UTEP Football Position Breakdown: Quarterbacks
July 31, 2009
This is the fifth in a series of articles previewing the 2009 UTEP football team. The Miners will start fall drills on Thursday, Aug. 6.
Trevor Vittatoe has been so good in two years as UTEP's starting quarterback, it's hard to imagine him getting even better.
But Aaron Price, who is the Miners' co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, sees his protégé improving.
"He is becoming more mature as a person and as a football player," Price said. "He is learning that when you have as strong of an arm as he does, you need to choose the way you throw the ball. Sometimes he has thrown it too hard. He's learning to be more of a touch passer, and he's choosing his throws better, which will really help his completion percentage."
Vittatoe already raised his completion percentage from .550 as a freshman in 2007 to .589 last year. He is coming off a season where he set a school record for touchdown passes (33) while throwing for 3,274 yards with only nine interceptions. Six of those picks came in the first and final game of the season.
There aren't many quarterbacks in the history of college football who can boast of the numbers Vittatoe has achieved as a freshman and sophomore - 6,375 yards passing, 58 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.
For all of his accolades, though, Vittatoe doesn't seem to get the respect nationally that he deserves. And last season, he was widely viewed as only the fourth-best quarterback in Conference USA behind Houston's Case Keenum, Tulsa's David Johnson and Rice's Chase Clement.
"Those are media things that I don't necessarily get involved with," Price said of the perceived slighting of Vittatoe. "I know what he can do, and people who play against him know what he can do. I know those other guys are really good players too. I'm sure all of the coaches would say that they'd take their own guy because they feel like he's the best, and I think Trevor's the best. That's all I care about. And he's going to do great things for us.
"Trevor will have his day, and we'll benefit from how he plays."
Vittatoe has a pair of experienced backups in senior Kyle Wright and junior James Thomas II, who bring different things to the Miner offense. Wright is the steady, if unspectacular, "wily veteran" in Price's words, while the flashier Thomas has been known more for his running than his passing.
Wright has completed 12-of-31 passes for 137 yards in his Miner career, throwing for one touchdown as a freshman and sophomore.
"Kyle has improved his arm strength, which is a big deal for him. He is throwing the ball better than he ever has," Price said. "He knows everything about the offense, and when he's in the game we can continue running the same plays that we would for Trevor. He can overcome some things with his smarts and knowledge. He is a really important ingredient to our offense and our quarterback depth."
Thomas has battled some injuries during his UTEP career but has electrified the Miner offense at times, especially last season versus New Mexico State. With Vittatoe sidelined with a bum ankle, Thomas came on and nearly single-handedly carried the Miners to a win over their I-10 rivals, rushing 19 times for 142 yards.
"When he's healthy, he's better," Price said. "He needs to practice, and when he practices, he improves. He's a special weapon because he can run the ball. He has improved immensely, getting bigger and stronger and working on his quarterbacking skills. Like Kyle and Trevor, he is very knowledgeable about the game. Those three guys know the offense backwards and forwards."
Thomas will continue to be used at wide receiver. He has caught 13 balls for 138 yards in a Miner uniform.
Curry and Trisby redshirted last season. Curry was a highly decorated signal-caller at Elysian Fields High School, throwing for 1,594 yards and 22 touchdowns as a senior. He was regarded as the no. 29 pro-style quarterback in the country entering college.
"His development in the spring and summer will be evaluated in the fall," Price said. "I still believe he can be a great quarterback, and I think he's going to make a big jump from his first to his second year. He's a likeable kid, and he won a lot of games in high school."
A San Diego native, Trisby looked equal parts exciting and raw in his first spring with the Miners. Like Thomas, he could be utilized at wideout.
"He is a very athletic runner," Price said. "He impressed me this spring. He threw the ball better than I anticipated he would. He's very talented. He has big-play potential, and we'll see if he stays at quarterback."
McCloud was pegged as one of the top 50 quarterbacks in the nation by Scouts, Inc. coming out of The Woodlands High School. In his only year as a starter, he passed for 1,688 yards and 18 scores.
"He was unknown on the recruiting front, and we got a chance to look at him in our camp and thought he could add something to our program," Price said. "He is more of an athletic pocket passer, but he can run a 4.6 40-yard dash too. He is a mobile pocket guy, which is a little different from some of the people we have recruited in the past."
Adding depth at the quarterback position will be Carson Meger, a freshman from Plano High School. "He was highly regarded by the coaches in the Dallas area," Price said. "He's a very athletic kid, and I suspect he'll be one of the better walk-ons that we've had here in a while."