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Can UTEP’s 2018 signing class resurrect the program?

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Can UTEP’s 2018 signing class resurrect the program?

Adrian Broaddus, Copy Editor

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For new head coach Dana Dimel, Wednesday’s signing day could be about restructuring the program for positions that need depth and new bodies to fill holes on the roster.

Joining the team so late into recruiting season—late December to be exact—a lot of doubt was coming from where this coaching staff would recruit and the quality of players they could get. Bottom line, no one expected much.

In turn, Dimel and his established coaching staff recruited, traveled, and recruited more non-stop for over a month. They ventured through all over Texas, hitting big cities like Austin, Houston and Dallas. They traveled through California, Oklahoma, Kansas and Arizona as well.

And each time they completed one of their missions on recruitment trips, they would announce it via social media.

From quarterbacks to receivers to defense weapons, the program is notching their final commits as this recruiting season comes to an end. What is certain though, is this is the most star-filled recruiting class UTEP has seen to date. Only time will tell to see if Dimel’s staff made good decisions with their recruits.

Below are the recruits who have been announced so far and what they can bring to the table:

Kai Locksley – QB – Iowa Western C.C. (JUCO)

This is hands down the best name on the list of recruits for the Miners. It’s still mesmerizing how an 0-12 program who is already so late into the recruiting season lands the JUCO offensive player of the year in Kai Locksley. He is the No. 4 overall dual-threat quarterback in the nation according to 24/7 Sports, and was a three-star quarterback out of high school.

Locksley started his colligate career under Charlie Strong at Texas, but when he was told he would be moved to the receiver spot, Locksley decided to leave the team for Iowa Western Community College to play at the JUCO level and eventually come back to the Division I ranks. With his team, Locksley threw for 20 touchdown passes and ran for 20 touchdowns.

What makes him so special is his dual-threat attack. He’s able to throw the ball through the air well, scramble outside the pocket and most importantly, score. Last season, the Miners flip-flopped through quarterbacks Ryan Metz, Zack Greenlee and Mark Torrez in attempts to find their true quarterback. With this steal at quarterback in Locksley, it’s likely that Dimel found his new guy for the gunslinger spot.

One thing to note, however, is UTEP hasn’t really seen the likes of a dual-action quarterback like Locksley, with the closest being Jamiel Showers in 2014 under former Sean Kugler. It will be interesting to see the offense they develop around Locksley and how it will differ from UTEP’s previous offenses.

One thing’s for sure though, they’re not going to be afraid of running the ball.

Justin Garrett – WR – Cerritos College, CA (JUCO)

Another big name comes with receiver Justin Garrett out of JUCO affiliate Cerritos College. The 6-foot-0 wideout could see action on the field as early as next year, especially with the Miners graduating receivers like Tyler Batson.

Garrett is a three-star recruit and ranked the No. 17 overall receiver out of California, according to 24/7 sports. What’s good about this addition is his height and age for the JUCO level. At only 19-years-old, Garrett has the opportunity to have three years under the UTEP program to develop into a sharp target.

Andrew Nwachukwu – WR – Wylie, TX

Choosing the Miners over the likes of North Texas, Prairie View A&M and Texas State, the skilled asset of Andrew Nwachukwu will really help the ailing Miners receiving core.

Last year on many instances, dropped passes killed the Miners air raid game. So, adding more depth on the receiver spot was necessary. Nwachuku, the Wylie High School future grad and three-star recruit, finds his success in receiving yards after being tackled and has a strong ability of getting open.

Josh Caldwell – CB – Cerritos College, CA (JUCO)

Teammate of fellow commit Garrett, Josh Caldwell will plan to join the Miners come signing day and could be a necessary addition to this Miners secondary. According to 24/7 Sports, Caldwell is a two-star cornerback and ranks No. 35 in California for his position.

At 6-foot-1, Caldwell is the size that the Miners want defending the pass. He might be the only defensive back of this recruiting class to hit the field as early as this year, being that the Miners have a nice secondary with the likes of Justin Rogers, Kalon Beverly, Nik Needham and Kahani Smith returning next year.

Justin Prince – S – Long Beach City College, CA (JUCO)

Standing at 5-foot-11, safety Justin Prince has a lot of room to grow during his career with the Miners. Out of high school, he weighed less than 180 pounds, and now he’s a built, 195 pound secondary specialist who can come in as a utility man or even replace any secondary in the coming season.

Tres Barboza – OT – Tyler, J.C., Texas

The big tank in Tres Barboza could see the field as early as the fall, since the Miners graduated three of five starting lineman last season. Barboza, the 6-foot-3, 295 pound lineman played right guard at Tyler Junior College and is a two-star recruit, according to 24/7 Sports. He saw looks from UCF, Indiana State, Abilene Christian and Texas State

What jumps out on his film is Barboza’s speed as a big man. He’s able to drive defenders back, good on the run and able to protect the quarterback on passes.

Savien Jenkins – DT – Samuel Clemens, Texas

Storming through his senior season in competitive deep Texas High School football, two-star UTEP commit and defensive tackle Savien Jenkins is a promising addition to this signing class. Jenkins finished his senior season with 85 tackles, 9.5 tackles for losses and four sacks. Although he’s just 5-foot-11, Jenkins is agile and possesses a sharp talent to break the offensive line to get to the backfield.

Ricky Baker – WR – Prestonwood Christian, Texas

Receiver Ricky Baker is a diamond in the rough and could be a future playmaker in this receiver core. Baker, a two-star commit, plays sharp in the slot on offense, able to catch the deep ball and is exceptionally fast.

He helped Prestonwood Christian win a state title this past season and received looks from SMU and Utah State. Ultimately, he chose UTEP as his next destination.

Oscar Draguicevich – P – Temple College (JUCO)

Wiping anxiety away from the idea of not getting the punter and kicker UTEP needs will be punter Oscar Draguicevich from Temple College. During the Kugler era, the recruiting’s focus never was on punters or kickers. Now it’s a big relief that there wil be a punter joining this team.

Last year, UTEP punter Alan Luna booted program-record numbers with his rugby style of punts. Similarly, Draguicevich has good punting talents, receiving interest from teams like Eastern Carolina, USF, Texas Tech and UTSA. UTEP might not know it now, but this man was a steal.

Tristin Tuialuuluu – OT – El Paso Del Valle, Texas

The lone local commit comes from maybe the most talented player in the city with offensive lineman Tristin Tuialuuluu. The Del Valle two-star guard dominated the line, being the “blind side” tackle for the Conquistadors.

Who knows, if Tuialuuluu has a dominant summer camp, he could see reps on the field as soon as next fall. He might be the best-sized lineman recruit at 6-foot-3 to come to UTEP from El Paso since Derek Elmendorff in 2013.

Cameron Cooper – OT – Grandview, CO

There are not many linemen recruits that look totally fit for the right tackle position like Cameron Cooper. He’s fast, he’s tall and he’s big. If the 6-foot-5 tackle out of Grandview, Colorado, could put on maybe 40 more pounds on him, he could even be an NFL prospect down the line.

Cooper’s strengths are blocking the run and creating opportunities for holes in the defense.

Ray Walters – ATH – Alain Leroy Locke Senior, CA

When you watch Ray Walters, a senior out of Alain Leroy Locke California High School, you understand why he received looks from UNLV, Arizona, Arizona State, Washington State, Colorado, Oregon State and Fresno State. UTEP snagged an athlete—not a receiver or running back—but an athlete when they picked up Walters.

Put him in the slot and he can hurdle a defender off a catch. Put him as a wideout and he makes a spectacular catch. Or, put him in the wildcat formation as a quarterback and he can make defenses pay. It will be interesting to see what offensive coordinator Mike Canales decides to do with him.

Elijah Klein – OG – Upland, CA

Playing for one of the best high schools across California, Elijah Klein knows what it takes to win and looks to bring his explosiveness to the UTEP offensive front. The 6-foot-4, 300-pound guard has a lot of room to grow into a tough lineman under Dimel.

UTEP was his one and only offer and commit, but schools in California will wish they looked more at Klein when it’s all said and done.

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About the Writer
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...

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