EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – The college football season is set to kickoff in a little over three weeks as fall camp at UTEP continues to roll on. For the first time in recent memory, the Miners feel like they have some stability at the quarterback position with Gavin Hardison returning as the starter.
Hardison started seven games for the Miners in a pandemic-shortened season in 2020, while going 108-of-199 passing for 1,419 yards and five touchdowns. The sophomore quarterback averaged 202.7 yards per game in his first season as the starter.
“I have a whole season behind me and it’s all about that experience,” Hardison said. “Now it’s time to start winning games and starting to elevate my game. I want to push us over the top.”
The UTEP coaching staff expects Hardison to make an even bigger jump in 2021. The Hobbs, New Mexico, native continues to put in the work on the field in practice, as well as off the field in the film room and the weight room.
“It’s his third year in the system and that’s been really positive for him,” Dimel said. “He’s able to get us into certain looks and take what the defense is giving him.”
UTEP also has depth at the position. The Miners entered fall camp with six quarterbacks on the roster, three of which have been in the program since 2019: Hardison, Calvin Brownholtz (R-So.) and Isaiah Bravo (Sr.). New to the group is Kevin Hurley (So.), JaKolby Longino (Fr.) and Zach Rodriguez (Fr.).
“I think practice has been really good so far,” Hardison said. “I’m really close with Calvin and Isaiah since we’ve all been here a while. We’re really trying to bring up Kevin, Jakolby and Zach in this offense, and it has been going pretty well so far. I’m just working to improve on every aspect of my game, so it’s not really one specific thing.”
Brownholtz, who started the last game of the season for UTEP and led the Miners to a 43-point performance against North Texas, echoed Hardison’s sentiments on the quarterbacks’ preparation for the season and the comradery in meeting rooms.
“The first week of practice has gone pretty well and everyone seems to improve a little bit every day,” Brownholtz said. “I am out here competing with Gavin and we are pushing each other. Our quarterback room is pretty healthy and the coaches seem happy with what we are doing. It’s been a really healthy environment in meeting rooms and we continue to encourage each other.”
UTEP returns a total of 10 starters on offense in 2021, including Hardison’s two favorite targets at wide receiver: Justin Garret (Sr.) and Jacob Cowing (So.). He will also have one of the deepest running backs rooms in Conference USA with Deion Hankins (R-Fr.), Ronald Awatt (R-Jr.) and Quardraiz Wadley (R-Sr.) all returning to the backfield.
UTEP will open the season in zero week against Battle of I-10 rival New Mexico State on Saturday, Aug. 28. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. MT at Aggie Memorial Stadium in Las Cruces.