Friday, June 30, 2017
Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: UTEP Miners
The Miners have been more up than down in Sean Kugler's era as head coach at UTEP, and last season was definitely a down year, as the Miners finished just 4-8. Kuger currently ranks #17 on the coacheshotseat.com rankings for coaches who are in jeopardy of losing their jobs, but if the Miners get off to a rocky start, he could rocket up that list.
What To Be Excited About: Offense
Ryan Metz returns for his junior season, and was a solid performer last fall. He tossed 14 scores and only tossed four INTs. He needs to not have to look over his shoulder at Zack Greenlee, who also received significant snaps last fall, and if he can get full control of this offense, he may blow up this season.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
I've given you all of the good news I can muster up for the Miners this fall. There is much more negative news that good. Aaron Jones, the one massive star player the Miners had, is gone at RB. Quardrais Wadley, the likely leader at RB heading into fall camp, carried the football just 47 times last season.
Eddie Sinegal and Warren Redix got some experience starting last fall, but they combined for just 41 receptions last fall, and Sinegal had 29 of them. There will be very limited amounts of depth, as backups Walter Dawn and Tyler Batson combined for just 11 receptions.
The line returns just two starters in LG Will Hernandez and C Derron Gatewood.
The PK will be need to be replaced as well, and Jason Filley is the likely candidate to win the job.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
The LB corps has three of four returning starters this fall, as Dante Lovilotte, Jayson VanHook, and Alvin Jones all come back to the mix. Jones led the team with 93 tackles, VanHook with 36, and Lovilotte coming in second on the team with 89 tackles. This group also combined for 18 TFLs.
Three starters are back in the secondary as well. Nik Needham and Kalon Beverly both return at CB. Needham finished with 11 PBUs, while Beverly finished with six PBUs. Devin Cockrell is back at SS as well, and finished with 58 tackles last season.
Alan Luna returns at Punter, and averaged 41 yards per punt last season.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
The front line may have some issues this season, as only DE Mike Sota returns to start, and he finished with only 2.5 TFLs last fall. He did finish with 47 total tackles. Denzel Chukwukelu has the lead at NT, and Christian Buckingham is slated to have the lead for the open DE job.
2017 Schedule: 9/2 at Oklahoma, 9/9 Rice, 9/15 Arizona, 9/23 at New Mexico State, 9/30 at Army, 10/7 Western Kentucky, 10/14 at Southern Miss, 10/28 UTSA, 11/4 at Middle Tennessee, 11/11 at North Texas, 11/18 Louisiana Tech, 11/25 at UAB
The defense may have a chance to improve in 2017, but how much remains to be seen fro a unit that allowed 34.9 points per game last season. The offense, as far as I can project, will take a slide without a major talent like Aaron Jones, who is a rare talent in a program like UTEP. I just don't see a season coming that will increase faith in Kugler or this football team in an improving conference like CUSA.