FRISCO, Texas (KTSM) – The return of college football to Sun Bowl Stadium is less than 50 days away and the UTEP Miners are gearing up for the 2019 season.
UTEP is coming off a 1-11 mark in year one under head coach Dana Dimel, who touched on the process of rebuilding the Miners’ football program at Conference USA Media Days on Wednesday.
UTEP Football Coach Dana Dimel Q&A From C-USA Kickoff in Frisco
What are your thoughts with the start of practice right around the corner?
“We’re going into year two, and so there’s a lot of anticipation about getting our crew back together. It’s a really fun time for our football team. They have been working extremely hard all summer and have gotten themselves in great physical condition. We’re just looking forward to having a few workouts at home before we head to Ruidoso.”
Your team dealt with a rash of injuries last season.Do you plan to do anything differently this year, to reduce the number of injuries?
“We’re going to take an even different approach this year. We touched base with the Dallas Cowboys and they did some really in-depth studies about how injuries occur really early in the camp, because guys aren’t used to working their football muscles. And so we’re going to tweak our first few days [of practice]. We’re going to have a conditioning test when we come in on Friday [August 2nd). Saturday’s practice will be about an hour, and then Monday’s and Tuesday’s practices will be about an hour with walkthroughs at the end.”
What are some of your top goals in the initial weeks of camp?
“Of course we want to establish our quarterback position right now, and get a good three-deep at the quarterback position. That’s a dynamic spot for us right now. Our depth in the defensive line is going to be very, very important for Sani Buckingham to come back, and for Christian Johnson and Josh Ortega to step up and provide us with some depth. Those are guys that can help us, and we need them to do some good things. And then replacing A.J. Hotchkins is a big step for us at the MIKE position. Sione Tupou and Stephen Forester are battling for that spot.”
Which newcomers will you be watching most closely in camp?
“We had pretty much everybody come in during the spring, our JUCO guys in the secondary, and that’s going to be a big spot for us as well. But Deion Hankins is going to be exciting. He has had a good, good summer. Being able to see what he can do is going to be really important for us. Dyvonne Inyang is another safety that we just got in who is going to be starting for us on August 1st. We’re looking forward to seeing what he can do. But of course we’ve got all of those JC guys, we just want to see them keep getting better.”
What do you see as being the strengths of this football team?
“I like our team speed on defense. I think our front three with Chris Richardson, Dedrick Simpson and Denzel Chukwukelu are going to be very good players. And if our offensive line stays healthy, we have a lot of guys coming back who were hurt last year that are very good players. Some of our young freshmen got to play last year and really developed. We feel like we can be a very physical team up front.”
What are the areas you’re most concerned about entering camp?
“Depth at quarterback is definitely a big concern for us. I talked about some of the depth in our defensive line, replacing an A.J. Hotchkins at the middle linebacker position, and just the overall play of our linebacker position is going to be very critical for us.”
You’ve been through rebuilding jobs before.How do you approach year two?
“It’s always a very tricky year. From year one to year two, the biggest thing you’ve got to be careful of is feeling like you’re going to be better just because you’re in year two. And I’ll keep hitting on that throughout camp with our guys. You can’t just assume that you’re going to be better. We’ve got to make sure that we take all the little things that we’ve been working on that are very important for us to have a good unit, and put all those into play and don’t take them for granted.”
What did you learn from last season, when you gave C-USA heavyweights like LA Tech, North Texas and UAB all that they could handle?
“I think we learned that we’re close. If we do a better job of preparing, a better job of preparing to finish well and just make a few more plays, we can get ourselves in a good position.”
How important to the rebuilding process is re-establishing a home field advantage in the Sun Bowl?
“We need to be a good home football team this year. We’ve got to start establishing an ability to protect our own turf. It’s going to be important for us to play well early and play with pride in the great Sun Bowl.”