UTEP Football: With Hankins Doubtful, Miners Set to Rely on RB Depth
In the midst of UTEP's 30-3 blowout victory over New Mexico State, one key Miner was dinged up and didn't return after halftime.
Redshirt freshman standout Deion Hankins, who ran the ball 11 times for 50 yards and scored a touchdown in the first half, remained on the sidelines during the second half and didn't play to finish the game against NMSU. UTEP mixed their run game with Ronald Awatt, Quardraiz Wadley and Willie Eldridge.
Following the game, Dimel didn't think the injury would be a call for concern. He mentioned that the coaching staff wanted to keep Hankins out for more precautionary reasons.
Things changed a bit on Monday. Dimel was noncommittal on the status of Hankins for the upcoming week. He did mention that his availability for Saturday doesn't look likely.
"Deion's status is still up in the air right now," said Dimel at the weekly press conference Monday. "I don't think we're going to get Deion to play in this game just to give him some rest. I don't want to talk about his injury—where it is. This is just a good opportunity for him to rest a bit."
"Right now we don't know what his timeframe is. I'm not sure if it's going to be one week, two weeks, I just don't know."
Deion Hankins was not at practice Tuesday, according to Bret Bloomquist of the El Paso Times.
Fortunately for the Miners though, the squad has a nice group of tailbacks behind Hankins. Awatt led the Miners in rushing last week, totaling 74 yards on 11 carries that included a 34-yard rushing touchdown. Wadley, who was out in 2020 and has dealt with injuries since he's been at UTEP, is now healthy and rushed for 51 yards against the Aggies. We haven't seen much of Eldridge, but the coaches rave about his success at the running back spot.
Even if UTEP was without Hankins for the majority of non-conference play, they should be fine on the ground. Their rushing attack is loaded with experience and players that are hungry for a chance to play. Plus, this could also open up more opportunities through the passing game. Quarterback Gavin Hardison connected with his two receivers Jacob Cowing and Justin Garrett on big plays against the Aggies. The Miners are capable of being a pass-first team instead of skewing a little more toward the run as they do now.
Still, no call for concern if you're a UTEP fan. The team hosts Bethune-Cookman (FCS) on Saturday in their home opener, which should be a winnable game for the Miners. Everyone will have to wait on the status of Hankins.