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Tight ends shine in second scrimmage

Published: Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Updated: Friday, May 17, 2013 12:05

Football

BOB CORRAL / The Prospector

Sophomore tight ends: Eric Tomlinson tries to pick up extra yardage after making a catch during spring drills March 20 at the Sun Bowl.

The Miners’ second scrimmage of the spring March 24 at Glory Field was by no means a traditional one. Featuring a variation of big plays and many failed snaps during shotgun and field goal formations, the scrimmage still ended in a manner that was sure to please the non-existent crowd: with a touchdown.

The scrimmage came to a close when junior quarterback Carson Meger hit sophomore tight end Eric Tomlinson in the middle of the field for a 40-yard catch and run into the end zone.

This could be a foreshadow of things to come, as head coach Mike Price said UTEP will rely heavily on their tight ends in 2012 due to the inexperience with the receivers. Tomlinson feels like the pressure is now on the tight ends to make the passing game work.

“They’re getting the ball to us a lot more. It’s much more fun out here being a part of the offense, the pressure is all on us,” Tomlinson said. “Nothing like ending it with a touchdown.”

One thing that stood out throughout the scrimmage was the center exchange from the shotgun. With senior Eloy Atkinson out due to injury, Price has been rotating redshirt freshman Paulo Melendez, sophomore Kyle Brown and senior Paul Santillan, who’s only been playing center for two practices.

“They’re trying hard, but it ruins the timing for the quarterback,” Price said. “You just have to work through it and find the guy that can make the calls and snap the ball from the shotgun.”

Melendez added that it comes down to consistency and getting better in practice. The injury to Atkinson opened an opportunity for him and the other centers, but none have yet solidified the back up role.

“It’s just consistency. Snapping the ball with practice becomes a natural motion so after a while, it’s no longer thinking about it,” Melendez said.

All three centers remained after practice, working on their technique with multiple offensive coaches and Atkinson in attendance.

Things also got heated as referees had to break up players from fighting on separate occasions.

“It’s intense out there so you get into it every once in a while, but it’s all good and fun,” Tomlinson said.

Junior defensive tackle Germard Reed had a different take on the events, joking about the defensive unit having nicknames as intensity picks up all while keeping it fun.

“As a defense we have something that we kind of change our name from the boy dogs to straight violence swag,” Reed said. “When you’re in the trenches, there’s nothing soft about that, so we go out there and try and raise the intensity high. What we do is come out and try and have fun, but try and be mean as well. That’s what we do.”

Price has installed a wildcat package using redshirt freshman Blair Sullivan at quarterback and allowed him to exchange the red jersey, which disqualifies them from contact, for a blue jersey and go live for a series of plays. Price added that Sullivan’s play and built reminded him of Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach when he was playing for the Naval Academy in college.

“It was a lot of fun. I enjoyed getting hit a little bit, it’s a bit different for a quarterback, I mean we always get to wear these red jerseys,” Sullivan said. “I think the players respect it too if you go live.”

Sophomore running back Nathan Jeffery returned to action after nursing a knee injury and looked nearly 100 percent after breaking a run for 46 yards, nearly scoring on the play.

“I feel great. Offense is rolling pretty good, we’re coming together as a team with this new offense and everything is coming together,” Jeffery said. “I tried to score on that one, the knee is not all the way 100 percent, but it’s getting there. Next time I break it. I’ll make sure I score.”

Daniel Ornelas may be reached at prospector@utep.edu.

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