Could UTEP Have Some Continuity at Quarterback This Season?
Since the days of Jameill Showers slinging the ball for the Miners in 2014, UTEP has struggled to have that one true starter at quarterback for the duration of a season.
The dilemma went from being a season-by-season revolving door at the quarterback spot, to more recently a week-by-week depth chart battle for the starting quarterback job.
But this season might be different. Senior Brandon Jones was named the starting quarterback early in August for the Miners and head coach Dana Dimel said this week that Jones will be judged on his "leadership and body of work." More importantly, Dimel reassured the media that the plan is to keep Jones at quarterback and will give him ample time to show what he can do on the field for the Miners without having to look over his shoulders at backup Kai Locksley.
Continuity at quarterback for UTEP? No way this can be true.
After Showers finished the 2014 season with 1,858 passing yards and 12 touchdowns, the Miners have alternated between a total of seven quarterbacks at the position—Mack Leftwich, Ryan Metz, Kavika Johnson, Zack Greenlee, Mark Torrez, Kai Locksley and Brandon Jones.
Through that time, only Leftwich (2015) and Metz (2016) have passed for over 1,000 yards in a single season. UTEP went 11-38 from 2015-18, winning just six games in C-USA.
To be fair, the Miners have had their share of injuries at the quarterback position. Metz was riddled with injuries throughout his career, while Leftwich, Greenlee and Locksley took their share of beatings. Injuries forced the Miners to dip into their bench and find other choices at quarterback at times.
When Dimel took over the program last season, he talked about his belief of using two quarterbacks and how a mix of gunslingers can confuse opposing team's defenses. Kansas State traditionally had a few quarterbacks in the system each year when Dimel was there and cited how well it worked at the Big 12 level.
This year might be a bit different though. Dimel has given the reigns to Jones, acknowledging that California native has worked for the starting spot. Some will argue that this comes after Kai Locksley's arrest in the summer, which ultimately set him behind Jones on the depth chart. Maybe that's the case.
Or maybe Dimel does try the two-quarterback system after all. In this case, Jones could be more of a system-oriented quarterback that manages drives and passes on occasion in a run-heavy offense. Then, Dimel could plug Locksley as a change-of-pace quarterback, who can specialize in a ton of RPOs.
Personally, I have always been a firm believer in a single quarterback offense. Keep your one guy, whether it be the day one starter in Jones or the wildcard playmaker in Locksley. If Jones has a manageable outing against Houston Baptist, why divert from it?
Jones' weapons will be stronger than in recent years as well. He has a deep backfield in Treyvon Hughes, Josh Fields, Reynaldo Flores and Deion Hankins, and each guy seems hungry to stand out at the position. His offensive line is deep this year, as almost every starter and reserve has playing experience. And, the receiving group will look far more experienced than before, adding grad transfers Jess Trussell and Devaughn Cooper as passing targets, along with returning Miners like Tre'Shon Wolf, Justin Garrett, Kavika Johnson and Walter Dawn Jr.
Bottom line, Jones has all the weapons to have success. Now it's time for him to seize the opportunity on the field against Houston Baptist.