EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – UTEP Football opened up their fall training camp on Thursday. The level of excitement for the season is similar as years before but what is different is the expectations for the Miners as they head into 2022.

The Miners had a breakout year in 2021, as they went onto collect a 7-6 record, which was their first season finishing over .500 since 2014. The Miners also made their first bowl game appearance since 2014 when they took on Fresno State at the New Mexico Bowl.

After a great 2021 campaign, there is a lot of excitement to see what a Miners team that is returning a lot of players from last year, including 13 starters on both ends of the ball, can do under head coach Dana Dimel and his staff.

“The focus is good. I can tell that they’re amped up for the season to get started,” said Dimel. “I am excited about that part of it. Now it is just about consistency that we are looking for right now from our guys. It is easy to be pretty intense in day one but I am going to talk to them and make sure we are consistent with our work ethic.”

“Guys are definitely ready for August 27th,” said UTEP redshirt junior defensive end Praise Amaewhule. “Since we were working out in the summer, guys could not wait to put pads on this fall so you know just being out there in the first day out, there is a lot of great things that we have planned for August 27th.”

“For us our job and goal is really the same. Expectations don’t really change but we do,” said UTEP redshirt junior quarterback Gavin Hardison. “We are still working and still trying to get better. Last year was a step in the right direction but it wasn’t what we wanted, so we have a lot to improve on.”

The Miners had their first day of fall camp out on the field cut short due to lightning in the area.

Throughout the fall camp, KTSM 9 Sports will tackle five burning questions about this year’s Miners squad. To start off we will start off with the question of who will step up at the wide receiver position this year?

The Miners lost two of their top targets from last season in Jacob Cowing (transferred to Arizona) and Justin Garrett (graduation). Cowing led the team in receptions (69), receiving yards (1,354), and touchdowns (7). Meanwhile, Garrett was second in receptions (50), receiving yards (685), and in touchdowns (4).

Despite the losses of Cowing and Garrett, the Miners return sophomore wide receiver Tyrin Smith. Last season, Smith was the third top target on the team, as he collected four touchdowns and 570 receiving yards on 33 receptions.

El Paso native Rey Flores also returns and will look for a bigger role as he enters this season as a redshirt senior. Flores had 204 yards receiving on 13 receptions in 12 games played in 2021.

Here is a list of returners from last season at the wide receiver position according to UTEP Football’s roster for 2022.

  • Jeremiah Ballard
  • Tyrin Smith
  • Rey Flores
  • Jostein Clarke
  • Mike Malewitz
  • Penny Baker
  • Walter Dawn Jr.
  • Josh Farr
  • Lucas Flores

Along with some key returners, the Miners brought in some fresh, new talent. One name to mention is Kelly Akharaiyi, a redshirt sophomore, who signed with UTEP after he spent two seasons at Tyler Junior College.

Here is a list of newcomers at the wide receiver position according to UTEP Football’s roster for 2022.

  • Marcus Bellon (transfer from Santa Barbara CC)
  • Mister Chavis (freshman)
  • Jaylen Davis (transfer from Houston)
  • Ryan Gonzaeles (freshman)
  • Kyle McNamara (transfer from Western Kentucky University)
  • Emari White (transfer from Sierra College)

Regardless of who the Miners will send out on the field at wide receiver, their depth at the position will be an a key tool this season.

“I think our group is very talented and very athletic,” said Dimel. “We need these players to step up and be playmakers and that starts with practice. You play like you practice and so they need to practice with that kind of effort and become playmakers for us.”

“You can’t really hone in on one of us if you try to lock one up, we got two or three guys ready to go and make plays,” said Akharaiyi. “Our wide receiver group is going to be talented and great.”

“For sure we have a lot of playmakers in that position,” said Hardison. “We have some newcomers that came in and we also have guys that were here last year that can step up and make big plays for us.”

The depth at the wide receiver position will benefit Hardison at quarterback after his breakout season in 2021, where he completed 198-of-357 passes (55.5 percent) for 3,217 yards with 18 touchdowns.