UTEP coach Mike Price received a vote of confidence at the end of last season when athletic director Bob Stull said he saw potential in the players coming back for 2010. But that vote of confidence will only last so long. The Miners were 4-8 last year with wins over Houston and Marshall, both bowl teams, but the problem for the Miners was consistency on both sides of the ball and a defensive system they didn’t have the players to run. The defensive scheme will be corrected this spring, but the consistency is still a question mark.
Here’s a look at the strongest and weakest positions for UTEP heading into spring football:
Strongest position: Quarterback
Key returner: Senior Trevor Vittatoe (54.7 percent completion, 3,308 yards, 17 touchdowns, 13 interceptions)
Key departures: None.
The skinny: Vittatoe has been suspended for the first six practices of spring football, which will allow the Miners quarterbacking depth to develop. The backup quarterback position was going to be one of the more intriguing battles of the spring, and now it will be even more prominent. Senior James Thomas II, who has the most experience, also will miss spring practices with an injury leaving the battle for backup between sophomore Tim Curry and redshirt freshmen Carson Meger and Andy McCloud.
Weakest position: Defensive line
Key returners: Defensive end Robert Soleyjacks (19 tackles, one sack, four tackles for loss)
Key departures: Defensive end Aaron King (37 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 7.5 tackles for loss), nose tackle Steve Riddick (29 tackles, one sack, four tackles for loss)
The skinny: The defense is undergoing a total overhaul with new defensive coordinator Andre Patterson scrapping the 3-3-5 the Miners have run the last two seasons and installing a 4-3 base. With just one defensive lineman returning and an additional tackle being added to the line, there will be a lot of competition this spring. The Miners defensive line was one of the least productive in the country. It averaged just 1.25 sacks per game and teams averaged 200.83 rushing yards per game.