The Sun Bowl is expected to be rocking for UTEP's home opener with the 10 p.m. (CT) kickoff time Sept. 6.
The Miners are coming off a disappointing 2-10 season under head coach Sean Kugler, who took over for Mike Price after nine seasons. UTEP suffered from some key injuries in 2013, but figure to be much improved this season.
|Offensive Player to Watch|
|Aaron Jones||RB||SO||El Paso, TX||6-4||212||Joe Yeager|
If Texas Tech waltzes into El Paso expecting a layup in the season's second week, UTEP could run the Red Raiders out of town on a rail—to mix not two but three metaphors. And the chief threat the Miners will present will be the running game.
Spearheading UTEP's ground attack will be sophomore Aaron Jones. Had the local kid not missed the final three games of the season with an injury, people around the country would know his name much better because he almost assuredly would have rushed for over 1,000 yards as a frosh.
As it was, Jones started six games and rushed for 811 yards on 155 carries (5.2 yards per tote) and four touchdowns. Athlon Magazine awarded him third team Freshman All America honors for his efforts.
When we look a bit more closely at Jones' statistics, they actually become more impressive. Hence, before going down with an injury, Jones was the nation's second leading freshman rusher. He tallied three 100-yard games including 121 yards against Louisiana Tech and a career best 186 yards against Rice. In the game against the Owls, Jones jetted 81 yards for a touchdown, that carry being the longest in UTEP history by a freshman.
Rice, incidentally, finished No. 59 nationally in yards per carry rushing defense, while Louisiana Tech finished No. 55. Thus, Jones didn't have his best days against chopped liver. And if that's not enough, Jones was also the backup point guard on the Miner's basketball team!
Under any circumstances, Aaron Jones would be a player to keep an eye on, but when one considers that the Miners also return seven of their top 10 offensive linemen, he becomes even more of a threat. Suffice it to say that UTEP will utilize Jones and that experience front line beef to try to possess the football, wear down Tech's defense, and prevent the Red Raider offense from getting into any kind of a rhythm. What's more, the Miners just might have the tools to do it.
|Defensive Player to Watch|
|Devin Cockrell||DB||SO||Port Arthur, TX||5-11||185||Jarret Johnson|
Devin Cockrell wasted no time in making an impact for the Miners last season as a true freshman.
Cockrell led UTEP with 76 tackles, including a season-high 13 against Rice. He also tallied a tackle for loss and interception.
Texas Tech's scheme will neutralize some of Cockrell's aggressive play by spreading the defense out with the Air Raid. Yet, if Tech wants to rip off any long runs it will likely have to get a hat on the talented sophomore.
The Port Arthur Memorial graduate (where Texas Tech 2015 commit Corey Dauphine attends) was actually on academic suspension before working his way back to the team in time for spring practice where he was relegated to the second team for awhile.
No doubt Cockrell will be starting when the Red Raiders invade El Paso in September.