Welcome back to an actual football version of Bulls Recon! In this week's edition, asalom from our friends at Miner Rush were nice enough to answer a few questions on UTEP's young squad, who should the Bulls look out for, and of course, NCAA expansion.
1. I remember when the game was originally scheduled that UTEP would be fielding an extremely young team this year. How has the team done so far?
The team is an extremely young team, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Coming into the season we had to replace our starting QB, RB, and no. 1 WR. To make matters worse, we virtually had to build a brand new offensive line. Although, there were some positions filled throughout the offense with players who had minimal experience, the majority of those slots were filled with brand new faces.
Thus far, we've had somewhat expected results. That is other than the opener against FCS Stony Brook. Our team really showed its youth and inexperience there, needing overtime to take out the SeaWolves. However, gradually the team has shown improvement. They fought hard in Week 2 against SMU, but fell short as starting QB Nick Lamaison separated his shoulder early in the second half. Week 3 against New Mexico State was a tough task without Nick. Especially with the Aggies coming off a win at Minnesota. Still, we played tough, persevered and won. This team is really relying on their defense right now, and so far the D has done well. We'll see how they fare this week though against a top-20 opponent on the road.
2. For USF fans who haven't seen UTEP play this year, what do the Miners like to run on offense and defense?
The Miners mostly run a single back spread offense, and really like to throw the ball. We hadn't established much of a running game until this past week, and relied greatly on airing it out. However, with starting QB Nick Lamaison out, we've certainly had to scale back the playbook a bit to fit redshirt freshman QB Jay Hall. We'll see how that changes this week.
On the defensive side of the ball the Miners mostly run a base 4-3 defense. Defensive coordinator Andre Patterson is now in his second year and has done wonders turning that unit around. We return nine starters on that side of the ball, and even though they've giving up some ground here and there, they are known to tighten up when it really matters, i.e. the red zone and end of games.
3. Who should USF fans worry about on offense and defense?
On the offensive side of the ball both Donovon Kemp and Mike Edwards have become reliable targets at the WR position. In three games (and really two, with only eight passes being completed this past week) the receivers have combined for 25 receptions, and over 450 yards. That being said, if he's healthy, Nick Lamaison is probably our biggest weapon.
Without question, our number 1 defensive player is Travaun Nixon. Hands down a first team all C-USA player, Nixon has tallied 19 tackles and 2 interceptions in two games (he sat out Saturday). The Miners also return their top 3 LBs from last year's squad that totaled about 230 tackles together.
4. Although UTEP isn't involved yet, what are your thoughts with conference expansion. Do you think UTEP will get an invite somewhere else eventually?
As far as conference expansion goes, I think it's still too early to speculate. Obviously, the ACC has made its move, and the SEC is working on its move, but beyond that there is still no telling what will happen through the rest of the country. Newest word is that Oklahoma is still willing to stay in the Big 12 if there is major reform. However, if the Big 12 falls apart, the Big East may as well, and that would open up the door not for teams like UTEP to be invited to AQ conferences, but for conferences like C-USA to gain strong programs that would allow it to become an AQ conference. Again, this is really just a waiting game.
5. Predictions for the game Saturday?
I have to be honest. I don't expect my Miners to make it a real close game. Especially if Nick Lamaison is still out. But this team has a lot of heart, and a pretty good and experienced defense. If we keep it within three scores, that will be a success.
Final Score: South Florida 38, UTEP 17.
Thanks again for asalom for helping out this week. Make sure to head over to Miner Rush for my answers later this week.