UTEP Football 2020 Outlook: Another Year, Another Quarterback Battle
Editor's note: Sports are constantly evolving on a daily basis due to the COVID-19 pandemic, making a lot of the 2020 season still uncertain. This story is part ten of an offseason series preview for the Miners' upcoming season with the idea that the season takes place as scheduled.
Another year, another offseason battle for the starting quarterback job at UTEP. Head coach Dana Dimel will get a fresh look at a newcomer stepping in as the starter for this year. Since starting the outlook series, the quarterback position has been one of the most talked-about position groups going into 2020.
Since 2015, the Miners have started eight different quarterbacks. Only two of the eight passed for over 1,000 yards in a single season. None of the eight quarterbacks lasted an entire season at the position. Sensing a trend here?
But besides trying to stick with a single quarterback for an entire year, Dimel has another quarterback battle on his hands—Gavin Hardison versus TJ Goodwin.
Let's talk about each of the quarterbacks.
Last year, Miner fans got a small glimpse at Gavin Hardison, the 6-foot-2 quarterback from Hobbs, N.M. Hardison made his debut at UAB, the C-USA West champions from last year, where he completed 16-of-37 passes for 222 yards and a touchdown. When Kai Locksley went down in the season finale against Rice, Hardison also stepped in and completed 11-for-24 passes for 113 yards.
Playing in just in two games, Hardison took a redshirt season last year. It's difficult to really see what kind of quarterback he will be for the Miners. He is a natural pocket passer and the coaching staff thinks he's improved his quickness and throwing on the run. At the high school level, he threw for over 5,000 yards. Accuracy seems to be the biggest issue right now for Hardison, who has a cannon for an arm.
"Gavin obviously we saved his year last year and got the redshirt. Got to play him a bit and threw him in against the best defensive team in our league, UAB. Felt like that was a good experience for him getting reps in that game. Coach Clark from UAB has come to me and was so complimentary of what Gavin did in that game from a coaching perspective. He can see, like I can, what kind of potential he has, to be thrown in that situation. As we all know, great arm strength, really gotten himself a lot more athletic and quicker through the offseason. We didn't want to play him much last year because we felt like he needed the year to get ready and we're really excited about what he's going to do for us," Dimel said.
Challenging Hardison for the starting job will be TJ Goodwin out of Houston. Although he didn't play during his redshirt freshman season, Goodwin is an extremely intriguing prospect to watch. Players rave about his confidence and approach to the gridiron.
Goodwin played three years of varsity football action at Cypress Falls, throwing for 3,106 yards on 225-of-418 passing in his career while adding 19 touchdowns. Rivals rated him a 3-star recruit coming out of the high school ranks. Goodwin was one of the top recruits for the Miners coming out of the 2019 signing class. He skipped out on his second senior semester, graduated early and has been practicing for the Miners ever since.
"TJ Goodwin was a young man we recruited out of Houston," Dimel said. "A very tall, athletic, super intelligent young man that's going to continue to grow in our program. (He will) get better and better with more repetitions. Obviously with what's gone on in our country, (Hardison and Goodwin) haven't gotten the reps like usual but they've both been mentally preparing and physically preparing as far as their conditioning."
Although he hasn't stepped foot on the field for the Miners, coaches praise Calvin Brownholtz for his approach to the game and preparing at the quarterback spot. He is assuming the role as the projected third string quarterback at UTEP. His uncle, Billy Volek, played in the NFL for nine seasons (five with the San Diego Chargers and four with the Tennessee Titans). In addition, Brownholtz trained with former UTEP quarterback and current NFL quarterback trainer Jordan Palmer.
"Calvin Brownholtz is a guy that's been here as a grey shirt and a redshirt so he's got some age on him," Dimel said. "He looks good right now, I think he can do some things. I really like his athleticism. I told him he can really help our football team if he can provide some mobility and versatility in what we're doing. He's in the mix to get some reps for us in certain stuff we can run and he's a gym rat, works hard getting better."
Isaiah Bravo joined the Miners as a JUCO transfer last offseason and spent last year learning the offense and developing in the system.
"Isaiah Bravo is a guy that you never know what can happen. I was in my office talking to a recruit yesterday and he was a fifth-string freshman quarterback in high school and before he knew it, he was on the field playing as a freshman. It's so funny how you can get down so fast at the position," Dimel said.
"We brought in Marco Baldacchino in our offseason summer program. We're developing him and trying to get him ready," Dimel said.
"We have a local product from El Paso High School Zach Rodriguez who's going to be in our program as well," Dimel added. "We're proud of Zach and he can do some really nice things. He can throw the ball really well, throws it nicely every time I see him and he's not working out with us yet but he will shortly."