UTEP Fall Camp Storylines: An Intriguing Battle for the 3rd WR Spot
UTEP football fall camp opens on Friday with a lot more expectations set on the Miners compared to years past. In the middle of finalizing their depth chart for the upcoming season, fourth year head coach Dana Dimel has expressed how much more depth the roster has, especially at the wide receiver position.
The Miners boast a two-headed monster duo in senior Justin Garrett and sophomore Jacob Cowing at the receiver position. Cowing, who earned All-Conference honors last year, led the team with 691 receiving yards and three touchdowns, while Garrett racked up 510 receiving yards in eight games.
Returning to the team from the past years include Walter Dawn Jr., Miles Banks and Josh Farr. They moved Reynaldo Flores to wideout and cornerback Dennis Barnes could see action at the receiver spot as a two-way player. Some of the newcomers include Tyrin Smith (Cisco College), Nick Ast (Kansas State), Penny Baker (TCU) and Jostein Clarke (Tyler JC). Local prospect Lucas Flores rounds out the wideout group, along with true freshman Jeremiah Ballard, who has impressed coaches thus far.
“Those two (Cowing and Garrett) have done such great things for us,” Dimel said on SportsTalk Wednesday. “Walter Dawn is coming back and we think he’s made progression at the position. Tyrin Smith was the junior college addition we made and everyone got a taste of what he can do in the spring with his speed. From there, it goes so deep. At the wide receiver position, I feel like going into camp we have 10 guys that can challenge for that spot. You have the two top ones, Walt and Tyrin, but there are six-seven guys that can add additional depth to what we’re doing.
“Miles Banks is someone that has a lot of speed on the outside,” Dimel added. “Josh Farr is another JUCO transfer last year that is ready to step up and do some nice things for us. Nick Ast is someone that we moved to the flex position. We added Jostein Clarke and Penny Baker and both of those two have really come on and are doing great things for us. Rey Flores has made the switch from running back to receiver and has done some great things for us. And Jeremiah Ballard is another true freshman we like.”
Beyond the two top targets, the Miners will need to find their guy at the third wide receiver spot. Fortunately for UTEP, the team has options—almost 10 players that can contend for the third starting spot.
“The competition is going to be tremendous because as you know, only seven or eight receivers actually travel,” said Garrett regarding the third spot. “If you have eight, ten guys competing for the third spot, it’s going to mean the most. You can’t mess up. It’s going to be a dog fight all the way up to week one. It’s going to be tremendous to see those guys duke it out to win the job and contribute to our team.”
Every rep counts for the receivers vying for the starting spot. Garrett is thrilled to watch the competition ‘duke it out.’
“A lot of these guys haven’t had the opportunity to play,” said Garrett. “That’s why they have to go all out and try to perform when you get the opportunity. That’s how you get to become a household name. You have to earn the opportunity and trust from the coaches to get in the game. When the opportunity comes, you have to show up or you just won’t be able to play.”
From what it sounds like, Dawn Jr. or Smith could be the frontrunners to get the nod to start at the third spot. However, if guys like Clarke and Baker progress quickly, or other wideouts prove their worth in different schemes, we could see a rotation that has five-six of these guys.
The Miners kick off fall camp starting Friday ahead of their season opener at NM State on Aug. 28.