Miners gearing up for Camp Socorro next month
Published: Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Updated: Friday, May 17, 2013 13:05
When the calendar turns to Aug. 9, it marks the start of college football in America.
This year the UTEP football team once again embarks on a three-hour ride through the desert to the small New Mexico town of Socorro to start their annual weeklong two-a-day football camp.
But this year's camp is different from the previous years. This camp is full of questions that need to be answered. Players need to step up and set the tempo for the camp, which will only carry momentum into the season.
"Every camp is different every year. What we have found out is that this team is a lot more mature than the teams that we have had," running backs coach Jeff Banks said.
Many questions still loom in the minds of fans and the not-so distant memory of last season hovers over the head of quarterback Trevor Vittatoe.
The offense hinges on the shoulder and arm of Vittatoe. This fall he can become UTEP's all-time leading passer, but after a suspension from spring training and undergoing Mumford shoulder surgery in the off-season, Vittatoe has a lot to prove.
Last year, he threw for for 3,308 yards, 17 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. The year before when he was healthy he threw for 3,274 yards with 33 touchdowns and only 9 interceptions. The 13 interceptions he had in 2009 were the highest total he ever had at UTEP.
Running back Donald Buckram, who ranked third in the nation in rushing last season, is sure to have a great camp after missing out on spring training.
Buckram returns to UTEP after coming off a record-setting season in 2009. He rushed for 1,594 yards, shattering a UTEP single season rushing record that stood for over 60 years all while tallying up 18 touchdowns. Buckram was a dual threat back last season as well catching 30 passes for 453 yards and three touchdowns.
"His veteran leadership is going to be crucial for this football team especially on offense," Banks said. "He's really a guy who's taken it on his shoulders because the spotlight is on him, but he doesn't see it that way."
He also became one of only four players in NCAA history to rush for 200 yards and catch 100 yards in a single game. He did that against Tulane last year when he gained 234 yards on the ground while accumulating 109 yards through the air.
"Right now he is locked in on this football team and that is his number one thing." Banks said. "He doesn't care about how many yards he runs for, he is worried about if his other players are getting with it and are acclimated with the team."
The defense has raised many eyebrows after head coach Mike Price fired defensive coordinator Osia Lewis and the end of last season.
First year defensive coordinator Andre Patterson was hired this past January and brings a prestigious pedigree with him. He has experience at every single level in football from assistant head coach at UNLV to defensive lines coach with several NFL teams that include Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Minnesota and New England.
With the experience he gained from the NFL level he will be implementing a 4-3 hybrid pro style defense. This defense will help change schemes and coverages throughout the game to slow down the high potent offenses that are in C-USA.
"The one thing the [defense] will allow us to do in Conference USA is to change up the fronts and coverages and force the offense to execute that much better," coach Patterson said.
One of the main focuses of this year's camp will be getting to the ball. UTEP ranked 89th in the country last season in turnovers, something Patterson is hoping will change with the new scheme.
"Turnovers happen when the defense can play fast and a reckless abandon for the football and it causes more turnovers to happen," Patterson said.
Defensive back Braxton Amy was finally granted another year of eligibility after having another injury-ridden year. He is finally healthy and he has been turning coaches' heads at practice.
Patterson was impressed with Amy's raw talent, frame, power and speed and he feels he can be the dominant force on defense that UTEP has been missing over the years.
"I think Braxton Amy has a very good chance of being a guy who plays on Sundays," Patterson said. "The defense that we have will enable him to show off his talent and be a good marriage for his abilities and talent."
The Miners will report to Camp Socorro Saturday August 7, but the official start date will be the following Monday.
Alex Morales may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.