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UTEP gets earlier start on spring drills

Published: Monday, March 5, 2012

Updated: Friday, May 17, 2013 13:05

Football

Bob Corral / The Prospector

freshman Cole Freytag participate during the second practice of the spring March 1 at Glory Field.

Spring football at UTEP usually comes after spring break, but not in 2012. Head Coach Mike Price began spring drills Feb. 28, three weeks prior to its usual starting time.

"I think it does a lot of things. One, when spring ball's over, there's still school left to where they can still get back with our strength coach, run and lift to get stronger," defensive coordinator Andre Patterson said. "Two, they get several weeks before finals week happens, we've been ending when finals start...And lastly, it helps us to be able to get prepared to get out on the road for spring recruiting."

He said the idea is to be ahead of the curve in preparation, evaluation of incoming players and get a head start with spring recruiting.

The early start has players anxious and excited to be back on the field, regardless if it's an inexperienced freshman or a veteran like junior defensive end Horace Miller.

"You can clearly see what this is like. Everybody's practicing with major intensity. We're all having fun," Miller said. "More than anything, just keep up the fun and the intensity. It's going to be a great season."

Miller added that having a veteran group on both the offensive and defensive lines will make for great practices.

"From square one, the offensive line, they're coming off and being way more physical and they're hungry," Miller said. "They're looking vicious...It's going to be great."

Patterson doesn't recall having a veteran group like he does this year on the defensive line since his time coaching in the NFL.

"It's definitely the most veteran group I've had since I've been here. I told the players, for me, it's almost like being back in the NFL where you see your same guys for a bunch of years," Patterson said. "You don't have them for two or three years. They keep coming back so they know what you're going to say before you say it, so that's kind of what I feel like with this group."

Patterson spent 10 years as an assistant in the NFL from 1998-08 before returning to the collegiate ranks for two seasons at UNLV, then arriving at UTEP in 2010.

Even for a two-sport athlete like junior tight end Kevin Perry, who's been playing basketball with the Miners, getting in rhythm for football is an entire new task. Perry will practice or attend a game for basketball five days out of the week and still manages to make football practice even on the same days he has basketball practice.

"It was good. It felt good to be back out here and get back in rhythm with the team and get a little chemistry with some of the new guys," Perry said.

With a total of 30 freshmen on the spring roster, 14 of which are high school incoming players, the early start of practices is vital to their development.

El Pasoan and freshman wide receiver Cole Freytag was a grayshirt during the fall, which forced him to sit out during the football season and has not been on the field in over a year.

"It was the first time in my life where I wasn't playing football and I didn't really know what to do," Freytag said. "I was pretty bored and I just couldn't wait to get back on the field and now that I am, it feels so good."

UTEP practiced in full pads for the first time March 3 and will be practicing every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (with the exception of just a Tuesday practice during spring break) until the Spring Game April 6 at the Sun Bowl.

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

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