UTEP Football 2020 Outlook: Previewing the Wide Receivers
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 six of an offseason series preview for the Miners' upcoming season with the idea that the season takes place as scheduled.
Size, athleticism, speed. Those are the varying qualities that the UTEP football program wants to harbor among the wide receiver group as head coach Dana Dimel continues to instill his offensive philosophy on the team.
This year, though, the makeup of the receivers are vastly different than before. It's a combination of veteran experience and newcomers vying for playing time. The battle for playing time among their newcomers will be contentious, while the standout returners like Jacob Cowing and Justin Garrett look to shine this year.
"I think when our offense is humming on all cylinders, we try to spread the ball around to multiple receivers," Dimel said. "I don't know we'll get a 1,000-yard guy this year because we will have some different entities to get the ball to. Also I want to get the ball to the running backs out of the backfield too."
Let's jump into the receivers:
Even though it was Cowing who had the breakthrough 2019 season, Justin Garrett put together a strong junior campaign as a JUCO transfer. Garrett has the talents to cement himself as UTEP's go-to target this upcoming season. The Cerritos College JUCO transfer stormed onto the scene last year, leading the Miners in receptions (40) in 2019. He finished his first year at UTEP with 446 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
"Justin Garret is unbelievable for us. JG is our leader and one of the best players you're going to have off the field as well as on the field. When you're not in the group, they can't come in and watch the other group work out. JG was standing at the fence and yelling 'don't lean over' from across the field but it was a cool sight to see. He had a double-digit reception game last year against (North Texas). He will likely start on the opposite side of Cowing.
The newcomer that stormed onto the scene last year is none other than UTEP's leader in receiving yards, Jacob Cowing. The Maricopa, Ariz. native led the Miners in receiving yards (550), receiving touchdowns (3), yards per game (45.8) and yards per reception (17.7) as a true freshman. The ceiling for him continues to grow as he gets ready for his sophomore campaign. He will be wide receiver No. 1 this year.
"Jacob Cowing took the conference by storm his freshman year," Dimel said. "Did some fantastic things for us and hadn't even been through an offseason with us. He's working hard and looking really, really good."
Walter Dawn Jr. initially entered the transfer portal at the conclusion of the season but returned to the program in time for spring workouts. The senior played in each game last year, catching six passes for 78 yards (13.0 ypc). He was a return man in special teams and will be called as a prime leader for this team. He's the projected starter at the slot position.
"Someone I'm looking forward to showcasing and doing good things is Walter Dawn," Dimel added. "I know no one has really seen him step up and do what I think he can do and I think he's focused. Walter is coming in with a new focus and he's got the speed at the slot position."
For two years, playing time was scarce for Q' Drennan at New Mexico. For his final year of college eligibility, the Americas High School grad decided to transfer home and play for UTEP. Going back to 2017, the El Paso native started and played in all 12 games for the Lobos at outside receiver, when he was fourth on the team with nine receptions for 182 yards. He will be looked at as the projected starter for the outside receiver spot.
"I'm really excited about Q' Drennan, the transfer from New Mexico," Dimel said. "I think he fits our system and thrive in the passing situation. He really had a good spring and we'll use his skillset in multiple ways. Local product that we're really looking forward to watch flourish in his graduate transfer season."
Miles Banks, who redshirted last year, made a position change from cornerback to receiver over the offseason. At the JUCO level, Banks was successful on defense with 19 tackles and six pass breakups. Banks will be vying for playing time in the receiver rotation.
"Miles Banks is another one that we brought over from the corner position because he's a 4.4 type of player," Dimel added. "I think he can bring a lot to the table for us because of his speed and he's really grasping the wide receiver position."
Someone that the coaching staff was high on out of the recruiting class of 2019 is Skylar Newsome from Lubbock Frenship. The wideout redshirted last year but he will be called upon to provide depth this year at the receiver position. If he impresses coaches, he will earn his playing time in the receiver rotation.
"Skylar Newsome is big, strong and athletic," Dimel added. "We're going to throw him on the outside and let him learn one position and attack that position. But he's big, strong and I'm excited for what he can do."
The rest of the depth chart:
Davis Burns - Freshman
Lucas Flores - Freshman