UTEP Football Speaks on Roadmap for 2021 Signing Class
The UTEP football team announced that just one player would be inked on early signing day, with four more initial scholarships available during the signing period, according to head coach Dana Dimel.
Wednesday marks the first opportunity for high school prospects and JUCO transfers to lock in scholarships and sign their National Letters of Intent. Instead of signing a plethora of players this off-season, Dimel's coaching staff will be strategic in how they spend their available scholarships because of the NCAA eligibility rules, allowing players to retain an extra year of eligibility next year if they choose.
UTEP has 78 scholarship players on their roster of the 85 allotted. One of those will be taken by a grey shirt, leaving just six available before this off-season started.
Moreover, the Miners entered this off-season with six initial scholarships. JUCO transfer quarterback Kevin Hurley (Northeast Mississippi Community College) will take up one of those scholarships, while an unnamed high school prospect is expected to take another. Dimel says the high school signee will be announced by the team in January. 247 Sports lists Jakolby Longino, a high school quarterback out of Hightower (Missouri City, Texas), as a commit to UTEP.
That now leaves the Miners with four initial scholarships that are available to them. The obvious area of emphasis for recruiting will be the secondary. Four players of the secondary (Dennis Barnes, Duron Lowe, Broderick Harrell and Dy'vonne Inyang) each left the program following the Rice game. UTEP will spend three of their four scholarships on defensive backs, and they will leave the other available scholarship for an offensive player, per Dimel.
Then comes the blue shirts, which gets tricky.
A blue shirt is a player who arrived on campus as a "preferred" or "recruited" walk-on, who goes on to earn a football scholarship.
If the Miners have players enter the transfer portal, the coaching staff can explore potential recruits that would fall into the blue shirt list.
"By guys that leave the program, that allows you to bring in more blue shirts, but they will count against your total next year," Dimel explained. "That's where guys leaving the team can help you get more blue shirts. Right now our scholarship roster is about 78 scholarship guys so our total numbers are pretty strong in the program."
Considering the program expects to have a large portion of their current roster returning, Dimel doesn't want to rely on the blue shirts like he has had to in previous years.
Dimel would like to see the number of returning players drop in order to add more blue shirts. With the two incoming scholarships from their signing class, UTEP is at 80 scholarship players.
"We'll take anyone back that wants to come back as part of the NCAA requirements. But if a kid's not going to play here.. he might make the decision to not come back," Dimel suggested. "I would see us from where we are now, we're at 80 (scholarships) and I would like us to get to 70, so I can see attrition of ten more guys. That's just speculative because I can't control that."
Hurley, the 6-foot-3, 210 pound quarterback, brings dual threat abilities to the table for the Miners. At Northeast Mississippi Community College, Hurley completed 47.5% of his passes for 881 yards, 10 touchdown passes, four interceptions and rushed for 261 yards and a pair of rushing scores.
He will join the quarterback group led by Gavin Hardison. Expect Hurley to compete with Calvin Brownholtz for the backup quarterback position.
"By bringing Kevin in, we believe we've supplemented our quarterback position to allow us to use all the versatility that our offense can present to people when we have quarterbacks that can run and throw," Dimel said.
The final signing date for UTEP will be on Jan. 15, 2021.
As for next year's goals, Dimel has high expectations for his bunch.
"A bowl game is realistic for us. Definitely one of our goals," he said.