DALLAS – UTEP football’s Praise Amaewhule, Gavin Hardison, Elijah Klein, Joshua Sloan and Tyrin Smith were announced to the 2022 Conference USA Preseason Watch List as selected by the league’s 11 head coaches. Five student-athletes from each of the conference’s 11 member institutions are recognized as key players to watch ahead of the 2022 season.
Amaewhule was named to the 2021 All-Conference USA first team. The redshirt junior, who started all 13 games, led the Miners with 13 tackles for loss, 10 quarterback hurries and three forced fumbles. Amaewhule rated second on the team in sacks (5.5) and breakups (seven). He had a dominating performance during a comeback victory against New Mexico, posting 1.5 tackles for losses, a forced fumble, two pass breakups and racked up a career-high seven QB pressures.
Hardison started all 13 games under center. He was the first UTEP QB to throw for more than 3,000 yards since the 2009 season. Hardison tallied 3,217 yards on 198-of-357 passing and 18 touchdown scores. His yards in 2021 were the fifth most in UTEP program history. Hardison ranked third in the country in passing yards per completion (16.3) and 32nd in passing yards per game (247.5). Hardison went over 300 yards passing twice in 2021 – 327 at FAU and 366 versus Rice.
Klein started at right guard in all 13 contests in 2021. He and the o-line were instrumental in the Miners averaging 392.0 yards per game, including 140.0 rushing per game. UTEP’s offense gained 5,096 yards, ranking second most in school history. The Miners also ranked 18th nationally in time of possession (31:51) and 21st in sacks allowed (1.46 per game).
Sloan booted 64 punts for 2,526 yards (39.5 avg.). He placed 21 inside the 20 and connected on 10 punts of 50-plus yards, including a long of 62 yards against LA Tech. Of the 64 punts, four have resulted in touchbacks and 25 had been fair caught.
Smith played in all 13 games and made four starts in his first season with the Miners. He returns as UTEP’s leading WR, ranking third in receptions (33) and receiving yards (570) in 2021. Smith tied second on the team with four receiving scores. Smith posted his first 100-yard game as a Miner with four receptions for 114 yards at FAU and added a 49-yard TD reception against the Owls. Smith scored a pair of touchdowns against UTSA, while reeling in three balls for 91 yards.
The C-USA slate opens on Saturday, Aug. 27, and the league’s 18th Conference USA Football Championship Game is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 2.
The Miners open the 2022 season hosting North Texas on Aug. 27 at 7 p.m. in the Sun Bowl.