NCF Nation: Andre Patterson

Spring superlatives: UTEP

March, 26, 2010
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.
A lot of rebuilding projects get underway this week as another round of teams begin spring football. New coaches such as Ruffin McNeill and Rob Ianello will get their first glimpses of their teams on the field, while other coaches such as Todd Dodge, Bob Toledo and Mike Locksley try to put their teams on track.

Here’s a look at this week’s spring starts and the biggest issues each teams faces:

East Carolina, March 22

Biggest issue: With several senior lettermen gone, new head coach Ruffin McNeill is basically starting from scratch, but he does have a good foundation upon which to build. The Pirates will spend the spring transitioning from a pro-style offense to a spread under the direction of new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley.

Tulane, March 22

Biggest issue: There are several issues Tulane has to deal with the spring, but the biggest will be replacing the production of running back Andre Anderson. Anderson accounted for 80 percent of the team’s rushing yards and scored eight of the team’s 10 rushing touchdowns.

Idaho, March 23

Biggest issue: The Idaho offense was quite good last season, but the defense cost it some games. The defense allowed 433.23 yards per game and 36 points per game. It returns 11 players with starting experience, which should help. The Vandals also have to replace four starters on the offensive line.

New Mexico, March 23

Biggest issue: With three-year starter Donovan Porterie gone, sophomore B.R. Holbrook and juniors Tate Smith and Brad Gruner will compete for the starting quarterback spot. However, the winner of that competition will have to fend off top recruits Tarean Austin and Stump Godfrey in the fall.

Northern Illinois, March 23

Biggest issue: Starting quarterback Chandler Harnish will miss spring football, which opens up the quarterback position. A.J. Hill, DeMarcus Grady, Jordan Lynch will be vying for time, but a lot will be expected from junior college transfer Casey Weston in the fall.

North Texas, March 23

Biggest issue: This is a pivotal season for Dodge and his staff, and the key to turning the Mean Green’s fortunes around is getting the defense to play better. North Texas allowed 412.33 yards and 35.58 points per game last season, and also averaged just one sack per game.

Utah State, March 23

Biggest issue: With running back Robert Turbin sidelined with a knee injury, the Aggies will have to find a running back to fill his shoes. Turbin accounted for almost 60 percent of the team’s rushing yardage.

Akron, March 24

Biggest issue: Ianello enters his first spring, and the top priority will be to find playmakers on offense. Akron, which hasn’t had a winning season since 2005, averaged just 19.25 points per game last season.

Ball State, March 24

Biggest issue: The Cardinals will look to replicate the type of offense they had during their 12-win season in 2008. Last season the run game was OK, but the passing game struggled. All of the quarterbacks are healthy this spring and running back MiQuale Lewis returns for a sixth season.

TCU, March 24

Biggest issue: The Horned Frogs didn’t lose much from last season’s 12-win team, but they did lose their top defensive performers in defensive end Jerry Hughes and linebacker Daryl Washington. Replacing those players, as well as adding depth in the secondary, will be the focus this spring.

UAB, March 24

Biggest issue: David Isabelle has the unenviable task of replacing do-it-all quarterback Joe Webb, who was essentially all of the Blazers' offense for the past two seasons. Isabelle does bring a strong arm as well as rushing ability to the quarterbacking position, which might help other players get involved in the offense.

Colorado State, March 25

Biggest issue: The Rams will once again look for a new starting quarterback this spring, and all eyes will be on early enrollee Pete Thomas, who is the favorite to win the job. Senior Jon Eastman, junior T.J. Borcky and redshirt freshman Nico Ranieri also will compete for the starting role.

UTEP, March 25

Biggest issue: Former UNLV defensive line coach Andre Patterson takes over as the defensive coordinator, and he’ll do away with the 3-3-5 defense installed by Osia Lewis. The Miners have consistently been bad on defense, which has stopped them from competing for the C-USA West title. But if Patterson can get the defense moving in the right direction, the Miners become a dangerous team.

Houston, March 27

Biggest issue: New defensive coordinator Brian Stewart inherits a young group with a lot of talent and will need to show some sort of defensive turnaround this spring. The defense was part of the reason the Cougars didn’t cap the perfect season they started.
Here's a breakdown of three issues facing each program heading into the spring:

Central Florida Knights
Spring practice starts: March 19
Spring game: April 17

What to watch:
  • The Knights will need to develop offensive line talent after allowing 2.54 sacks per game and failing to block for a rushing offense that ranked 82nd in the country. The Knights return all but two offensive linemen and have one coming in the spring.
  • The quarterback battle will heat up with early enrollee Jeffrey Godfrey, who already has impressed coach George O’Leary. Godfrey will compete against Rob Calabrese for the starting role.
  • The Knights will have to find replacements for three key members of the defensive line -- DE Jarvis Geathers, RT Torrell Troup, LT Travis Timmons. The defense was the main reason the Knights finished 8-5 and won their final five games.
East Carolina Pirates
Spring practice starts: March 22
Spring game: April 17

What to watch:
  • With a new coach, a new system, and a crop of new starters, East Carolina will have its work cut out for it this spring. New head coach Ruffin McNeill needs to replace 15 players with starting experience, which won’t be easy with just a month to work.
  • The most underrated positions the Pirates have to fill are punter and kicker. All-American Matt Dodge is gone as is kicker Ben Hartman, who set the school record for career scoring. Finding replacements for those two is a top priority.
  • New offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley will be implement Texas Tech’s offensive system with just two scholarship quarterbacks and a team that relied on its running game. Riley is confident he can install all of his spread offense this fall, but there’s no telling how quickly the Pirates will pick it up.
Houston Cougars
Spring practice starts: March 27
Spring game: April 24

What to watch:
  • The one thing that really kept Houston from an undefeated season was its defense. Brian Stewart, who was named the defensive coordinator in January, inherits a young team with a lot of talent, but he has some work to do to catch the defense up to the offense by September.
  • Quarterback Case Keenum returns for his senior season, but his center, Carl Barnett, does not. Barnett started 39 games, so Keenum will have to establish a good rapport with his new center this spring. Blake Sargent, who was the backup last year, appears to be the front-runner.
  • Even though the Cougars did not lose many starters on offense, coach Kevin Sumlin will look for more athletic players to rotate into the mix. Last season, 19 players had at least one catch and 12 had double-digit catches.

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Report: UTEP to hire DC today

January, 14, 2010
Texas-El Paso is expected to name former UNLV defensive line coach Andre Patterson the new defensive coordinator today, according to the El Paso Times.

Patterson would replace Osia Lewis, who was fired last week.

Patterson was part of Mike Sanford’s staff that was fired after going 5-7 at UNLV this season.

Oddly, UNLV’s defense was actually worse than UTEP’s this season. The Rebels allowed 456.17 yards and 32.42 points per game. The Rebels held just two FBS teams under 23 points and allowed five teams more than 35 points.

The Miners return just three starters from this year's defense.