UTEP Depth Chart Outlook: Miners Must Adjust at Linebacker Position
Not too much has changed from week one to the second week for the Miners' depth chart after winning 36-34 over Houston Baptist, but there are some interesting ongoing position battles on both sides of the ball.
Here's a breakdown of the depth chart prior to Texas Tech on Saturday:
One of the biggest moves that raised some eyebrows last Saturday was seeing true freshman receiver Jacob Cowing start for the Miners on their opening drive. They were able to mix in Purdue grad transfer Jess Trussell, Arizona grad transfer Devaughn Cooper and senior Alan Busey through the air. Should be interesting to see which receivers get the start for the Miners against Texas Tech.
"Really happy with the play of our receivers," Dana Dimel said at the weekly press conference. "We got to see Jacob Cowing just flat run by people. We didn't always get him the football but he and Tre['Shon Wolf] were open multiple times down the field because of their ability to get open and their speed."
Also, no need to worry about the Miners deviating from their initial depth chart and positional starters. Senior quarterback Brandon Jones played throughout the game at quarterback with no hesitation by Dimel. Even on the ground game, Dimel relied on senior tailback Treyvon Hughes (23 carries for 144 yards and two touchdowns) and brought in Josh Fields (seven carries for 61 yards) to be the change-of-pace running back.
Defensively, the Miners took a blow to their linebacker group as senior Kalaii Griffin suffered an arm injury in the first half against Houston Baptist. Dimel says that pending an MRI, Griffin could be out for eight to 12 weeks and might apply for a medical hardship this year.
In his place, Dimel says that he will move Joe Jay Smith over to the SAM linebacker position and then have Sione Tupou starting at the middle linebacker position.
"Joe Jay Smith played 72 snaps and we're going to move him to the SAM spot that fits his spot," Dimel said. "Sione gives us toughness inside at the backer position. I thought Justin Prince played really well on Saturday and he was our player of the week."
Look at the cornerback spot to possibly be flexible too. USC transfer Ykili Ross played a significant number of snaps against HBU. Maybe he will have an opportunity to surpass Josh Caldwell on the depth chart soon enough.
For special teams, the only spot we might see changed—or rotated—is Justin Garrett as the punt returner for the Miners in place of Walter Dawn Jr. But still, despite fumbling a punt, Dawn Jr. played pretty well on special teams.