UTEP Football Position Breakdown: Wide Receivers
Aug. 9, 2009
This is the 10th in a series of articles previewing the 2009 UTEP football team.
Two years ago, Jeff Moturi enjoyed a breakout season for the UTEP Miners, catching 65 passes for 891 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Last year it was Kris Adams' turn to emerge, as he reeled in 50 receptions for 958 yards and 14 scores.
Can Moturi and Adams both reach the end zone 10 times in 2009? If they do, it will mark the first time in school history that two players have achieved the feat in the same season.
They came awfully close last year, but a slow start prevented Moturi from matching his sophomore numbers. He still finished with 51 catches for 655 yards and nine TDs after posting just 19 receptions for 159 yards in the first five games. Moturi regrouped to tally 32 catches for 496 yards over the final seven contests, a 70.9 yards per game average during that span.
"Jeff didn't have a consistent year," said UTEP receivers coach Guy Holliday. "He had some aches and pains that we didn't tell a lot of people about. Anytime that happens, you have to learn to block it out. I think frustration started setting in because we weren't performing as well offensively as we would have liked early in the season.
"As the offense picked up, so did his performance. He has matured since last season and he has a new focus. He has had an exceptional camp so far, and we're expecting him to have a better year than he had as a sophomore."
Adams registered the second-most touchdown receptions in a season in 2008 - one behind Lee Mays' 15 in 2000 - while averaging a sparkling 19.2 yards per catch. He put together five 100-yard games, including a personal best 145 yards versus SMU.
"Kris is a really big play, deep ball guy for us," Holliday said. "We're working on his intermediate route running to make that more effective. We want him to be more physical in the running game. And we want him to step up and be more of a leader."
While Moturi and Adams give UTEP a pass-catching duo as formidable as any school in the country, the Miners have plenty of other weapons for quarterback Trevor Vittatoe to throw to.
Tufick Shadrawy has played in 29 games over the last three seasons, raking in 22 receptions for 295 yards and three touchdowns.
"Tufick is Mr. Consistency," Holliday said. "He's not quite as explosive as Adams and Moturi, but he's knowledgeable, he knows where to be on key third downs and he doesn't drop balls. He's just a consistent guy that you need to have in this offense."
Junior Evan Davis and sophomore Donavon Kemp are locked in a fierce competition to win the fourth receiver job. Davis had 19 catches for 217 yards a year ago, while Kemp supplied eight receptions for 142 yards.
"Evan is really coming on," Holliday said. "He has always been a great athlete, but he didn't quite approach the game the way we wanted him to in the past. Now he has matured, and we're really happy to see him step up.
"Donavon is super explosive. We're trying to help him understand the intricacies of route running. He is really conscientious and wants to do well. He's very physical, and his speed brings a whole new dimension to our offense when he is in the game."
At 6-5, 230 pounds, Pierce Hunter is a wide receiver in a tight end's body.
"He has to be our big physical guy," Holliday said. "We need him to play to his size. He can be a big body for Trevor to throw to down the middle. We're really trying to make him aggressive in the running game."
"Russell has come a long way," Holliday said. "He and Pierce are working behind Kris Adams, and Russell is probably a little better outside receiver. His problems in the past were understanding the offense and making the right mental preparations for the game. This offense goes as the wide receivers go, so we can't afford to make mistakes. He's developing nicely."
El Paso native Frye really turned heads in the spring and has carried his performance over to the fall.
"French Frye is probably the biggest surprise of the camp," Holliday said. "His improvement from year one to year two has been amazing. He's going to earn the right to play some this year. He is an exciting athlete who catches the ball. He was a quarterback in high school, so he has only been a receiver for a year. He impresses me with what he does."
Thomas and Trisby could see action at quarterback, wide receiver or both.
"J.T. is a valuable asset because he gives us a lot of different options," Holliday said. "We love him in the slot. He is a lot more physical than other players think. He doesn't get a chance to work on the finer things at receiver because he is splitting positions, but what he does he does well.
"Trisby is intriguing to me. He is a great athlete. He has good size and unbelievable hands. He fills a void that we lost with some of the guys who left our program. I'm looking forward to working with him. He's probably more of a [former Miner] Lorne Sam type than James Thomas is. He has a big body and he's physical."