JUCO players show their strength at the end of the first week of training for UTEP

to play

The UTEP football team is one week away from its first fall camp which precedes its first kickoff. As an example of what that means, the miners took their only mandatory day off Wednesday, the day most teams across America opened their official fall practices.

Here are some takeaways from what happened in the first six practices.

After:5 questions for UTEP underage football as fall camp begins

JUCO’s invasion continues apace

UTEP is currently fielding nine defensive players who come straight from a junior college, with the number of open days likely to be more or less one of that number.

The two players who came to UTEP after high school are safety Tyson Wilson and defensive end Praise Amaewhule. Wilson is fighting for a sport with freshman college transfer Kobe Hylton.

Breon Hayward, who will enter the starting lineup if the NCAA rules on his appeal for an additional year, came to UTEP from Marshall after a stint at junior college. Right now, transfer from junior college Gary Theard is starting in his place.

Those nine junior college defensive starters include newcomer Latrez Shelton, a cornerback, who is battling for the spot with fellow newcomer Josiah Allen.

Offensively, the only JUCO starters at the moment are quarterback Gavin Hardison and top two receivers Tyrin Smith and Kelly Acharaiyi.

Healthy so far

UTEP has no high-contact practices other than on the lines, and the miners are exceptionally healthy for having had six practices. The only injury to anyone at both depths is cornerback Torey Richardson, who suffered a knee injury but was padded and could be back as early as Thursday.

Safety Dennis Barnes, who currently appears to be staying at the back instead of a potential move to the corner, has a minor nerve injury to his arm and practiced in a “no-hitter” red jersey on Tuesday.

Miners do not tackle in practice.

More special teams are working

UTEP struggled on special teams last year after a late change of coordinator which coach Dana Dimel said didn’t allow enough time to work on the fundamentals.

The miners are working to fix this problem this year. Each two-hour workout starts with 15 minutes of special teams work, then has an additional 15 minutes towards the end.

Located at kicker with Gavin Baechle and kicker with Joshua Sloan, personnel issues will be in the second leg. Marcus Bellon was brought in to fix the punt return game and he shared reps there with seventh-year senior Walter Dawn. Reynaldo Flores also lined up balls on returns.

Dawn and Bellon are also the two best kickoff returners.

Bret Bloomquist can be reached at 915-546-6359; [email protected]; @Bretbloomquist on Twitter.

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