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Five takeaways from the 2017 football signing day class

Head football coach Sean Kugler announced the 2017 signing class for the Miners on Wednesday, Feb. 1. Now that all the names are laid out on the table and preparation for spring ball has commenced, it gives the opportunity to look in depth at the recruiting class as a whole. The program signed 17 members to play football for the Miners, and Kugler had a different approach to this signing day. Here are the top five takeaways from signing day:

1: Defense Galore

Ten of the 17 signees for the football team were defensive players, so it could go one of two ways—Kugler could choose to keep the individuals at their intended position and start working on them or he could redshirt them to give the new individuals time to work underneath upperclassmen.

The defenders to take notice of from the signees list are defensive lineman Trace Mascorro and linebacker Kobie Herring, who were both high school teammates from Refugio, Texas. Both defensive specialists played all four years of their high school careers and are coming off a Class 2A Division I state championship. Mascorro and Herring were both named to the All-Area football team after the championship finish. These two bring both skill and experience to the forefront.

Another notable addition by the UTEP staff is the seven linebackers that they signed for this class. The Miners rely heavily on their linebackers; however some of these seven signees could end up converting to another spot, such as safety or defensive lineman.

Two defenders the Miners snatched locally include Javaughn Thomas from El Paso High School and Joshua Wells from Parkland High School. Thomas is an all-around athlete who has experience on offense and defense, while Wells was a monster on defense and named 2-5A All-District Football Defensive MVP.

2. Might not be much talent right away

Historically, the Miners have not been too expectant or reliant on their new class of individuals who sign unless they absolutely need to fill that position.

Last season’s true freshmen such as running backs Kevin Dove and Quadraiz Wadley both saw early action because of TK Powell’s injury in the spring.

With the absence of standout running back Aaron Jones and fullback Darrin Laufasa, newcomers like running backs Joshua Fields and Forest McKee might see action on the field offensively.

Last season, when cornerback Kalon Beverly was out, Justin Rodgers stepped in to fill his shoes as a true freshman.

Playing time as a freshman is possible, but it might not be so likely for the new class that comes in. Gunslingers Alex Fernandes and Calvin Brownholtz will not likely see the lights of the field unless Ryan Metz, who is the anticipated starter going into the spring, goes down or performs under par.

One individual who might see early playing time is JUCO transfer tight end David Lucero. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound tight end can haul passes in and block accordingly. Also, he has experience playing at a high level of football because he started his collegiate career at Boise State. As a freshman, Lucero saw action with the Broncos and has continuously progressed statistically since then.

3. Joshua Fields as the next Aaron Jones? 

One of the more surprising signings of the 2017 class was Americas’ running back Joshua Fields, who chose UTEP over New Mexico. His brother Jack Fields, who graduated from Americas High School in 2013, played at Boise State, so Joshua is trying to successfully follow in the shoes of his older brother.

When standout back Aaron Jones came out of high school, he chose UTEP over Air Force and New Mexico as a two-star recruit. Fields with three stars under his belt and a storied high school career that make him a lot like Jones was on paper.

But paper stats that are paralleled between two players only go so far. It was truly the work ethic and growth that saw Jones rise to one of the top tailbacks in the nation. He developed into a top contender through his first summer practices and training camps. Kugler believed that Wadley demonstrated some Jones-esque play last summer, so maybe Fields can do the same?

“As I recall watching these guys on film, his running style is very similar. But I look back, Aaron Jones was a 165-pound player coming out of high school, Josh Fields is a 195-pound athlete and he’s only going to continue to get bigger as he’s a worker in the weight room,” Kugler said at the signing day press conference. “This is one of the best players to come out of El Paso in a very long time. We are extremely excited for him to be a part of our program.”

The way Kugler spoke about Fields makes it seem that Wadley, Powell and Dove have a fourth competitor for the starting spot at tailback.

The thing that makes Fields special is the fact that he is elusive, agile and carries the physical body size that he can grow into more.

4. Scholarships hold

To finish off the 2017 signing day, Kugler said that he and his staff are holding off on two more scholarships available for last-minute signings to the squad.

Although this is not normal compared to previous signing day classes, this could be a strong sign for the program. It shows that Kugler feels comfortable with the position his team is currently in and he does not feel the need for any certain players right away. This allows time for the coaching staff to evaluate some players on the fence and look at them in all areas.

“We’re going to be extremely patient,” Kugler said. “We’re going to hold on to those scholarships until May and possibly look for a late qualifying high school player.”

Kugler’s reasoning behind this was simple: it is based off of prior luck with last-minute additions.

“The last one worked out pretty well for us. His name is Will Hernandez. Or a late qualifying (junior college) linebacker. The last one worked out pretty well for us—his name is Dante Lovilette, who finished second on the team in tackles,” Kugler said. “When we do sign those players, we’ll announce that to the Miner faithful.”

Maybe with two extra scholarships, Kugler can add on some strong, on-the-fence talent that can emerge into a Hernandez or a Lovilette.

5. Stars don’t go far 

When the program announced those who were going to sign their letter of intent for UTEP, the 2017 signing day was much different than previous ones. First there was a lesser amount of signees than previous years. Second, which is not too surprising, the Miners were not able to sign athletes with notable recruiting stars on their belt.

However, Kugler does not put too much weight into stars.

“Many of these guys–no stars, two stars, three stars–but what you’re looking at, and I don’t know who they’re going to be yet, but some of these guys are going to be future All-Conference players for UTEP, future leaders or captains that lead our team to a bowl game or a championship,” Kugler said. “Some of these young men will have opportunities to go play in the NFL, and I don’t know who they are. It’s going to be up to them and what they put into it.”

For what seemed to be going off on a tangent, Kugler stressed how many players he has seen go through the collegiate process and end up in the NFL, who had few or no stars coming out of high school.

The numbers really do not lie; some of the future NFL players, such as Nick Usher and Jones, did not look like special stars coming into UTEP. It was college football that made the individuals emerge into special players.

UTEP was ranked the worst (no. 14) in C-USA as far as recruitment quality, yet that still did not faze Kugler. He was completely confident in the quality of players that he and his staff recruited.

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About the Contributor
Adrian Broaddus, Sports Editor
Adrian Broaddus is the sports editor for The Prospector. He is a junior multimedia journalism major with a minor in political science.   Adrian was born and raised in El Paso, TX, and is a graduate of Franklin high school. He entered college in the fall of 2015 in hopes to better his career in journalism.   Along with sports, Adrian enjoys writing music reviews, perspective columns and news stories on politics.   Although he is pursuing his degree in journalism, Adrian would like to go to law school and be an attorney while doing part-time work in journalism.  
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Five takeaways from the 2017 football signing day class