EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – It’s no secret, the UTEP football team has been one of the worst teams in college football over the last three years. During that span, UTEP is 2-34 and the lack of production on offense is largely to blame — more specially, the play at quarterback.
The Miners desperately need more from their quarterback in 2020. UTEP has been a revolving door at the position and typically we have seen two, sometimes even three quarterbacks play in one game. In 2017, it was Ryan Metz, Zack Greenlee, and Mark Torrez splitting time. In 2018, it was Metz, Kai Locksley, and Brandon Jones. In 2019, it was Locksley and Jones sharing the duties. As the age-old saying goes, ” if you have two quarterbacks, you have none.”
This season, redshirt sophomore Gavin Hardison is the man under center. The junior college transfer was named the starter one week into fall camp after redshirt freshman TJ Goodwin announced we would be opting out of the 2020 season. Hardison saw limited playing time in 2019, but even that counts for something.
“Just knowing what that game speed is like and getting some experience under my belt was huge last year. I’m excited for this year,” said Hardison.
In two games last season, Hardison threw for 335 yards and one touchdown, completing 44% of his 61 attempts. His job this season in simple: get the ball to the playmakers.
“I’m expecting him to get out there and use the year of preparation,” said UTEP head coach Dana Dimel. “He got some action in the UAB game and the Rice game last year. He needs to tighten up his fundamentals of what he does — all the little things with his fundamentals need to be tighten up. I’m looking for him to orchestrate the offense and get us into plays we need to get into and get out of plays that we need to get out of.”
UTEP might be 2-22 since Dimel took over in 2018, but he has talented skill players. The Miners return redshirt senior Quardraiz Wadley, senior Joshua Fields, and redshirt freshman Deion Hankins at running back. At wide receiver, UTEP returns redshirt senior Justin Garrett, sophomore Jacob Cowing, redshirt senior Devaughn Cooper, and redshirt senior Walter Dawn Jr.
“I think our passing game is going to be excellent this year. We have a lot of trust in our quarterback this year,” said Cowing. “We have a lot of trust in our receivers and we know if our passing game isn’t there, we have great running backs to pound the ball for us. That’s why I think our offense is going to be something special this year.”
The players know their perception around college football is not a good one. However, they believe this is the year they can begin to turn the tide. It starts on Saturday when the Miners open the season against Stephen F. Austin at the Sun Bowl.
“This game will be really important to establish our identity,” said Wadley. “In the past, we’ve been labeled as not a very good football team, but we want to show the fans that things are really changing.”
It just might be the toughest rebuild in the country, but if UTEP wants to see some actual improvement this season in terms of wins, it is going to start and end with getting more consistent play at quarterback.