Price and UTEP Recruit “Now” Players
UTEP head football coach Mike Price announces the Miners' signees, then answers the media's question at UTEP's National Letter of Intent Signing Day press conference...Story below. (Advance video to the 6:30 mark for Coach Price's comments. Photos courtesy: James Choy/jameschoynews.wordpress.com)
Many times, when a football program starts signing a significant percentage of players out of the junior college ranks, it signals a coach under pressure.
UTEP's coaching staff would point out they have to replace 25 seniors, many of them linemen, and one a four-year starter at quarterback.
Any way you look at it, almost 25-percent of 2011 incoming class will be juco transfers -- a blend of size and skill as the Miners strive to plug those holes.
Make no mistake, though, the pressure is there -- Mike Price both wants and needs to win now.
In Price's case, most of the pressure he feels is internal, despite any public complaint. But if he is honest with himself, it isn't just a desire to compete and win, it's a race against the clock -- both his own at age 64, and the one attached to a doomsday device called Apathy.
If UTEP bombs in 2011, Apathy could wipe out the Miners' most loyal fans.
Believe it or not, over Price's seven seasons at the helm, Miners home games have outdrawn every non-Big XII football school in Texas, including TCU, even though they've finished under .500 for five straight seasons. It's a testament to a local hunger for football; for a good, inexpensive ticket, and a UTEP team that fills both needs as the big game in town.
A 6-7 record and a bowl berth in 2010 actually brought UTEP's attendance average up a smidge, from 29,010 in 2009 to 29,350.
But Apathy looms, and, though the Miners have been trying hard to stop the countdown, five straight losing seasons after raising the bar has done nothing but cut those wires that make its clock run faster.
With the loss of so much experience, size, skill and speed, 2011 could be a disaster in the making, and Price doesn't have the time for a three- or four-year rebuilding job.
That said, the Miners have found some large bodies for the lines on both sides of the ball and two new quarterbacks -- Nick Lamaison of Mt. San Antonio College in California, and a freshman Price calls the future face of the program in San Antonio Central Catholic's Blaire Sullivan.
All-in-all, Price says as many as nine players from a 21-player group will have an opportunity to play next season.
But Price's spread-option attack is nothing without a quarterback to run it. Appropriate, then, that Price called Sullivan the future, because Lamaison is the present.
The fact that two of Lamaison's teammates, OL James Martin and WR Mike Edwards, are coming to play with their teammate speaks volumes about his situation.
Though talented, each in his own right, three-man package deals are rare.
According to California-based sports blogger James Choy, Lamaison was close to signing with Lane Kiffin at Tennessee, but Kiffin's departure for USC after just one year on the job jumbled Lamaison's prospects.
Regardless, Mt. SAC won a state and community college national championship last season with him at the helm.
Now, let's see how he does with wire cutters.
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The complete list of UTEP's incoming class is below.
2011 UTEP Signees
Name Pos Ht Wt 40 Time Hometown (Previous School)