EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Before he transferred to Arizona in the offseason, Jacob Cowing was on pace to break almost every wide receiver record in the books at UTEP.

With Cowing – as well as the graduated Justin Garrett – out of the picture, UTEP is in search of players that could replace the production of Cowing. It won’t be easy by any means, and could be more by-committee than anything, but the Miners may have a guy that could come close.

Enter Tyrin Smith, a sophomore that transferred in from Cisco College before the 2021 campaign. Smith became a dynamic part of UTEP’s offense over the course of the season, catching 33 passes for 570 yards and four touchdowns in 2021.

However, over 65% of his receptions (22) and receiving yards (371) came in the final six games of the season, as did three of his touchdown catches. Those numbers prove how much UTEP and quarterback Gavin Hardison grew to trust Smith over the latter portion of the season. They’re hoping he improved even more in the offseason and will be ready to produce at a higher level.

“I have to make more big plays. I have to be more of a leader on the offensive side of the ball, just bring the receivers group together. There’s some young guys but also some experience, too,” Smith said after practice on Monday.

Like Cowing, Smith entered the transfer portal after the 2021 campaign, before electing to return to UTEP. It was a huge boost for the Miners receiving corps to get him back.

In fall camp, Smith has shown an improved cohesion with Hardison; on Monday, the duo linked up for a deep ball down the sideline for a touchdown. Smith leads what could be a deeper group of receivers in 2022, including Rey Flores, Kelly Akharaiyi, Jeremiah Ballard and Emari White.

“I’m really happy with that position and it’s going to come down who the playmakers are for us in time,” said UTEP head coach Dana Dimel.

Smith agreed that the receiving corps could turn some heads.

“I think we’re going to rise and be really good. We’ll definitely surprise some people, the ceiling is high,” Smith said.

As for his personal goals, he’s not afraid to put pressure on himself to be a big-play threat for the Miners as they enter the most anticipated season in years.

“I just want to play with a bigger chip on the shoulder and with more confidence, really. That’s really the big thing is knowing your assignment and being locked in, getting in the film room. All those little things will go a long way,” Smith said.

UTEP will open the 2022 season at home vs. North Texas at 7 p.m. on Aug. 27. As of last Friday, less than 8,000 tickets remain for the game at Sun Bowl Stadium.