Picks up? How UTEP can be successful this season.

UTEP is coming off its first winning season since 2014 when the Miners went 7-6. Last season they had that same record and its looking like the Miners may finally be turning the corner. The team is competitive, has consistent QB play and has a 1,2 punch at running back with both Ronald Awatt and Deion Hankins being put on the Doak Walker preseason Watch list which goes to the nations top running back, and that just begins the list of players on preseason watch lists

5 Miners are currently on the C-USA preseason watch list. Linebacker Tyrice Knight is on the Butkus Award watch list, Amaewhule is on the Bronko Nagurski Trophy watch list and Bednarik Award watch list,Hankins is also on the Wuerffel Trophy watch list. Theres potential for UTEP to win a lot of trophies and awards if those players have a great season. But of course while individual awards are fun, this team is coming for one thing, and thats a conference title.

How does UTEP get a conference title? The numbers say if they improve in a few areas they can easily have more than 7 wins. But the Miners did lose a key player so someone will have to step up. First let’s look at the numbers, then a key player they lost, followed by a key player gained.

Number wise UTEP was 6-1 when the Miners allowed fewer than 140 rushing yards. Conversely they were 1-5 when they allowed more than 140 rushing yards. So an obvious key to their season will be stopping the run. If they stop the run this is a winning team and the numbers show that. Secondly the Miners are 5-2 when they had 2 or less turnovers. The recipe for the Miners to have a successful season is as easy as that. Stop the run, and don’t turn the ball over.

The Miners also need to win on the road. At the Sun Bowl the Miners were 5-1, but once they left El Paso the Miners were 2-4, and 0-1 on a natural field (Bowl game versus Fresno State) getting wins on the road will be important if the Miners want to be successful considering they have 6 road games with one being in Norman, Oklahoma

The Miners also have to rely on Junior wide receiver Tyrin Smith. Smith had 33 catches for 570 yards and 4 TD’s last season. Smith also averaged over 17 yards per catch. He’ll have to step up to replace former Miner Jacob Cowing who transferred to Arizona this offseason. Cowing had 69 receptions for 1,354 yards and 7 TD’s. His numbers will be hard to replicate.

UTEP also felt they had to improve the return game this offseason. So the Miners were happy when they were able to obtain Marcus Bellon from Santa Barbra Community College. Bellon had 10 TD’s last year with 4 coming from catches, 4 from punt returns, and 2 from kick off. Marcus also had 47 catches for 622 receiving yards with 6 games with at least 75 receiving yards. Lastly Bellon had 10 kickoff returns for a total of 320 yards (32.0 avg) while piling up 434 yards on 20 punt returns (21.7 avg.).

Coach Dimel and the Miners have everything they need to be successful. If there was ever a time for them to win the C-USA it would be now. The keys are simple, stop the run, don’t turnover the ball, and win on the road. The Miners are looking to do just that this season, but it all starts August 27 at 7 pm when the Miners have their home opener versus North Texas.

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