UTEP Miners Season Preview
Mike Price has a respectable 40-45 record through seven seasons at UTEP to go alongside three bowl appearances. The three years before he came over from Washington State, the Miners were a combined 6-30.
They only had three winning seasons between 1971 and his head coach hiring at UTEP. Due to those facts, the Miners went to zero bowl games during the 90s.
UTEP went 6-7 last season, losing in the bowl season opener to BYU 52-24 (New Mexico Bowl). Jordan Palmer graduating and heading to the NFL in ’07 has been a tough separation for the Miners. Now, what will they do with their all-time leading passer departing?
All-Time Leader Is Gone
The quarterback position is in a bunch of trouble as Trevor Vittatoe, one of their best quarterback's since Palmer, has graduated.
Vittatoe is currently the all-time Miners passing leader with 12,439 career yards. He passed Palmer last season and will be an even bigger loss than Palmer was when he left the program. He was a solid player and will be greatly missed.
The Miners will have to dig a bit deeper if they want improvement. It starts with their offense that ranked just 78th averaging only 360 yards per game. Battling for the starting position will be Nick Lamaison, Carson Meger, and Tate Smith.
The offense needs more of a spark and they are hopeful that their starting receiver Marlon McClure takes it up a notch. They lose Kris Adams, who reached paydirt 14 times last year and has since moved on due to graduation. The offensive line is brand new as they have no returning starters and they are amongst the worst in C-USA!
Defense Is Offensive
The defense returns nine starters and they will be led by their three returning linebackers. Jamie Irving, Isaiah Carter and Royzell Smith are the leaders on this team mainly because their front four has been among the worst in the league for years.
The defense allowed an average of 412 yards per game last season which was good for just 91st in the nation.
The secondary ranked 80th against the pass allowing 228 yards per game though there is optimism with three starters back.
The schedule for the Miners is not too difficult, but there are no easy games outside of the New Mexico State’s and the Stony Brook’s.
A trip to South Florida will be brutal and the second game of the year may be tough to watch against SMU as they should thread the needle with ease. The home games against Houston, Tulsa, ECU, and Southern Miss could all be losses.
Price is now 65 years old and many question how much longer he will have the energy and the excitement to continue coaching.
Another losing season sure would not help things. However, he has won at every school he been at going 83-78 at Washington State (’89-‘02) with two Rose Bowls and he was 46-44 (’81-‘88) at Weber State. With only eleven starters back total and with questions on offense, the basement of C-USA is not only a possibility but a probability.
Predicted Finish: 2-10, 0-8
Predicted Bowl: None
Predicted order of finish in C-USA: Sixth in West, 11th in C-USA