UTEP football athletes receive Athlon Sports All Conference-USA Honors

From+left+to+right%3A+Senior+kicker+Gavin+Baechle%2C+sophomore+wide+receiver+Tyrin+Smith%2C+junior+defensive+end+Praise+Amaewhule%2C+junior+offensive+lineman+Elijah+Klein%2C+senior+running+back+Ronald+Awatt.

Photos courtesy of UTEP Athletics

From left to right: Senior kicker Gavin Baechle, sophomore wide receiver Tyrin Smith, junior defensive end Praise Amaewhule, junior offensive lineman Elijah Klein, senior running back Ronald Awatt.

Daniel Alec Lopez, Staff Reporter

The UTEP football team had 14 of its student athletes named for Athlon Sports All Conference-USA Honors after being recognized for last season’s achievements.  

Senior running back Ronald Awatt was awarded with first-team offense. Awatt led the Miners in rushing yards with 844 yards on 159 carries. Awatt averaged 65 yards per game and had six rushing touchdowns. 

Sophomore running back Deion Hankins was named fourth team honoree and was the second lead rusher last year on offense. Hankins recorded 458 yards on 121 carries, tying the team lead with six rushing touchdowns. 

Sophomore wide receiver Tyrin Smith went on to earn fourth-team honors. Smith had his first 100-yard game with four catches for 100 yards against Florida International University. According to NCAA.com, Smith is also ranked 38th overall in yards per catch, which puts him amongst the top 50 wide receivers in the FBS rankings.  

Starting freshman offensive lineman Jeremiah Byers and junior offensive lineman Elijah Klein both started in all 13 games and earned All-Conference USA Honors. Klein also earned All Second Team Honors. Klein and Byers were important contributions to the Miners success as they helped average 392.1 yards per game offensively, while also helping the Miners eclipse 3,278 yards total for the 2021 season. 

“It’s a blessing. I’m not going to take it for granted, but me personally I’m my biggest critic, so I want more,” Byers said in a post practice interview July 7. “It’s a good stepping stone but I feel like I can get more this season than what they say I can give, so I gotta go out there and prove it.”  

On defense, junior defensive end Praise Amaewhule and sophomore defensive tackle Keenan Stewart earned first-team honors. Amaewhule led the Miners with 13 tackles for loss, 10 quarterback hurries, and 3 forced fumbles. Stewart had 35 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks. 

Senior Dennis Barnes led the defensive backs with 59 tackles, four and a half tackles for loss and two interceptions, which earned him fourth team honors. Senior linebacker Breon Hayward earned second team honors, as well as senior linebacker Tyrice Knight. Hayward led UTEP with 108 tackles and is the first player in three years to have more than 100 tackles. 

Junior defensive tackle Kelton Moss also received fourth team honors, having racked up 23 tackles and one pass break up. 

On special teams, sophomore punter Joshua Sloan, senior wide receiver Walter Dawn Jr., and senior kicker Gavin Baechle all received third team All-C-USA honors. Baechle hit 18-of-24 field goal attempts and is 34-for-35 on extra point attempts, while also ranking 6 overall in career field goals with 36 total. 

Statistics acquired with the help of UTEP Athletics. 

Daniel Alec Lopez is the sports editor and may be reached at [email protected]