When he's not dropping singles and half pesos in a strip club deep in the heart of Juarez, Mike Price spends his fall days basking in the Sun Bowl, getting his tan on to blend in with his surroundings. Ole!
After weathering the Alabama/Pensacola/Bow Chica Bow Bow Incident, Price was exiled to the armpit of Tejas to revamp the Miners' program and has done an awful job thus far. As it is with most C-USA teams, UTEP is all offense and no defense, so if you're the UT fan who is freaking out about our offense being "off-track", here's your chance to be redeemed. Step back from the ledge as we attempt to know thy opponent. Full Defensive Preview after the jump.
Seriously guys, lets take a couple steps back from the ledge. This should be the Viagra of the Football Season--A serious confidence booster. The past couple seasons, UTEP's defense has been down right pathetic. After the 2007 season, Price lured Osia Lewis away from New Mexico to become the new DC, bringing in his 3-3-5 stack defensive scheme. The first season is excused by many Miner fans as a "transitional" period, and they are expecting better things with their D, as they return veteran starters along with some who were injured last year.
Last Year: Texas 42 - UTEP 13:
In a game last year that was mostly vanilla, Texas played a sub-par game and still won soundly in the Sun Bowl. The most exciting thing all night was the action on the Mountain side, and Muckelroy's fumble recovery for a TD. We were actually out-rushed and out-gained in total yardage by the Miners, but we did what mattered when it counts and walked away with a W.
This year: UTEP (1-2).
-Buffalo L 23-17
-Kansas L 34-7
-NMSU W 38-12
Stats on Defense: (as of Sept 22nd)
-Run Defense: 106th rank. 197 yards/gm (Texas = 9th @ 60 y/g)
-Pass Defense: 50th rank. 192 yards/gm (Texas = 105th @ 268 y/g) *We have had more pass attempts against than any other team in FBS this year*
-Scoring Defense: 68th rank 23 pts/gm (Texas = 35th @ 18 p/g)
Now keep in mind that the only game UTEP played against a team with any offense was Kansas, and the Miners were absolutely destroyed on D, giving upwards of 575 yards in total offense. KU also registered 5 sacks on Vittatoe and keeping UTEP's running game to 4 yards total. We were gashed for 145 last year, however their best rushing weapon Terell Jackson graduated.
Lets look at what to expect from their defense this year:
NT: Steve Riddick: SR, 5-11 280 lbs. Not much of a run stopper, but really is the only option up front for the Miners' D. Started the past 2 years, but with little production--so don't expect him to be in the backfield this Saturday. He may actually make Tanner and Hall look good. That's a plus...I guess
DE: Robert Soleyjacks: Jr, 6-2 250 lbs. Now a 3rd year starter and an ex-HS runningback, Robert Soiley-pants has the motor to get in the backfield but is poor in tackling. He also seems to pull a Bobino and overrun plays and has a problem with failing to contain a mobile QB. Allsome.
DE: Aaron King: SR, 6-4 250 lbs. The only Defensive player to get in the backfield and make plays last Saturday, King shows power and quickness off the edge and should be match up decently against our left side of the line.
NT: Tory Robinson, SR 5-11 280 lbs. Stronger and faster than Riddick. Expect alot of rotation at the nose position with this guy.
DE: Bernard Obi (Wan Kenobi) SO 6-2 235 lbs. UTEP is excited about this guy as he has a great first step and plays with alot of intensity for his ripe age of 81. Plus he just waves his hand and the opposing QB falls to the ground, grimacing in pain. He'll play on Sundays
"You want to be sacked"
The strength of this D-Line aside from Jedi-Bad-Ass-ery, is in their NT rotation, which is sad because neither would even crack the practice sqaud on our team. Grade D-. Moving on....
SLB: Royzell Smith: SO, 6-1 215 lbs. Smith started 7 games last year and seems to be the only one locking down a position in the LB Corps. He has the speed and range of a safety and is decent in pass coverage
WLB: Anthony Morrow: JR, 6-0, 205 lbs. Morrow was ecpected to be a back-up this season but got the starting gig due to an impressive showing in camp. Fairly undersized, he has the ability to aid in the pass, but gets manhandled in run support.
MLB: Jeremy Springer: SO, 6-3 225 lbs. Where did this kid come from? He was the talk of fall camp as he made the switch from QB to LB and it is paying dividends. He was the leading tackler against NMSU last saturday with 10 tackles and 1 PBU. He has speed and power to play well against the run and the pass. He is the only bright spot on an awful LB Corps.
LB: Justin Hickman JR, 6-3 235 lbs. JUCO transfer, Hickman has huge upside and will get alot of playing time this year. Notched 4 tackles last week, and uses his size to help plug a very leaky D-Line.
LB: Isiah Carter: JR, 6-2 215 lbs. Raw athlete, poor technique. Carter will be used for his speed and speed only. He doesnt have great tackling ability but he can get to the play quickly and take great angles. I don't know...maybe he slows the back up a bit so the Secondary has a chance to make a play 15 yards later. What a team player.
LB: Brian Wilkins: SR, 6-2 245 lbs. Big guy, decent run stopper. Not one to be in the backfield, but for some reason plays decent against intermediate passes. Weird. I guess its just zone. When he's in, I would like to see Buckner running a seam and picking up this guy and face-rape him for 20+ yards.
After the D-Line, there's not much of an improvement in the LBers. Even with their blitzing style, I dont expect them to be much of a threat in our backfield on Saturday night ,however I have been surprised before. The group has speed but they certainly lack in size and it shows against the run. This will certainly be a day for Greg Davis to open up the running game early, but once again...I've been let down before. Grade: D-
S: Braxton Amy: JR, 6-0 210 lbs. Dude has a first name for a last name and vice versa. Mother must have had dyslexia. Regardless of his maternal's downfall, Amy is one hell of a ball-hawk. She runs well to the play and is one of the leading tacklers thus far.
S: Clarence Ward: SR, 6-0 190 lbs. Ward is College Football's Kenny Lofton. He's been on rosters across America, such as TTU, FSU, Santa Rosa CC, but he's found a home in El Paso, much like HC Mike Price. Doubtful they have the same extra-curricular activities though. Clarence has great speed and creates turnovers very well. Good hands.
Miner: Da' Mon Cromartie-Smith: SR, 6-2 210 lbs. Kudos for him keeping his maiden name, Da'mon is the best on the Defense. After 3 games, he leads the nation in tackles with 46. He is a heavy hitter and is everywhere the ball is. The exact opposite of a Deon Beasley.
LCB: Cornelius Brown: SR 6-0 200 lbs. Great 4.4 speed but also gets burned on some deep plays as he is very susceptable to the play action. He has a nose for the ball, and was Honorable Mention All-C-USA last 2 years.
RCB: Melvin Stephenson: SR 5-10 185 lbs. Fairly undersized at CB, yet has decent speed. Usually is picked on the most by opposing QB's, calling him Littlefoot and Shrinky-Dink. Will most likely coach EP Yselta Freshman squad after graduation. Piss-poor tackler.
Deshawn Grayson: FR 6-0, 190 lbs.
Nick Sampson: SO 6-0 200 lbs.
The Strenght in this secondary is versaitility and tackling by the Safeties. All 3 safeties have a knack for finding the ball and are quick to disrupt runs. Of course these tackles are made 8-12 yards from the LOS, so take away what you want from that. Their main glaring weakness is in coverage from the edges. Both CB's are prone to bite heavily on PA, so I would love to see McCoy line up more under center this game, however with Tre Newton working well out of the Shotgun, I dont expect it to happen. I grade the Secondary out at a C-
Juuuusst, a bit out of his reach...
Until next time...Hook em!