UTEP Football 2022 Signing Day Preview: Miners Dig for Gold
Welcome to National Signing Day week.
The UTEP football team will announce their full 2022 Signing Class, along with the rest of the country, on National Signing Day this Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022. The Miners are coming off a Bowl appearance and a seven-win season in 2021.
The program was busy this weekend hosting a heap of recruits at the Sun Bowl, while other coaches are still traveling across the country to sign prospects ahead of Wednesday. Going into this offseason, head coach Dana Dimel said the team has around 14 initial scholarships to offer recruits.
Let's talk about the latest in Miner football recruiting.
Early Signing Class rundown
Back on early signing day in December, the Miners added three defensive backs, two defensive linemen, one linebacker, one tight end and one offensive lineman. Seven of their eight early signings came out of the JUCO ranks.
The eight signings were safety Josiah Allen (Sacramento City College), safety Dauson Booker (Modesto JC), safety Kobe Hylton (Louisiana), offensive lineman Sedrick Luke (American River College), linebacker Darryl Miner (Tyler JC), tight end Luke Seib (Blue Springs South HS), edge rusher Bryton Thompson (Blinn College), and defensive lineman Maurice (Mo) Westmoreland (Kilgore College).
One can expect most of these early signings to participate in spring ball for the Miners as mid-year transfers.
How we got here: The philosophy
When he took over the program after the 2017 season, Dimel wanted to build this program with a mix bag of JUCO recruits, Division I transfers and high school talent. Then, everything changed with the NCAA portal allowing players a one-time transfer window to become immediately eligible. Group of 5 teams shifted their focus to try and grab as many disgruntled Division I transfers as they could.
But Dimel maintained the JUCO route and UTEP started to grab All-Americans from the junior college ranks.
It begs the question, do recruiting rankings matter for UTEP?
Here is how UTEP has finished each year in recruiting rankings by 24/7 Sports:
- 2018 - 14th in C-USA (129th in FBS)
- Top recruits: QB Kai Locksley (3-star), WR Justin Garrett (3-star)
- Best find: DE Praise Amaewhule (2-star)
- 2019 - 12th in C-USA (112th in FBS)
- Top recruits: RB Deion Hankins (3-star), QB TJ Goodwin (3-star)
- Best find: WR Jacob Cowing (2-star)
- 2020 - 14th in C-USA (130th in FBS)
- Top recruits: RB Willie Eldridge (3-star), LB Tyrice Knight (3-star)
- Best finds: DT Kelton Moss (2-star); DT Keenan Stewart (2-star)
- 2021 - 13th in C-USA (132nd in FBS)
- Top recruits: WR Jeremiah Ballard (3-star), QB Jakolby Longino (3-star)
- Best finds: WR Tyrin Smith (0 stars) & CB Torey Richardson (0 stars)
Even though the Miners have finished near the bottom of the country for their recruiting efforts in the past four classes, they have developed these under-the-radar recruits. As we've seen with players like TJ Goodwin or Jakolby Longino, sometimes the 3-star prospect doesn't always pan out at UTEP. On the other end, sometimes players with no stars see the field immediately and make an impact quickly, like Tyrin Smith or Torey Richardson.
Signing Day Outlook: 2022 Overview
UTEP got the year started off with the news that class of 2022 3-star quarterback Jake McNamara will be joining the Miners in the spring. He helped guide Page High School to a state runner-up finish in 2021, where he threw for 3,581 yards, 44 touchdowns and just eight interceptions.
Jake's brother Kyle, who is a transfer wide receiver from Western Kentucky, decided to join his brother at UTEP as a mid-year transfer as well. The 5-foot-8 speedy wideout received looks from Michigan, Central Michigan and Ohio State before joining the Hilltoppers in 2021.
Another hard commit from over the weekend is 3-star offensive lineman Aluma Nkele from Long Beach City College. He is a monster at 6-foot-8, 390 pounds. He was in El Paso over the weekend and committed after his visit. He will be playing in spring ball for the Miners.
Offensive tackle Trevion Mitchell is another hard commit, per 247Sports, after his trip to El Paso this weekend. The 6-foot-5, 290 pound lineman is from Mesquite, Texas, and will join the class of 2022 for the Miners.
The No. 16 kicker ranked in the class of 2022 will be a Miner. Buzz Flabiano, a graduate of Plano East High School in Texas, will take his talents to El Paso to continue as a kicker/punter. Check out his footage from the Kohl's Kicking Camp.
Besides those hard commits, the Miners have another batch of recruits that they offered over the weekend and hope will commit by Wednesday. Here are a few other prospects that were in town.