UTEP Football Inks Four for 2014 Season EL PASO – UTEP signs three junior college transfers and one true freshman on Wednesday.
Joining the Miners is Alex Villarreal (DT), who signed with Oklahoma State in 2011 and was a three-star recruit out of high school. The second newcomer is Jimmy Musgrave (LB), who was on Oregon’s scout team for two years and earned American Division Mountain Conference first team honors this year. Rounding out the junior college transfers is Nick Jones (TE), who severed in the Marines for five years. The final signee is true freshman Sterling Napier (TE), who was named 2013 District Player of the Year and will be graduating in December to begin training in the spring with the Miners.
Below is complete information on all four signees for the 2014 season.
Alex Villarreal | Jr. | DT | 6-3 | 295 lbs. Hidalgo, Texas (Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College)
Started two seasons at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College … had best season in 2012 where he helped the Golden Norsemen to their best record ever (9-3) … received All-Southwest Junior College Football Conference honorable mention … started all 12 games as he tallied 80 tackles (33 solo) and two sacks … hit double-digit tackles twice during freshman season … notched a season-best 16 stops (six solo) against Navarro College (11/10/12) and tallied 11 tackles, also against Navarro College (10/27/12) … started all nine games in 2013 … recorded 46 tackles (18 solo), one fumble recovery and two forced fumbles … posted a season-best nine stops against Kilgore College (10/12/13) … signed with Oklahoma State in 2011 after senior season at Hidalgo High School where he recorded 10 sacks and had 12 tackles for loss … in 2010 was a Scout three-star recruit … was named first team All-District, third team Dave Campbell Super Team, third team Texas Football Magazine Super Team and Texas Football Magazine Top 25 Defensive Lineman.
Jimmy Musgrave | Jr. | LB | 6-1 | 220 lbs. Victorville, Calif. (Victor Valley College)
Played and started in all 10 games at Victory Valley College in 2013 … named to 2013 American Division Mountain Conference first-team defense … efforts helped the Rams to a 6-4 record … tallied 94 tackles (47 solo), eight sacks, 15.5 tackles for loss and one forced fumble … his 9.4 tackles per game ranked first in the conference, while his sack total was ranked fourth … made immediate impact in first game for the Rams as he tallied a season-high 14 stops (nine solo) and two sacks against L.A. Pierce (9/7/13) … recorded 11 tackles (eight solo), a forced fumble, six tackles for a loss and two sacks in a 48-28 win over L.A. Southwest (9/21/13) … notched double-digit tackles against San Bernardino (12), San Diego Mesa (11) and Southwestern (11) … walked on Oregon football team where he was on the scout team for two seasons (2011-12) … named 2010 Daily Press Football Defensive Athlete of the Year during senior season at Silverado High School … also received Presidential Academic Award in 2010 … named to All-Desert Sky League Football Team as a running back (79 carries, 452 yards & six touchdowns).
Nick Jones | Jr. | TE | 6-6 | 255 lbs. Buffalo, N.Y. (Erie Community College)
Played in seven games at Erie Community College in 2013 … caught 17 passes for 214 yards (12.6 avg.) and two touchdowns … had best game during a 35-7 victory over Onondage Ogres (10/26/13) with three catches for 46 yards and two scores … set season high in yards (49) and longest reception (33 yards) against Hudson Valley Community College (9/28/13) … had season-high four catches at Milford Academy (9/14/13) … hauled in seven catches for 87 yards and a touchdown during 2012 campaign … earned the 2013 Top WNY Junior College Football Scholar Athlete award for excellence in college football and academics … served in the Marines from July 2007 to April 2012, including four tours of duty … earned 12 ribbons, including the combat action ribbon, the humanitarian ribbon, and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement medal … all around athlete who also played basketball and lacrosse at West Seneca West High School.
Sterling Napier | Fr. | TE | 6-3 | 240 lbs. Rio Ranch, N.M. (Cleveland High School)
Four-year starter at Cleveland High School (Rio Rancho, N.M.) … played tight end and defensive end for the Storm … caught 43 passes for 682 yards (15.9 avg.) and three touchdowns … tallied 31 tackles (four solo), 6.5 tackles for loss and two sacks … helped No. 3 ranked Storm to an 11-2 record in 2013 … registered a season-high 172 yards receiving on seven catches and a touchdown in a 38-14 win over Volcano Vista High School (11/1/13) … caught a season-high eight passes for 106 yards during a 41-21 win over Clovis High School (9/20/13) … hauled in six passes for 110 yards and a score in a 52-12 victory over Hobbs High School (10/18/13) … is a two-time All-District 1-5A first team honoree … was named 2013 District Player of the Year, 2013 Albuquerque Football Coaches Association’s All-Metro first team and 2011 All-District Honorable Mention … part of 2011 state championship squad … also played on the basketball squad at Cleveland HS … graduating in December 2013 and will begin working out with the Miners during the spring.
In the end, Blaire Sullivan loved UTEP, but he loves playing football more. After losing his starting job here and looking at beginning the spring as a fourth-team quarterback, the junior-to-be decided to transfer to Texas State. "It was a tough decision," said Sullivan, who is from San Antonio. "It's closer to home and I was looking for a better opportunity. I haven't been guaranteed anything there but I'll have a chance. "I loved UTEP, I like all the coaches, I completely believe in what coach (Sean) Kugler is doing. This is just a personal decision." Kugler acknowledged last week Sullivan was likely to leave. "I like Blaire," Kugler said. "It's natural to be upset when you get passed over." The starter by the end of last season, Sullivan began his sophomore year as UTEP's back-up quarterback and took over as the starter when Jameill Showers got hurt. After throwing four interceptions in seven quarters and was demoted to third team, but did rush for 104 yards in a Wildcat capacity against Florida International and did play some running the option in the final two games. As a transfer to an FCS school, Sullivan won't have to sit out a season. This year Sullivan was 15-of-26 passing for 183 yards with four interceptions and one touchdown, and had 172 yards on 35 rushes. His career numers are 36-of-69 passing for 573 yards with five interceptions and three touchdowns, plus 412 rushing yards on 224 carries.
In an expected move, quarterback Blaire Sullivan announced in a tweet that he is transfering to Texas State to finish the final two years of his career. The starter by the end of last season, the sophomore began this season as UTEP's back-up quarterback and took over as the starter when Jameill Showers got hurt. After throwing four interceptions in seven quarters he was demoted to third team, but did rush for 104 yards in a Wildcat capacity against Florida International and did play some running the option in the final two games. As a transfer to an FCS school, Sullivan won't have to sit out a season. This year Sullivan was 15-of-26 passing for 183 yards with four interceptions and one touchdown, and had 172 yards on 35 rushes. His career numers are 36-of-69 passing for 573 yards with five interceptions and three touchdowns, plus 412 rushing yards on 224 carries.
The UTEP football team has traded what would have been a rare seventh home game against Colorado State for a Sept. 27, 2014 trip to Kansas State, athletic director Bob Stull said Wednesday. The Miners' non-conference schedule now includes home games with Texas Tech and New Mexico State with road games against New Mexico and Kansas State. The game against the Wildcats is a one-time game, as KSU is paying UTEP and won't owe the Miners a return trip to El Paso. "Six home and six away, it's more balanced," Stull said. "The only people who have seven home games are selling out their stadium every game. We decided we belong at 6-6." As for playing two Big 12 schools, Stull said it's the trend among mid-major programs, particularly in Conference USA. "We're a Division I school, this is a great opportunity," Stull said. "No. 1 is recruiting. Playing against Texas (in 2016), Texas Tech, Kansas State, Wisconsin (in 2012), to get good talent you need to play those games. "And our conference has changed dramatically. Most teams in our conference are playing two or even three (power conference teams)."
I exchanged Q&A's with Brett Vito of the Denton Record-Chronicle
Here were my answers: http://meangreenblog.dentonrc.com/2013/11/qa-with-bret-bloomquist.html/
Here are Vito's:
1. Is this UNT turnaround as instant as it looks from the outside, or were the seeds of it planted before this year?
UNT’s turnaround has been a couple of years in the making. I just don’t think there is any way to overstate what a disaster the decision to hire Todd Dodge, the old Southlake Carroll coach, was for UNT. Dodge went 6-37, and that wasn’t even the bad part. He left the program in shambles. Dan McCarney spent the last couple of years rebuilding after the whole fiasco was finally rectified with Dodge’s firing. UNT has gradually brought in legitimate college players, developed the players who were already there and slowly building the program up. The results are what one is seeing this year with a competent coaching staff leading what is a pretty good and experienced team.
2. How will North Texas respond to a degree of success and expectations they haven't enjoyed before?
UNT has done pretty well with dealing with success so far. UNT has won four straight after going eight straight seasons without winning consecutive games. It would have been easy for UNT to become satisfied at some point during that run, but the success UNT has enjoyed seems to have motivated the Mean Green even more. Dan McCarney keeps emphasizing the next goal. UNT has really honed in on winning a seventh game, which the Mean Green’s players have been told will pretty much lock them into a bowl game.
3. What has keyed the defensive success and how are they so good at forcing turnovers?
It’s a matter of emphasis more than anything. McCarney is a defensive-minded coach and brought in his long-time sidekick John Skladany, who was his defensive coordinator at Iowa State. Those guys put a huge emphasis on forcing turnovers by stripping the ball and getting big hits. UNT’s players have latched on to those ideas and are enjoying the benefits. UNT spent a whole lot of time in the off-season working on a turnover circuit that emphasizes the techniques McCarney and Skladany teach for forcing turnovers and continue to run through it during the season. As far as the overall success of UNT’s defense, the Mean Green is loaded with experienced players, including linebacker Zach Orr and safety Marcus Trice. UNT has a lot of experience on that side of the ball, not to mention several players who have been good players for a long time.
4. How optimistic are they about being able to hold on to McCarney? Surely he is about to be a hot commodity.
My gut feeling is that McCarney isn’t going anywhere. He has waited a long time to be a head coach again and seems to have settled into the Denton community. McCarney has also gone through a series of well-publicized health issues, including a stroke and bypass surgery. And then there is the added draw of building a program at a school where his mentor Hayden Fry coached. At McCarney’s age, I find it hard to believe that he would pull up shop and move to a new program to rebuild when he finally has UNT rolling and is in something of a position of power at the school. If McCarney goes to a bowl game this year – and it looks like he will – he’s an instant hero at UNT. There’s a lot to like about that.
5. Did North Texas expect the transition from the Sun Belt to C-USA to be harder?
We talked and wrote a lot about how the transition would go, but I always got the feeling that UNT felt like the Sun Belt was a pretty good league by the time it left. The difference between the Sun Belt and C-USA narrowed considerably when the teams all ended up in their final destinations. My impression was that UNT felt like it was stepping up a level in competition, but people felt like it wasn’t like the school was joining the SEC.
From the day he was hired to take over the UTEP football program, Sean Kugler promised an ocean of
change. For 11 months he has delivered. Wednesday morning Kugler made official the biggest, most surprising change yet. True freshman Mack Leftwich is the Minners' new quarterback. A
year removed from leading North Allegheny High to the Pennsylvania
state championship and earning that state's player of the year honor,
the 5-foot-10 Leftwich will lead 24-point underdog UTEP to Conference
USA-leading North Texas Saturday. Kugler indicated at
Monday's press conference that UTEP's quarterback situation was up for
examination following back-to-back seven-point games in the wake of the
injury to Jameill Showers, hardly surprising considering Blaire
Sullivvan had thrown four interceptions in 26 passing attempts. The
assumption at that point was that second-year freshman Garrett Simpson
wouuld get his shot, but Kugler turned to the scout team and opted to
burn Leftwich's redshirt. At Wednesday's practice, Leftwich led the team on a length-of-the-field touchdown drive in the workout-opening session.
Friday’s no-pads workout was the final one before UTEP gets into its game-week routine. The team will go through its mock game at 10 a.m. today at the Sun Bowl, watch film and have conditioning work on Sunday, take it’s weekly day off on Monday when Sean Kugler has his season-opening press conference and continue New Mexico prep Tuesday at Glory Field. The typical Friday practice will be a pre-game walkthrough, but this Friday was a more formal practice which UTEP began with 20 minutes of special teams work. “It was a bonus practice,” Kugler said. “Normally Friday will be a walkthrough, but (today) we worked on some situtional kicking, some scout work. It was a good work day for us.”
With each passing day, the possibility of using freshman receiver Brandon Moss at punter looks less like a threat to the kicking unit and more like Plan A. The Chapin alum took reps with the first unit at Thursday’s practice and has the best “operation time” — getting the ball off — of all the kickers. Moss, who was the punter for Chapin in 2011, grayshirted last year and is eligible for a redshirt this season. He isn’t in the receiver rotation at the moment. “It could go either way, I could redshirt and get better or I can help the team this way,” Moss said. “We started having receiver cuts (moving players over to the scout team) and I knew I needed to find somewhere else to get on the field. I told coach I could punt and he said I should come out and try it.” UTEP also briefly tried out quarterbacks Blaire Sullivan and Garrett Simpson there.
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