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UTEP football takes the field for spring game

The Miners will begin their quest for a second-consecutive bowl season starting with their spring game, which will take place at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 10 at the Sun Bowl

The Miners, will begin their third year under coach Sean Kugler, will try to improve on the good season they had last year. UTEP finished 7-5 and went to their first bowl game, not only of the Kugler era, but in the last four years.

With many of the team’s pillars gone, the spring game can shine a light on some of the Miners’ young talent and may even answer some of the questions concerning next season’s roster. UTEP will go into the 2015-2016 season without 19 letter winners, which included 11 starters.

“Well, we’re not going to have a draft and split teams, but we are going to have a full scrimmage,” Kugler said.

“We have a few guys banged up, so we’ll probably hold a few guys out of the spring game, not risking any injuries to some of the established starters, and get a chance to look at a lot of twos.”

The biggest question might be the quarterback position, now that last year’s starter Jameill Showers is gone.

Although the starting quarterback for the Miners has not been decided, the scrimmage will provide another opportunity that can aid Kugelr in making a decision.

Junior Garret Simpson and sophomore Mack Leftwich seem to lead the pack, playing better and making the race more about them.

However, don’t count Ryan Metz out. The freshman seems to be out of the running for the starting job, but to Kugler his players always have a chance to gain ground and have a role on the football team.

“He can certainly play his way back,” Kugler said. “He’s going to have a role on this team, I won’t have athletes sitting on the sidelines. If he’s not a quarterback, he’s going to be doing one thing or another.”

Kugler has been giving more reps to Simpson, but that does not mean all the kinks have been taken care of on the offensive side of the ball. Penalties and turnovers are normal during the springtime.

“They all did a nice job, there was too many pre-snap penalties, but we’ll get that cleaned up,” Kugler said.

For many, Garrett Simpson is the starting quarterback for next season, but the spring game may prove that the competition is still alive. Good performances from Leftwich and Metz can keep the competition alive for the rest of the preseason before they take to the stadium.

However, Simpson does not seem concerned about the competition and is rather focused on improving every practice.

“With practice, you’re going to get better, so we are definitely progressing,” Simpson said. “Just got to make plays and lead by example.”

This would have been the first time fans would get a chance to look at Texas transfer M.J. McFarland. The home-town senior appears to be the perfect piece to fill the void left by tight end Eric Tomlinson, but McFarland will not play on Saturday because of a concussion suffered during practice.

Also out of the scrimmage will be standout running back Aaron Jones. His role on the team as the starting running back is set, but who will be carrying the ball when he isn’t is still up for grabs.

“I was going into the spring looking for that number two (running back),” Kugler said. “I was really interested in seeing Hamm and Hughes, and both of those guys have stood out. Two excellent, quality running backs to add to our mix, I think we will be a solid four deep at that position.”

Sophomore David Hamm is expected to take most of Jones’ touches during the spring game. It’s a perfect opportunity for the Klein, Texas native to solidify himself as the Miner backup in the backfield.

“I have a role to play behind Aaron Jones,” Hamm said. “Whenever they call my name I have to make a play.”

The spring game is the last big event of the springtime and it’s a time for coaches to rate their players and make decisions with the roster.

Although the spring game does not count for anything other than an organized practice, many positions that are being battled over could be decided over the course of the game.

For the fans, the spring game is a way of seeing the Miners battle it out in a way that they don’t do at practice.

For the players, they know that one big play may be the factor behind a starting role on the team or a comfortable bench position.

Juan Carlos Navarrete may be reached at [email protected].

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UTEP football takes the field for spring game