EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — He’s back!
UTEP redshirt freshman running back — and fan favorite — Deion Hankins returned to practice on Thursday and was a full participant. This coming after the Miners’ starting running back was sidelined with a shoulder injury after their zero week win over New Mexico State nearly three weeks ago.
“I feel good right now,” said Hankins. “Everything has been good. Just trying to take care of myself — staying hydrated, keeping myself conditioned — doing things I could check off while I was hurt.”
Hankins rushed for 50 yards and a touchdown in UTEP’s opener, but had to watch from the sidelines ever since. He didn’t even travel with the team for last week’s game against Boise State, and watched the game from home with his family.
“I missed [the game] a lot,” said Hankins. “Being with the team and it was weird watching the game from home — I’m usually in the game — but it has just given me fire in my heart to get back on the field.”
Luckily for the Miners, Ronald Awatt, Willie Eldridge and Quardraiz Wadley have filled in nicely during Hankins’ absence. Awatt has rushed for over 200 yards and two touchdowns while Eldridge and Wadley have combined for another 185 rushing yards in UTEP’s first three games of the season.
“I knew that going into the season that we had a lot of depth at the running back position,” said UTEP offensive coordinator Dave Warner. “Fortunately they were there for us, and they’re still going to get all their reps and carries, but it’s a little bit reassuring to have your main guy back there.”
With the bye coming this week for the Miners, Hankins will have had four weeks to rest his shoulder injury, and UTEP is still 2-1 to start the season. He is expected to return to action next week when the Miners host the New Mexico Lobos at the Sun Bowl.
“It’s a good thing that we had this bye week this week because it gives us a little bit of a head start in preparing for them,” said Hankins. “We have this week and also next week [to prepare]. We’ll be good, we just have to execute.”