Preview 2017: UTEP Miners

Preview 2017: UTEP Miners

UTEP

Preview 2017: UTEP Miners

Preview 2017: UTEP Miners


Previewing and looking ahead at the UTEP Miners season – and what you need to know.


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2017 UTEP Preview: Will UTEP EVER Turn The Corner?
– 2017 UTEP Schedule Analysis
UTEP Previews: 2016 | 2015

What You Need To Know About The UTEP Offense

Can offensive coordinator Brent Pease get more out of the passing game? Can the offense pick it up again after finding a groove over the second half of the season?

The Miners scored 35 total points over an ugly four game stretch in the first half of the year, but the running game got rolling and the points started to come. Unfortunately, star RB Aaron Jones is gone, and now it’ll take a village to replace him.

Will Hernandez leads a veteran line that did a tremendous job of blasting away for Jones, and was just as strong in pass protection. It’s up to the rest of the skill guys to do more for a balanced attack that was too inconsistent.

Ryan Metz is an effective passer with good accuracy, but the downfield plays have to come even with just one starting receiver returning.

Biggest Key To The UTEP Offense

Get more out of the passing game so the rushing attack doesn’t have to do everything. Talk about pressure, if the ground game didn’t work at ridiculous levels, UTEP lost. The Miners went 3-0 when running for 289 yards or more, 1-8 when it didn’t. In that one win over FIU, it averaged six yards per pop.

No pressure, but UTEP is 8-0 over the last four years when running for 290 yards or more. Easy peasy.

What You Need To Know About The UTEP Defense

Defensive coordinator Tom Mason gets a veteran defense with several nice parts to work with. It all starts with a linebacking corps that should be the team’s biggest strength. Alvin Jones might be the best linebacker in Conference USA, while the parts around him will crank up the tackles.

The secondary that didn’t come up with enough stops or picks will at least be experienced, getting back three starters, including certain all-star safety Devin Cockrell. Can the line do its part to crank up the pressure? End Mike Sota is the only returning starter to the front in the 3-4 alignment, but there’s decent bulk for the rotation. Now …

Biggest Key To The UTEP Defense

The pass rush has to come. Decent for a few years, the Miner pass rush disappeared last season with just 14 sacks spread out over the second half of the season – and with three against Texas early on. Even worse, there were a mere 46 tackles for loss – this group just didn’t get into the backfield. That has to come from the outside linebackers, especially with leading pass rusher Nick Usher gone.

UTEP Will Be Far Better If …

The defense can start taking the ball away. After coming up with 21 turnovers in 2014, UTEP registered just 23 total over the last two seasons. The offense didn’t make a ton of big mistakes when it came to giveaways last year, but UTEP kept losing the turnover battle because the D didn’t do its part. The Miners didn’t end up on the plus side until the tenth game of the season, and that’s after they came up with a season-high three takeaways.

Best UTEP Offensive Player

OG Will Hernandez, Sr. – Someone had to do all the blocking for Aaron Jones and the amazing running game. The 6-3, 330-pound left guard out of Las Vegas has started from his redshirt freshman season on, serving as one of the best run blockers in the league and doing a great job in pass protection – nothing gets by him. A true mauler, he can move, too.

2. QB Ryan Metz, Jr.
3. OT Greg Long, Soph.
4. RB Quadraiz Wadley, Soph.
5. WR Eddie Sinegal, Soph.

Best UTEP Defensive Player

LB Alvin Jones, Sr. – The 5-11, 225-pound hitting machine was banged up and missed two games, but he still led the team with 93 tackles with 2.5 sacks and six tackles for loss. He owned Florida International and Rice with 16 tackles in each game, and he came up with 12 against North Texas. But that’s nothing new – he made 93 tackles in 2015, too. He knows how to get around the ball.

2. S Devin Cockrell, Jr.
3. LB Dante Lovilette, Sr.
4. S Nik Needham, Jr.
5. LB Jayson VanHook, Soph.

Key Player To A Successful Season

RB Quadraiz Wadley, Soph. – Can he get back healthy? He suffered a shoulder injury this offseason, but the team desperately needs him – and others – to help replace Aaron Jones, and his 1,773 yards and 17 scores.

Wadley only ran for 168 yards, but he wasn’t used a lot. The 6-0, 180-pounder isn’t build to be a workhorse, but he can move. Now he and 250-pound Kevin Dove – who ran for 101 yards and a score – have to combine to be Jones.

The UTEP Season Will Be A Success If …

There’s a bowl appearance. After going 4-8, the Miners need to be two wins better – or more. With Rice and UTSA at home, and winnable road games against New Mexico State, Army, North Texas and UAB, there are enough 50/50 games to get close to six wins. But it’ll take an upset or three to get to the post-season.

Key Game To The UTEP Season

Sept. 9 vs. Rice – The Miners can’t lose this again. Rice was miserable last season, and it’s not going to be a whole lot better, but after losing 44-24 in embarrassing fashion, UTEP has to pull this off. It’s the home opener and the Conference USA lid-lifter. Lose, and it’ll probably be an 0-3 start before going on the road to face New Mexico State and Army.

2016 UTEP Fun Stats

– Sacks: Opponents 22 for 186 yards – UTEP 14 for 94 yards
– 4th Down Conversions: Opponents 9-of-14 (64%) – UTEP 5-of-15 (33%)
– Kickoff Returns: UTEP 44 for 809 yards – Opponents 19 for 385 yards

2017 UTEP Preview: Will UTEP EVER Turn The Corner?
– 2017 UTEP Schedule Analysis
UTEP Previews: 2016 | 2015

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