EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The UTEP football team took the field for the first time in 2021 and the Miners feel like this year could be the turning point for the program.
The Miners are coming off an abbreviated 2020 season, going 3-5 and showing big improvements on both sides of the football, most notably on offense.
UTEP’s offense ranked 104th in the country this past season, but averaged 23.0 points per game, which is nearly a four-point boost from 2019. The offense was led by a sophomore at quarterback in Gavin Hardison, who showed flashes throughout the year, throwing for 1,419 yards and five touchdowns. Deion Hankins rushed for 604 yards and nine touchdowns as a freshman while Jacob Cowing hauled in 41 receptions for 691 yards and three touchdowns as a sophomore.
The Miners’ defense ranked 47th in total defense in 2020, again, an improvement from the previous season. Junior defensive end Praise Amaewhule led UTEP with seven sacks and will continue to anchor the defensive line.
Despite these improvements, UTEP head coach Dana Dimel fired both of his coordinators following the season. Mike Canales has been replaced by Dave Warner to lead the offense and Bradley Dale Peveto takes over the Miners’ defense for Mike Cox.
Even with a change in leadership, not much changes for UTEP schematically in year four for Dimel, mainly because he finally has a proven starter under center.
“You have a quarterback in Gavin [Hardison] that gained a lot of experience last season and there’s a lot of returning starters,” said Dimel. “We didn’t play him much his first year because we wanted him to learn and then he got so much better last year. To make any drastic changes would not be a good move for any of these guys.”
Hardison believes the biggest difference he has noticed thus far under Warner is simply a new set of eyes and a different perspective on offense. There is some carryover to the offense with Warner and Dimel having coached together at Houston and Wyoming.
“We are still going about our business the way we have,” said Hardison. “We just have a new spin to things and I really enjoy Coach Warner. He has a lot of experience and he coaches us up well.”
The Miners will resume practice on Wednesday at Glory Field. The Annual Spring Game is scheduled for Friday, April 9 inside Sun Bowl Stadium.