bucking for a full-time gig at “A” receiver. No. 19 has caught 19 passes in each of the last two seasons, scoring one time in both of those years as well. While he needs more polish with his hands and route-running, he has the straight-line speed and leaping ability to stretch opposing defenses.

The staff is hopeful that 6-5, 250-pound Jonny Moore, the projected starting tight end, is able to bounce back from a dislocated shoulder suffered in the spring. A better receiver than a blocker, with the size to out muscle defenders, he caught a career-high 13 passes for 135 yards and a touchdown.

Projected Top Reserves: Providing a complement to all of those big receivers is sophomore Marlon McClure, a 5-9, 155-pound jitterbug in the open field. He’ll be used in a plethora of different ways, and is the type of playmaker who’ll take a short toss and zip through a secondary. He opened by catching six passes for 43 yards, turning seven carries into 75 yards, and led the team in kick returns.

Behind Adams at “Z” receiver is junior Russell Carr, a veteran of a letter in each of the last two seasons. At 6-2 and 205 pounds, he’s a long target, with the gait to fluidly stride into the opposing secondary. A spot player last fall, he had 11 receptions for 115 yards.

Watch Out For .... a return to form by Adams. More than anything, he was a victim of his surroundings a year ago, getting dragged down by an off-year from Vittatoe. Assuming the quarterback gets back on track, so will his favorite target, who’ll vie for All-Conference-USA honors.
Strength: Size. McClure aside, the Miners are a collection of sizable receivers, all at least 6-1 and all capable of playing above opposing defensive backs. In general, they’re also quality athletes, with enough speed to challenge teams vertically.
Weakness: Consistency. Physically, they may look the part, but the Miners are still far too inconsistent, dropping balls and running imperfect routes. If the unit as a whole is going to improve and provide better support for the quarterbacks, it has to become well-schooled at the little things.
Outlook: Even without Moturi, there’s enough raw talent within the receiving corps for it to help ignite the passing game. Adams has next-level potential and a supporting cast of really good athletes, like Kemp and Davis, surrounding him. Yeah, they’ll make occasional mistakes, but they’ll also explode from time to time and look like all-stars.
Rating: 6

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: Four regulars return to a line that did a very nice job a year ago. One of the pleasant surprises at right tackle was 6-8, 310-pound Alex Solot, who started the final eight games, had 31 knockdowns, and graded out at better than 80 percent 10 times. He has the frame and the long arms to excel in pass protection and even get looks from NFL scouts if he can have a big final year.

Next to Solot at right guard is 6-3, 320-pound senior Rod Huntley, a starter in each of the last two seasons and an all-conference honorable mention selection in 2009. He has the raw power and tremendous base of a dominant run blocker, but needs to improve his footwork and do a better job of shutting down quicker pass rushers.

All things considered, 6-4, 300-pound senior Tanner Cullumber did a nice job replacing all-star Robby Felix at center. A versatile lineman, who can also play guard, he started all 12 games and did his part to pave the way for one of the league’s best offenses. He’s added considerable weight over the last couple of years, yet is still quick out of his stance.

Protecting the quarterback’s blindside will be 6-8, 280-pound senior Will Osolinsky, a former defensive linemen who continues to adapt to this side of the ball. He started eight of the final nine games in 2008 and the first four games of 2009, getting more comfortable with his technique and use of his hands. Still lanky, with room to grow, he needs to add more bulk to prevent being overpowered.

Although not set in stone, 6-4, 325-pound senior Anthony McNac is the favorite to get the nod at left guard. A mauler when he locks on to a defender, he’s lettered twice, but played in just a couple of games in 2009 and hasn’t earned a start since 2006. In order to stay atop the depth chart, he’ll need to tighten up his overall consistency and maintain his weight and conditioning.

Projected Top Reserves: The Miners’ top reserve off the bench will be 6-3, 295-pound sophomore Eloy Atkinson, a big part of the future up front for the program. In his first year of eligibility, he appeared in 10 games at center, impressing the staff with his athleticism, good feet, and quick retention of the offense.

In 6-7, 320-pound sophomore James Nelson, UTEP hopes it signed a junior college transfer, who can contribute right away at tackle. The product of Ventura (Calif.) College is not your typical behemoth, showing good footwork and pass blocking technique for a player his size. He has four years to play three, and can also be used at guard if needed.

Watch Out For .... Cullumber and Atkinson to both wind up in the opening day lineup. How is that possible unless the Miners plan on using two centers? Well, Cullumber is also a capable guard, which would open the door for Atkinson to play the pivot. UTEP is going to get its five best blockers on the field, even if that means McNac is relegated to the B team.
Strength: Run blocking. Donald Buckram was fantastic a year ago, setting the school rushing record, but he didn’t make those holes on his own. No, he got plenty of help from a front wall that did a nice job of holding the line and creating enough daylight for the all-star to shoot through.
Weakness: The left side. While the right side has Solot and Huntley, a pair of all-conference candidates, to the left of center are a couple of question marks. Osolinsky is beatable and McNac is laboring to hold on to his top spot. Barring a reshuffling of the personnel, UTEP will be vulnerable on this side of the line.
Outlook: Although Mike Aguayo will be sorely missed, UTEP has cobbled together a decent enough line to feel confident about the season ahead. It’s possible that five seniors could be in the starting lineup, and the best is yet to come for the likes of Solot, Cullumber, and Atkinson.
Rating: 5.5

- 2010 UTEP Preview | 2010 UTEP Offense
- 2010 UTEP Defense | 2010 UTEP Depth Chart
- UTEP Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006