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Miners sign 5 local players; focus on defense

Five local players signed national letters of intent to play for UTEP next season. The Miners signed 17 players overall, ten of which play defense.

Four players are junior college transfers and 13 are high school athletes. Head coach Sean Kugler once again recruited local talent signing five El Paso natives. In the five seasons since taking over as head coach of the Miners, Kugler has signed a total of 22 athletes from El Paso:

(2013: four, 2014: two, 2015: four, 2016: seven, 2017: five). This will put UTEP at 35 El Paso natives on the roster, making one-third of the team homegrown talent.

The haul includes 10 student-athletes from the state of Texas. Including for the second year in a row the Player of the Year in the state of Texas. Of the remaining signees, three are from California, and one each from New Mexico, Alabama, Maryland and Georgia.

The Miners will commence spring ball on March 6 at Glory Field.

2017 UTEP SIGNING CLASS ROSTER

Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Hometown (Previous School)

Josh Fields RB El Paso, Texas (Americas High School)

Alex Fernandes QB 6-3 200 Austin, Texas (Vandegrift HS)

Calvin Brownholtz QB 6-1 200 Carmichael, Calif. (Jesuit HS)

Forest McKee FB 6-1 240 Las Cruces, N.M. (Onate HS)

David Lucero TE 6-5 230 Holtville, Calif. (Arizona Western College)

Cutter Leftwich OL 6-1 285 El Paso, Texas (Franklin HS)

Jalen Spady OL 6-3 340 Huntsville, Ala. (Huntsville HS)

Trace Mascorro DL 6-1 275 Refugio, Texas (Refugio HS)

Javaughn Thomas DE/LB 6-2 230 El, Paso, Texas (El Paso HS)

Kalaii Griffin LB 6-1 220 Bethesda, Md. (Ventura CC)

Kobie Herring LB 6-0 220 Refugio, Texas (Refugio HS)

Jamar Smith LB 5-11 230 Lyons, Ga. (Holmes CC)

Brent Ugochukwu LB 6-0 210 Richmond, Texas (George Ranch HS)

Joshua Wells LB 6-1 215 El Paso, Texas (Parkland HS)

James Tupou LB 5-10 230 Allen, Texas (Allen HS)

Kahani Smith DB 6-1 185 Los Angeles, Calif. (Riverside CC)

Tyson Wilson DB 5-10 165 McKinney, Texas (McKinney HS)

FULL BIOS

Josh Fields (Americas High School)

Fields was named first team All-State, District 1-6A Offensive Player of the Year, and Offensive Player of the Year. He had offers from University of Louisiana Monroe, UTEP, University of New Mexico and the Air Force Academy. Fields was the 7th-leading rusher in Texas with 2,477 yards. He averaged 206 yards per game and scored 26 touchdowns.

Alex Fernandes | QB | 6-3 | 200 | Austin, Texas (Vandegrift HS)

Played three seasons of varsity football at Vandegrift High School … in 2016, threw for 11 scores and 1,559 yards on 132-of-248 passing … rushed for 299 yards and three touchdowns, while tallying an 11-yard scoring reception as a senior … 247sports.com 3-star athlete … named District 25-6A second team offense following senior campaign … threw for a season-high 235 yards on 13-of-19 passing with a season-best three touchdowns during a 55-0 victory over Lehman … during junior season, set career bests in touchdown passes (37), yards (2,924), completion percentage (62.2), completions (176) and attempts (283) … named District 25-5A first team offense following junior campaign … registered career highs in passing yards (351) and touchdown throws (six) in a 63-55 victory against Vista Ridge … during career, threw for 53 touchdowns and 4,814 yards on 331-of-573 passing … rushed for 410 yards and six scores during three-year career.

Calvin Brownholtz | QB | 6-1 | 200 | Carmichael, Calif. (Jesuit HS)

Played final two seasons on the varsity squad at Jesuit High School … in 2016, threw for 2,333 yards on 134-of-257 passing … connected on 26 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions … averaged 17.4 yards per pass … finished with a quarterback rating of 100.9 … rushed for 190 yards on 57 carries and a score … named MaxPreps 2016 All-NorCal second team (athlete position) … threw a season-high four touchdown passes during a win against Franklin … tallied a season-best 289 yards on 14-of-21 passing and tossing three scores in a victory against Grant … followed the next week with three more scoring passes and 244 yards (8-for-13 passing) … threw at least four touchdowns in eight of 13 contests played.

Forest McKee | FB | 6-1 | 240 | Las Cruces, N.M. (Onate HS)

Played three seasons and started two of varsity football … saw action in 33 games as a linebacker and fullback … notched a total of 289 tackles (112s/177a), 5.0 sacks, three interceptions, 141 carries for 864 yards and nine scores … during senior campaign, registered 167 tackles (64s/103a), 11 tackles for loss, 4.0 sacks (10 yards), two interceptions and one forced fumble … on offense, ran 23 times for 147 yards and two touchdowns … recorded back-to-back showings of 20 tackles versus Las Cruces and Centennial … tallied 34 yards on two carries versus Rio Rancho … posted 19 tackles in a victory over Atisco Heritage Academy … notched two interceptions, 11 stops and one sack in 56-28 win over La Cueva … as a junior, recorded 717 yards on 118 attempts and seven scores … opened season rushing for 123 yards on eight carries (15.4 avg.) and a career-long 76-yard run … rushed for a career-best 141 yards on 18 carries and notched two touchdowns … on defense, tallied 122 tackles (48s/74a), a sack and a interception … registered a career best of 24 tackles (5s/19a) against Centennial … garnered All-State first team honors and was named NMPreps.com Linebacker of the Year.

David Lucero | TE | 6-5 | 230 | Holtville, Calif. (Arizona Western College)

Saw action in all 12 games at Arizona Western College … caught nine passes for 91 yards and a touchdown in 2016 … tallied season bests in receptions (six), yards (71) and hauled in a score during a win against Glendale Community College … Arizona Western compiled an undefeated conference record (8-0), while going 11-1 overall in 2016 … played in 11 games, tallying 63 yards on four receptions (15.8 avg.) at Boise State in 2015 … recorded first career catch (26 yards) at BYU … pulled in a 15-yard reception against Idaho State … named San Diego Section All-Manzanita League first team on both offense and defense as a junior and senior … caught 38 passes for 819 yards and 12 touchdowns, while also registering 33 tackles, three interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in his final prep season (2013) … three-star recruit to both Scout.com and 247sports.com … rated no. 27 nationally at his position by 247sports.com … rated no. 57 overall in California by 247sports.com … during sophomore season, was named second-team all-league on offense after catching 22 passes for 422 yards and four scores.

Cutter Leftwich | OL | 6-1 | 285 | El Paso, Texas (Franklin HS)

Played all four years on the varsity squad at Franklin High School … named All-District 1-6A first team offense following senior campaign … in 2016, helped create holes for the rushing attack as the Cougars tallied 2,117 yards on the ground with 21 touchdowns … Cougar quarterbacks combined for 2,119 yards passing, 24 touchdowns and only five interceptions in 2016 … Franklin offense racked up a season-high 333 yards on 34 rush attempts (9.8 avg.) and 311 passing yards during a 53-28 victory against Pebble Hills … Cougars passed for a season-best 381 yards (34-for-51) and six scores versus Americas … Franklin dismantled Socorro 59-14 behind 316 rushing yards (9.0 avg.) and six rushing scores … Franklin edged Eastwood 41-40 behind 347 yards on 21-of-37 passing and three touchdowns, while adding 128 rushing yards and a pair of rushing scores … earned Texas High School Coaches Association All-State football academic honorable mention.

Jalen Spady | OL | 6-3 | 340 | Huntsville, Ala. (Huntsville HS)

Played three seasons on the varsity squad at Huntsville High School … earned 2016 All-Huntsville Region football team honorable mention as an offensive lineman … Panthers dominated Grissom 67-14 behind 423 yards on 50 carries (8.5 avg.); the quarterback alone gained 172 yards on eight attempts (21.5 avg.) and a rushing score, while throwing four touchdowns … Huntsville defeated Columbia 40-21 on 376 yards of total offense, including 257 yards in the air … son of former Miner great James Spady, who was recently inducted to UTEP Centennial team.

Trace Mascorro | DL | 6-1 | 275 | Refugio, Texas (Refugio HS)

Played all four years on the varsity squad on both sides of the ball at Refugio High School … tallied 165 tackles (59 solo), 28 tackles for loss, 20 quarterback hurries, 4.0 sacks and two fumble recoveries with a return for a touchdown … no sacks allowed while playing on the offensive line … efforts helped lead the Bobcats to a 15-1 record, while winning the 2016 Class 2A Division I State Championship … registered five tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss and a quarterback hurry in the championship game … one of three Refugio players to be named 2016 Victoria Advocate All-Area football team MVP following efforts in 2016 … named District 15-2A Division I All-District football first team on offense and defense (G/DT) in 2015 … named first team on both sides of the ball (DE/OT) in 2014 … named to District 16-2A Division II All-District football first team offense in 2013.

Javaughn Thomas | DE/LB | 6-2 | 230 | El Paso, Texas (El Paso HS)

Played three seasons on the varsity squad at El Paso High School … saw time on offense and defense … on offense in 2016, tallied 153 yards on 21 carries (7.3 avg.) and four touchdowns, while producing 88 yards on five receptions … on defense in 2016, registered 58 tackles (33 solo), 2.0 sacks and a fumble recovery … earned 5-A All-District first team defense honors … named to El Paso Times All-District first team defense … scored a rushing touchdown in four consecutive games … rushed for a season-high 92 yards on three carries (30.7 avg.) and a score, while adding a season-best 12 tackles and a fumble recovery versus Irvin … recorded 56 yards on four receptions and tallied four tackles against Hanks … recorded a sack and six stops versus Cobre … during three-year career, recorded 137 tackles (69 solo), 3.5 sacks, three pass breakups and two fumble recoveries.

Kalaii Griffin | LB | 6-1 | 220 | Bethesda, Md. (Ventura CC)

Led team to 5-0 conference and 8-3 overall record … saw action in nine games during 2016 season … registered 40 (30s/10a) tackles, four tackles for loss, one forced fumble and five pass breakups … notched a career high of seven stops and three breakups in victory over Orange Coast … posted a personal best of seven solo tackles in 48-25 win over Canyons … recorded first career forced fumble against Bakersfield and added five tackles … notched four stops, two tackles for loss and a pass breakup in win over Moorpark … 2016 Southern California Football Association Northern Conference Honorable Mention defense … a two-sport letterwinner at Walter Johnson HS in football and wrestling … as a senior racked up 53 tackles, 17 pass breakups, one interception and one sack …. Also proved to be threat on kick return, recording 325 return yards on the season … tallied 36 pass breakups in two seasons with the Wildcats.

Kobie Herring | LB | 6-0 | 220 | Refugio, Texas (Refugio HS)

Played all four years on the varsity squad at Refugio High School … amassed 200 tackles (80 solo) with 37 tackles for loss, four quarterback hurries, 2.0 sacks, two pass breakups and one fumble recovery returned for a touchdown … allowed one sack while playing on the offensive line … efforts helped lead the Bobcats to a 15-1 record, while winning the 2016 Class 2A Division I State Championship … tallied five tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and was named the defensive MVP of the championship game … one of three Refugio players to be named 2016 Victoria Advocate All-Area football team MVP following efforts in 2016 … named APSE Class 2A All-State football first team defense, while also being named APSE Class 2A Defensive MVP for the state of Texas … in 2014 and 2015, repeated as the District 15-2A Division I Defensive MVP, while also earning first team honors on the offensive line.

Jamar Smith | LB | 5-11 | 230 | Lyons, Ga. (Holmes CC)

Led defense in tackles during both seasons at Holmes Community College … led team with 90 tackles (66 solo) in 10 games played during 2016 … averaged a team-best 9.0 tackles per game … added 2.0 sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries, four pass breakups and a blocked kick … registered double-digit tackles in five different contests … named MACJC First Team All-State and NJCAA All-Region XXIII … notched a career-high 15 tackles (12 solo), along with 3.0 tackles for loss and a pass breakup against Copiah-Lincoln … opened sophomore campaign with back-to-back, 12-tackle performances (at East Central [MS], vs. Southwest Mississippi) … notched a sack at East Central (MS) and against Iowa Western … led Falcons with 59 tackles in 2015, while adding 3.0 sacks and 6.0 tackles for loss … was 60-0 as a wrestler in high school.

Brent Ugochukwu | LB | 6-0 | 210 | Richmond, Texas (George Ranch HS)

Played all four years on the varsity squad at George Ranch High School … earned Texas High School Coaches Association All-State football academic honorable mention in 2016 … named District 24-5A All-District football first team defense following junior campaign … efforts in 2015 surged George Ranch High School to a 16-0 record and the 5A Division I Texas State Championship … named to 24-5A first team following junior season … tallied six tackles and an interception in the state championship contest … the Longhorns posted a 48-8 overall record the past four seasons (2013-16).

Josh Wells | LB | 6-1 | 215 | El Paso, Texas (Parkland HS)

Played three seasons on the varsity squad at Parkland High School … finished ranked third in the state of Texas in sacks following senior season … produced monster numbers in 2016, posting 25.0 sacks (204 yards), 132 tackles (82 solo), three pass breakups, a pair of fumble recoveries, three forced fumbles and blocked four punts … Parkland defense recorded a season-high 13.0 sacks during victory against Bel Air … named District 2-5A All-District Football Defensive MVP following senior season … efforts helped Matadors to an 8-4 overall record and a playoff spot … in 2015, tallied 59 tackles (18 solo), 8.0 sacks (59 yards), seven hurries, three pass breakups, a fumble recovery, two forced fumbles and blocked a punt … earned honorable mention defense 2-5A All-District selection following junior campaign … earned 2-5A All-District football honorable mention offense at the tight end position in 2014.

James Tupou | LB | 5-10 | 230 | Allen, Texas (Allen HS)

Played two seasons on the varsity squad at Allen High School … named All-District 6-6A first team defense … named Texas APSE Class 6A all-state football honorable mention following senior campaign … earned 2016 Texas Associated Press Sports Editors Class 6A all-state honorable mention defense … efforts helped Allen High School to a 14-1 overall mark and a trip to the state playoffs … the Eagles compiled a 28-2 record the last two seasons (2015, 2016) … brother Sione plays linebacker for UTEP.

Kahani Smith | DB | 6-1 | 185 | Los Angeles, Calif. (Riverside)

Saw action in 11 games at the safety position leading team to a 10-2 overall record … notched 36 tackles, four interceptions, 11 pass breakups and three touchdowns during the 2016 season … in first game of the season, registered a career-high six stops and added two breakups in victory over Victor Valley … helped the Tigers claim a 77-7 win over LA Harbor with first defensive score on a 47-yard pick six … posted a career best two interceptions (16 yards) against Saddleback and added five tackles, a tackle for loss, a forced fumble and a fumble return for a touchdown … recorded a career high four pass breakups versus Long Beach … guided team past El Camino with four tackles, one interception and two pass breakups … 2016 Unanimous National Division Central League first team defense selection … in 2015 played in five games and started in three at Dixie State … registered 29 total tackles … notched nine tackles and one pass breakup versus Azusa Pacific … recorded five or more tackles in four of the five games … 2014 second team All-Moore League in football.

Tyson Wilson | DB | 5-10 | 165 | McKinney, Texas (McKinney HS)

Played three seasons on the varsity squad at McKinney High School … saw action on both sides of the ball, but mostly at defense … tallied 53 tackles (42 solo), five interceptions (101 yards) with a pick six, two pass breakups and blocked a pair of field goal attempts … caught a pass for eight yards … named All-Collin County second team defense honors … notched a pair of interceptions (74 yards) including one for a score and tallied five tackles during a victory against Pearce … registered seven tackles and an interception against Keller … added another pick with three stops in a win over Plano … recorded seven tackles and an interception against Wylie … concluded high school career with an 11-tackle performance against Boyd … opened junior campaign (2015) with 11 tackles against Pearce … amassed a career-high 16 stops along with picking off a pass against Prosper … earned All-District 10-5A football first team defense following junior season.

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