EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – In a preseason media poll released by the league on Monday, UTEP was picked to finish sixth in Conference USA during the 2022 football season.

The Miners’ middle of the pack selection entering Dana Dimel’s fifth season comes after UTEP narrowly lost to Fresno State in the 2021 New Mexico Bowl, capping off a 7-6 season.

UTEP was picked to finish either last or second-to-last in the preseason poll Dimel’s first four seasons at the helm of the Miners. UTEP returns a good portion of its key contributors from a season ago and there is optimism for a finish higher than sixth at UTEP.

Five Miners were also honored on the C-USA Preseason Watch List on Monday. Quarterback Gavin Hardison; defensive end Praise Amaewhule; wide receiver Tyrin Smith; offensive lineman Elijah Klein; and punter Josh Sloan are on the list of players pegged by the conference.

Additionally, linebacker Tyrice Knight was named to the preseason watch list for the Dick Butkus Award, given annually to the best linebacker in college football.

Knight, who started all 13 games during his junior season, ranked second on the team with 102 tackles in 2021. Knight added 9.0 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks, an interception, three pass breakups, two quarterback hurries, a pair of forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

The award semifinals are expected to be named Oct. 31 with finalists to follow Nov. 21. The winner will be named on or before Dec. 7. Appearing on the watch list is not a requirement to win the award.

UTEP will open the 2022 season at home on Aug. 27 vs. C-USA foe North Texas.