UTEP Miners running back Deion Hankins (3) celebrates after scoring against No. 22 Liberty Flames during the first half at Sun Bowl Stadium.

Know the Huskers’ Foes 2024: UTEP Miners

It is that time of the offseason where previewing the 2024 college football season can begin. The Nebraska Cornhuskers enter the second season of the Matt Rhule era with one of the easier schedules the Huskers have had in the last five to 10 seasons. To begin our 2024 Nebraska football opponent preview, here’s a look at the UTEP Miners.

2024 Nebraska football opponent preview: UTEP Miners

Review of the 2023 season

The Miners continued it’s past struggles in 2023, finishing with an 3-9 record, with their only wins coming against the Incarnate Word Cardinals, Florida International Panthers and Sam Houston Bearkats. After six seasons in El Paso, former UTEP coach Dana Dimel was relieved from his head coaching duties after only one bowl appearance in 2021. Many of the Miners’ struggles mostly came on the offensive side of the ball, ranking 119 out of 133 in scoring offense, averaging 19.9 points per game. On defense, UTEP was better but not anything to boast about, allowing 28.5 points per game, which ranked 88 out of 133.

Offensively, the Miners were led by sophomore quarterback Cade McConnell, who appeared in seven games. McConnell completed 92 out of 172 passes for 1,437 yards with 6 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Junior wide receiver Kelly Akharaiyi led the UTEP receivers with 48 receptions for 1,033 yards and 7 touchdowns. Junior running back Deion Hankins led the Miners’ rushing attack with 157 carries for 817 yards and 5 touchdowns in 12 games played. Defensively, future fourth round pick by the Seattle Seahawks, linebacker Tyrice Knight led the UTEP defense, logging 140 total tackles, 84 solo and 56 assisted. Knight also had 15.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks in 2023.

2024 Roster Overview

UTEP Miners quarterback Cade McConnell (11) drops back to pass the ball against No. 22 Liberty Flames defense during the first half at Sun Bowl Stadium.
Nov 25, 2023; El Paso, Texas, USA; UTEP Miners quarterback Cade McConnell (11) drops back to pass the ball against No. 22 Liberty Flames defense during the first half at Sun Bowl Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports.

The Miners have a new coaching staff for the 2024 season.

UTEP brought in former Austin Peay Governors head coach Scotty Walden, who led the Governors to four straight winning seasons, including a 9-3 record in 2023. Austin Peay had one of the top-15 offense and top-10 defense in the FCS in 2023, which made Walden a top target as the new head coach for the Miners. He was named the 27th Miners football head coach on Dec. 4, 2023.

The first season of the Walden era at UTEP could be a struggle, especially with the loss of over 75% of last season’s roster. There will probably be at least 18 new starters for the Miners and some of those starters could be from the group of 11 players that transferred over from Austin Peay to El Paso with Walden.

One of the top players that is coming back to UTEP is McConnell. He has elevated himself all the way from fourth string at the beginning of last season to the probable starting quarterback in 2024. Austin Peay sophomore transfer Skyler Locklear will compete with McConnell for the starting job for this season. Another offensive newcomer that could make an impact is junior running back Jevon Jackson, who also transferred over from the Governors. For Austin Peay, Jackson had 252 carries for 1,373 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2023. He could be a player to watch for the Miners offense in 2024.

Defensively, the top returning player will be senior edge Maurice Westmoreland. In 2023, Westmoreland led the team in sacks with 7.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss. He will the player that the defense is built around in 2024, as new defensive coordinator J.J. Clark implements the 3-3-5 defense. Clark led a successful defense at Austin Peay that allowed only 24.4 points per game in 2023. The Miners had to replace Knight, who led the FBS in solo tackles in 2023 and did so with graduate linebacker Dorian Hopkins, who transferred in from Tulsa. In 2023, Hopkins logged 45 total tackles and 2.5 sacks in 2023. UTEP also brought in Austin Peay transfers senior Spur Kory Chapman and sophomore safety Xavier Smith.

2024 UTEP Seasonal Outlook


The Miners’ new coaching staff has a tough road ahead of them as 2024 will most likely be a rebuilding year. They have a roster to build around and UTEP could potentially improve from 2023. However, the first four games will be tough. The Miners will be on the road three out of the four first weeks of the season. Obviously, UTEP starts out on the road in Lincoln before going home to take on the Southern Utah Thunderbirds. The Miners will have to go 0n the road to the Liberty Flames, who is projected to win the Conference USA before heading to Colorado Springs to take on the Colorado State Rams. Then UTEP starts conference play against the Sam Houston Bearkats before going on the road to the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, who are projected to finish second in the conference in 2024. They continue conference play until going on the road to the Tennessee Volunteers on Nov. 23. UTEP closes the season on the road against the New Mexico State Aggies on Nov. 30.

Walden brings the energy as a coach and if the players can replicate that on the field, 2024 will be a much better season for the Miners. With all of the FCS transfers, the hope is that those transfers can help finally get things rolling in El Paso.

Week 1 Matchup

Nebraska and UTEP’s week one matchup will be the first game against each other in each school’s history. It will be the first official game that the Husker faithful will get to see true freshman quarterback Dylan Raiola in action against an opposing school. It will also be used to help prepare Nebraska for a tough game against the Colorado Buffaloes on Sept. 7.

According to opening odds from Draft Kings, Nebraska is a 28 point favorite against UTEP and will certainly will be tough for the Miners to go into Lincoln and get the victory. We will find out on Saturday, Aug. 31 at 2:30 p.m on FOX at Memorial Stadium.

Main Image: © Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports

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