The 50 most important college players in Texas in 2017 — No. 8: UTEP’s Will Hernandez
AS THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL SEASON EDGES CLOSER, WE TAKE A LOOK AT THE MOST PIVOTAL PLAYERS FOR EACH PROGRAM'S RESPECTIVE SUCCESS.
The importance of a player is not always defined by their skill level. The most important player on a team or in a unit is not always the best player on a team. This list is designed to breakdown the 50 most important players in Texas college football for the 2017 season. It is not a ranking of the 50 best college football players in the state. Importance can be defined by position, need, skill or leadership. We’ll count down the list through the summer, all the way to No. 1.
50 – Lamar DE Daniel Crosley / 49 – TCU WR KaVontae Turpin / 48 – UTEP QB Ryan Metz
47 – UMHB RB Markeith Miller / 46 – Sam Houston State DE PJ Hall / 45 – Baylor WR Blake Lynch
44 – Texas Tech WR Jonathan Giles (transferred) / 43 – Texas Tech RB Justin Stockton
42 – PVAMU WR Joshua Simmons / 41 – Rice RB Samuel Stewart / 40 – UNT WR Jalen Guyton
39 – Texas RB Chris Warren / 38 – Rice OL Trey Martin / 37 – Texas A&M Commerce QB Luis Perez
36 – Baylor DL K.J. Smith / 35 – Texas State LB Gabe Loyd / 34 – Texas State WR Thurman Morbley
33 – Houston DB Khalil Williams / 32 – Texas Tech LB Jordyn Brooks / 31 – SFA DL John Franklin
30 – SMU DE Justin Lawler / 29 – Texas State QB Damian Williams / 28 – ACU QB Dallas Sealey
27 – UTSA QB Dalton Sturm / 26 – Texas A&M RB Trayveon Williams / 25 – UTSA WR Josh Stewart
24 – TCU LB Travin Howard / 23 – Texas Tech OL Travis Bruffy / 22 – Rice LB Emmanuel Ellerbee
21 – UNT DT Bryce English / 20 – TCU LB Ty Summers / 19 – UTEP LB Alvin Jones
18 – The Baylor QB / 17 – UTSA LB Josiah Tauaefa / 16 – Texas A&M OL Koda Martin
15 – Texas Tech QB Nic Shimonek / 14 – Texas LB Malik Jefferson / 13 – TexasA&M WR Christian Kirk
12 – Houston QB Kyle Allen / 11 – SMU WR Courtland Sutton / 10 – SHSU QB Jeremiah Briscoe
9 – Texas QB Shane Buechele
While the Miners are losing Aaron Jones in the backfield, the team will have the benefit of getting back one of the big guys up front who helped make Jones look so good. Will Hernandez was widely regarded as one of the best offensive linemen in the country last season and provided a big boost to UTEP’s chances for the coming season when he decided to return for his senior year.
Hernandez was not a highly recruited player despite being an all-conference selection on both sides of the ball at Chaparral High School in Las Vegas and he redshirted in his first year on campus at UTEP. But Hernandez quickly became an integral part of one of the most productive offensive line units in the country, starting all 13 games at left guard as a redshirt freshman in 2014. He went on to start every game as both a sophomore and junior as well, earning third-team All-Conference USA honors in 2015 before becoming a first-team All-CUSA choice last year.
Hernandez is a successful run and pass blocker and has a lot of size – especially against Power Five level competition. Standing at 6-3, 330 lbs., Hernandez has the size and strength to consistently overpower opposing defensive linemen. He anchors the middle of the UTEP offensive front and has been the most important part of a unit that helped Aaron Jones succeed at such a high level. Beyond his ability to be a physically dominant player, his 37 starts give him invaluable experience and leadership for the Miners.
UTEP will look a lot different offensively next season without the program’s all-time leading rusher in the backfield, so Hernandez will play a key role in helping to ease the transition to a new workhorse running back. The Miners will also likely throw the ball more with Ryan Metz, so protecting him will be a vital part of that shift. Hernandez gives the team a lot of security up front, and should help at least minimalize the holes left in the offense.
— –– —
Brady Keane is a Contributing Writer for Dave Campbell’s Texas Football. Follow him on Twitter: @BradyKeane.