UTEP Football 2020 Outlook: Offensive Line Depth Chart Overview
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 five of an offseason series preview for the Miners' upcoming season with the idea that the season takes place as scheduled.
In 2019, the UTEP offensive line was projected to be a strong point of the team but fell below expectations due to injuries and inconsistent play. It could have been the early season pre-snap penalties that plagued the line. Or, it could have been an offensive line that never seemed to get fully healthy.
"For various reasons," head coach Dana Dimel said. "Derron Gatewood never got back to health from those knee injuries. Gate played so tough but his health never got to where it was. Ruben Guerra got hurt and never had the season we thought he'd have. Greg Long battled with injuries and didn't play up to the standards we thought."
Coach Dimel is excited about his vastly improved offensive line this upcoming season as he finalizes the starters up front.
"As we go into this year, I think we're so much more athletic," Dimel said. " I think we run so much better at every position."
Let's run through the starters and three backups:
Starting at the right tackle position this year will be the 6-foot-5, 315-pound Jeremiah Byers, who Dimel is especially keen on. Last year was his redshirt season but Byers appeared in a pair of games for the Miners last year.
"It starts with right tackle and Jeremiah Byers," Dimel said. "Jeremiah is a beautiful looking athlete that has a chance to be a big type of player and end up playing on Sundays. He plays that right tackle spot and has a firm grasp on it."
At the starting right guard position, redshirt sophomore Elijah Klein will hold down the spot for UTEP. Klein has impressed coaches with his progress since starting at the program. The California native started in six games last year and started in all four of his redshirt-eligible games during the 2018 season.
"Elijah Klein at right guard played a lot last year. He's really stepping up into a top-notch player, I'm talking about someone that is as good as anyone at the guard position," Dimel expressed.
Anchoring the group at the center position will be redshirt sophomore Andrew Meyer. The California native played in 11 games last year as a reserve lineman but is the projected starter to fill Gatewood's role from last year.
"The center position is one I'm most excited for because we put Andrew Meyer at the position and he's pushing 300 pounds and can run really, really well," Dimel said. "So we have a very mobile center and when you get a guy like Andrew, you can do a lot of different things there."
El Pasoan and Montwood grad Bobby DeHaro might be the Miners' top impact player on both sides. He's a back-to-back All-C-USA honorable mention recipient and has started all 24 games of his UTEP career. At the left guard spot, DeHaro will be the go-to player for UTEP's offensive line.
"You got Bobby DeHaro, the toughest guy on our line," Dimel said. "The strongest guy coming back at left guard. Playing since freshman year and now he has a chance to really step up and have a really good year."
The battle for the final starting spot on the offensive line is currently a two-man race between Zuri Henry and Darta Lee at the right tackle spot. Henry started in nine games as a sophomore and eight as a freshman. Lee returned to the gridiron last year after a season-ending injury sidelined him in 2018. He made five starts for the Miners last year.
"The right tackle position is a battle between Zuri Henry and Darta Lee. What a battle," Dimel said. "These guys have proven that they can play at an extremely high level right there. Really excited about those two."
"Robert Mervin is a guy that redshirted last year and moves extremely hard. He can play center or guard,' Dimel said. "He wasn't eligible last year but he will have a chance to battle for the starting job at any of those interior positions."
"Justin Mayers is a guy that we redshirted last year," Dimel said. "He's 6-foot-4, 315 pounds and moves really well. Really impressive-looking player that we have for us there."
Here are the rest of the lineman UTEP has on its roster: