UTEP’s offense ranked among the worst in Conference USA in 2019, but some promising signs started to emerge by the end of the year. The offense is turning to its youth after losing the top rusher and passer from last season.
The changes start at the quarterback position. After two years of run-first QB Kai Locksley, the Miners are switching to pass-first QB Gavin Hardison. The redshirt sophomore threw for 5,347 yards and completed 68.6 percent of his passes during his senior year at Hobbes High School in New Mexico. He has the inside track to start over redshirt freshman TJ Goodwin.
If Hardison improves his accuracy, there are finally playmakers ready to take advantage. Sophomore Jacob Cowing caught 22 passes for 355 yards in his final four games, and will ascend to No. 1 receiver. He will pair nicely with Justin Garrett to provide a downfield threat. The wild cards are transfers Devaughn Cooper (missed most of 2019 to injury) and Q’ Drennan, who make this the deepest unit of the Dimel era.
While an improved pass offense provides a versatile threat, this is still a Dimel offense. Running the ball will take center stage. Thankfully, the running backs are in a great position. Senior Quardraiz Wadley is back for his fifth season after a season-ending foot injury. He’ll mix nicely with El Paso products Josh Fields and Deion Hankins to produce a strong rushing unit. Three starters on the offensive line also return, including all-conference performer Bobby DeHaro at guard. The unit will improve from its 3.8 yards per carry mark.
“I think we need to grow mentally and be prepared to fight,” Wadley said. “We should never lay down to our opponent, no matter what school it is.”
In addition to the running backs, UTEP is looking to the transfer wire for a running quarterback complement. Neither Hardison nor Goodwin are natural rushers; Dimel could lean on a two-quarterback system, similar to the one that nearly won the Big 12 with now-UTEP WR coach Jake Waters in 2014.
“We’re getting to where we want to be,” Canales said. “I think we’ve created an offense that can be successful and have strengths. If we can get a quarterback who can step up and get the ball where we want it to be, we’ll be fine.”
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