UTEP football picked to finish last in Conference USA Preseason Poll

UTEP

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — A panel of media members who cover Conference USA aren’t forecasting a turnaround for UTEP football in 2021. In a preseason poll released on Monday, the Miners are picked to finish last in Conference USA’s West Division.

Marshall and UAB were selected to win their divisions respectively.

UTEP is coming off their best season under head coach Dana Dimel, despite only playing eight games in a pandemic shortened season. The Miners went 3-5 in 2020 and won their only two home games against FCS opponents (Stephen F. Austin and Abilene Christian). Since Dimel took over as head coach in 2018, UTEP is 5-27, with just two of those wins coming against FBS opponents.

Inside the Miners locker room, there is plenty of optimism. UTEP returns nearly every starter from a season ago, including starting quarterback Gavin Hardison. The redshirt sophomore showed glimpses of greatness last season with a pair of wide receivers who can blow the top off a defense in Jacob Cowing and Justin Garrett, both of whom will return in 2021. The backfield will be led by Deion Hankins who ran for nearly 600 yards and nine touchdowns in just seven games as a redshirt freshman. In the trenches, Bobby DeHaro is back anchoring the offensive line while Praise Amaewhule, who was named to the Bednarik Award Watch List on Monday, will look to build on his seven-sack season from a year ago.

It’s unclear at this point if we’ll see the turnaround the UTEP coaching staff has promised a patiently waiting fanbase since arriving on campus. History would tell us no. The Miners have played in just five bowl games since the start of the new millennium and haven’t won a bowl game since 1967. However, this year — even more so than in years past — calls for more optimism. UTEP opens the season against rival New Mexico State on Saturday, Aug. 28 — a winnable game — followed by their home opener against Bethune-Cookman (FCS) — another winnable game. The Miners also get struggling programs like New Mexico and Old Dominion at home.

A bowl game for the Miners isn’t off the table just yet, even if Conference USA’s media members believe six wins is out of reach for UTEP.

EAST DIVISION

  1. Marshall (17)
  2. Florida Atlantic (6)
  3. WKU (1)
  4. Charlotte
  5. Middle Tennessee
  6. FIU
  7. Old Dominion

WEST DIVISION

  1. UAB (15)
  2. UTSA (9)
  3. Louisiana Tech
  4. Southern Miss
  5. Rice
  6. North Texas
  7. UTEP

(first place votes in parentheses)

Praise Amaewhule Named to Bednarik Award Watch List

UTEP defensive end Praise Amaewhule has been named to the preseason watch list for the Maxwell Football Club’s 27th annual Chuck Bednarik Award, which is presented annually to the nation’s most outstanding defensive player in college football.

Amaewhule earned Second Team All-Conference USA honors in 2020 after starting all eight games for the Miners at defensive end. He led UTEP with 8.0 tackles for loss (50 yards), 7.0 sacks (48 yards) and nine pass breakups. Amaewhule also added 19 tackles, four quarterback hurries, a forced fumble and fumble recovery.

Five Miners Named to C-USA Preseason Watch List

UTEP had a total of five players named to Conference USA’s 2021 preseason watch list, selected by the league’s 14 head coaches. Five student-athletes from each of the conference’s 14 member institutions are recognized as key players to watch ahead of the 2021 season.

UTEP’s Jacob Cowing (WR), Bobby DeHaro (OL), Praise Amaewhule (DE), Dy’vonne Inyang (DB) and Justin Garrett (PR) represented the Miners on the league’s watch list.

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