A 1-23 record over the past two years has turned UTEP into one of the most laughed at programs in the country. They did show signs of life at some points in Dana Dimel’s first season last year thanks to the defense, but a 34-26 win over Rice was still the only victory to their name.
The defense is shattered by departures, and there wasn’t a ton on offense to give much of a sign of hope otherwise.
The UTEP offense was awful for the majority of 2018, scoring over 24 points just twice. Three different quarterbacks had to take significant snaps due to injuries, which really threw the offense out of its rhythm on multiple occasions.
Kai Locksley is the projected starter at quarterback. Locksley had a poor year through the air (49%, three touchdowns, nine interceptions), but was able to make something of the ground game. The top two backs return as well between Quardraiz Wadley and Treyvon Hughes (5.1 and 4.4 YPA respectively). The Miners also bring back most of the line.
The receiving game is largely decimated with five of the top six past catchers gone, but the Miners were always going to be a run-first team anyway. Senior Kenyan Foster is a name to watch after 17.4 YPC last year, as is slot man Tre’shon Wolf (14.4 YPC). This team dealt with many injuries last year and if they avoid that then the offense should improve.
The UTEP defense was far from good last year but was clearly the better side of the ball. Unfortunately, the top four tacklers from last year are gone, among many others.
The secondary loses a pair of big names in CB Nik Needham and S Kahani Smith. JUCO transfers Robert Corner and Duron Love come in to fill the hole at corner, Justin Price and Ty’Reke James are two JUCOs in at safety. Relying on JUCOs is risky business but is really all Dimel could turn to with the roster at hand.
On the line, DE Denzel Chukwukelu is back after 4.5 TFL last year, but the faces around him will be new. All three starting linebackers are gone but Jason VanHook is back after an injury took him out last year. The defense will take a step back as only four starters return but I think they could still be better than the offense.
The Miners come in very last place in the preseason CSD Prime ranking, but opportunities for wins are there with four teams ranked 114th or lower coming to El Paso.
This team has almost no shot of getting to a bowl, but this is a pretty young team after they relied on seniors a lot last year, especially on defense. HC Dana Dimel’s recruiting success also shows potential for some upward mobility in the future.
|Date||Opponent||OPP. RANK||Proj. Margin|
|7-Sep||at Texas Tech||60||-21.9|
|28-Sep||at Southern Miss||82||-18.9|
|2-Nov||at North Texas||80||-19.3|
|23-Nov||at New Mexico State||125||-5.7|
Average Projected Record: 3.5 wins, 8.5 losses (1.9 wins, 6.1 losses)