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The state of UTEP football

Year two of the Dana Dimel era
Daniel Rey Perez
Senior Kai Locksley hands off the ball to Senior Treyvon Hughes to start the game against the Rice Owls at the Sunbowl stadium.

Year two of the Dana Dimel era ended Saturday much as it began with another loss and  a second consecutive one-win season falling to the Rice Owls 30-16. The Miners started the year with a close win against lower-division Houston Baptist then suffered through 11 straight losses. 

It was an injury-plagued season for the Miners as the rotating quarterbacks took turns getting knocked out of the game until senior Brandon Jones sustained a significant concussion at the midpoint of the season. Senior Kai Locksley ended up leading the team in passing and was second in rushing for the year. Locksley showed improvement as the year went on, but the offense struggled to run the ball when needed. 

Slight improvement running the ball from the previous year, averaging 15 more yards a game, and a better average was a positive. There was also an improvement of a few yards a game passing. Interceptions were cut over half from the previous year, 19 to eight. Fumbles went down from nine to six and overall, the team committed far fewer turnovers in Dimel’s second year. Fewer sacks were given up by the line but the number was still an outrageous 35 compared to 42 in 2018. 

Both starting quarterbacks will be gone, and it seems like it will be a battle between transfer Gavin Hardison and one of last year’s biggest recruits TJ Goodwin for next year. 

The running game will miss the athletic Locksley and the bruising senior Treyvon Hughes but has highly regarded Deion Hankins in the wings as well as another year from senior Quadraz Wadley after sitting out due to injury. 

The line will lose its most consistent member in senior Derron Gatewood but will return all other key players.  

At receiver the team will return its most intriguing and talented unit on the team. Freshman Jacob Cowing led the team in yards with 550 while junior Justin Garret led the team in receptions with 40. Sophomore Treyshon Wolf was second on the team with 34 receptions after having 10 as a freshman.  

Tight end, while not a big part of the offense is already a huge question mark for next season; hopefully junior Trent Thompson can provide an answer. 

Defensively, the team was worse this season, giving up three more points a game than the previous year while getting almost half of the sacks it did the last year with 12. The defense also gave up 30 more yards a game and had one less turnover caused with 10. 

No pressure on quarterbacks usually equates to fewer mistakes by opponents, which creates more opportunities to lose games. With only one victory the Miners were the rare team that did not turn the ball over a lot and still losing game after game.  

On the defensive line the Miners will lose starters Chris Richardson and Denzel Chukwukelu, the latter tying for the team lead in sacks. Freshman and co-sack leader Praise Amaewhule will return as the leader of the defensive line along with sophomore Dedrick Simpson. Overall the line did not live up to expectations on the season, so it will be interesting to see who steps up next season. 

At linebacker, the Miners will lose only one starter and that will be senior Dylan Parsee, who was third among linebackers in tackles. This is a position that could use a major speed upgrade for the team as well as a playmaker. The team sorely missed A.J. Hotckins and never came close to having anyone fill that type of role this year. 

In the secondary the team will lose the top three tackers on the team in seniors Justin Rogers, Michael Lewis and Adrian Hynson. The two top returning players will be juniors Duron Lowe and Josh Caldwell, who started most of the season along with sophomore Justin Prince returning from injury. On this side of the ball this is the biggest hole by far to be filled and by the end of next season the cupboard could be quite bare. 

Both kickers return for the next season, so special teams should remain consistent. 

It is now the pivotal offseason for the Miners and Dimel is working hard at bringing in recruits. This recruiting class will be his most critical to date because there must be improvement in year three.  

Taking over a winless team devoid of much talent, fans knew that it would not be an instant fix no matter who was the coach.  

Fans calling for a change after two seasons are not being realistic in their expectations and financially it is not going to happen regardless. UTEP is not going to buy out a coach at over 2 million dollars with three years remaining on his contract. If there is no noticable improvement in the product on the field after next season, then there will be pressure make a change for the Miners. 

If we are to assign a grade to the season, we need to go back into the elementary school grading system and assign a “NI” – needs improvement. Dimel is confident in his process, so all we can do is be patient and see what he changes or improves in the offseason. 

Michael Cuviello may be reached at [email protected]

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About the Contributor
Michael Cuviello
Michael Cuviello is a multimedia journalism student at UTEP. He currently serves The Prospector at Sports Editor and reporter. During the summer 2020, he led the publication as Editor-In-Chief where he helped cover Black Lives Matter protests and the University’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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The state of UTEP football