EL PASO, Texas - At a time when most of the UTEP student body, and a majority of El Pasoans, are just getting out of bed, the UTEP football has already hit the field in full swing.
It was anything but a normal day for the Miners with a 6:30 a.m. workout. In years past, head coach Mike Price routinely held practice at 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday, but said it was time for a change.
"I don't know if [the morning practice] was it, but I know they executed our offense very well," Price said.
Unlike last season's team with a newcomer at quarterback and a questionable offensive line, this season's squad is a veteran group with second-year quarterback Nick Lamaison and five returning starters to the offensive line.
"What they did from spring to summer is what makes them better on this first day," Price said. "If they had done nothing, it would have been like pulling teeth. … It was easy, it was smooth, it was organized."
The Miners were rough around the edges at the start - no surprise on the first day back from the offseason - but quickly fell into the routine they left off at in spring.
In the last four periods of practice (live drills), Lamaison went 5-of-6 with the first team offense. He only missed one throw on a rollout pass that went sour after he attempted to throw across his body to the middle of the field.
"It was better than expected. We're doing some new things out here, but everyone seemed really focused," Lamaison said. "I've been here for two consecutive years so the comfortability is big time, but I'm still progressing."
On the defense of end of the ball the Miners bring back most of the starters with eight returning veterans.
The defensive line and the linebackers will be the strongpoint for UTEP with sack leader junior defensive tackle Germard Reed returning for his third season.
"We still have things to work on, like last year, but overall we came out better than we have," Reed said. "The guys that we have right now (on the defensive line) are pretty experienced, so I believe everyone will have the opportunity to play."
Reed said that the practice time change is good for the team because if they stick to the same routine, they will continue to get the same results.
This was the Miners only practice in El Paso before they head off to Socorro, New Mexico for the annually six-day football camp that starts Tuesday and ends Sunday.
Notable returning starters
QB Nick Lamaison
WR Mike Edwards
OL James Robinson
OL Eloy Atkinson
OL James Nelson
OL Jerel Watkins
TE Craig Winrick
TE Kevin Perry
TE Eric Tomlinson
DL Germard Reed
DL Marcus Bagley
LB Jamie Irving
LB Josh Fely
DB Deshawn Grayson
DB Drew Thomas
DE Greg Watkins
DE Horace Miller