Running the football, protecting the football with long methodical drives, playing in the other teams offensive backfield, and avoiding drive derailing penalties were all major identities UTEP executed in the 2014 turnaround.
Now in 2015, which stats that came from executing those pillars of success can translate into a repeat of production in 2015?
Here are the stats I feel can be easily translated or improved on this season.
|2014 Rushing yards
We'll start with the obvious rushing stats.
Not only will an improved Aaron Jones see more carries behind an even more improved offensive line. The Wild Miner could become a staple of the offense in 2015 and help UTEP flirt with the 3,000 yard rushing mark.
|2014 average per return
|Total punt return yards
Once he is fully healthy, Terry Juniel will greatly improve on this clip.
We haven't seen anything electric out of punt returners in the Kugler era so far, but some youth could change that.
Nik Needham and Jaquan White will share the duties in week one. With UTEP's improved special teams coverage units via depth, I would expect this stat category to greatly improve and maybe a touchdown comes out of it.
|Punt return average
|Total punt return yards
Third down defense
|2014 3rd down %
Getting off the field on third downs used to be the biggest problem with the UTEP defense, but Scott Stoker has changed that in two seasons.
Now in year three, the blitzes maybe a little more exotic, the players are way more familiar with the system and now there is plenty of depth to help this number sustain itself with package depth and installs.
UTEP ranked 35th in the nation in this category, and it should continue in being a staple for the defense as it was in fall camp.
|3rd conversion allowed %
Red Zone Scores
|2014 red zone scoring %
Another reason the Wild Miner will help UTEP put more points on the board will be the use of it in the red zone.
In a recent scrimmage UTEP scored seven touchdowns in a red zone period, and have the weapons to make red zone scoring almost automatic.
UTEP's tight ends should also help out with this number. 6'9 Cedrick Lang could become a jump ball target, and physical tight ends like Sterling Napier, and Hayden Plinke will be targets inside the 20 as well.
And oh yeah, UTEP's nasty offensive line mixed with a seven man front every once in a while is also a nice weapon to have to down there.
|Red zone scoring % projection
Time of possession
|2014 TOP avg. per game
UTEP's offensive line is bigger, stronger, and like I mentioned the unbalanced line looks will help out here.
Aaron Jones should see way more touches in keeping the chains moving, and UTEP has replaced the two compliments from 2014 with two more capable running backs behind him in Jeremiah Laufasa, and Treyvon Hughes.
I'll keep harping on this scheme because its true, the Wild Miner will also help UTEP stay towards the top of the nation in time possession in 2015. The reason it goes down a bit is I think UTEP has more speed at the skill positions for the home run threat.
|2014 sacks allowed
|Projected 2015 sacks allowed
The number is increased a little bit because UTEP is expected to open up the pass more this season.
UTEP will attempt to move the pocket around to help Mack Leftwich, which could also help him play to his strengths of throwing on the run.
The offensive line will again be solid in pass blocking, as 17 allowed sacks was still good for a top-25 in the nation ranking in 2014.
Tackles for loss
|2015 projected TFL's
This was a stat that did not become a consistent thing until midway last year, and should improve this season.
The projected 89 total TFL's would have ranked UTEP in the top-25 in 2014, and its not a stretch to think that the 2014 TFL totals can't be approved on.
UTEP's linebacking core will help increase that number, but defensive ends Roy Robertson-Harris and Nick Usher combined for 15 last season, which should also improve as they both had strong finishes in 2014 in that regard.
Blitz ace Alvin Jones led the team last year with nine TFL's, and six UTEP defensive players had at least six TFL's in 2014.
Back to the defensive point of being in year three should make this an easy choice for repeat defensive production.
|Total turnovers in 2014
|2014 turnover margin
Not only will Mack Leftwich help keep this in UTEP's favor in 2015, but this is Scott Stoker's defensive MO.
I would expect UTEP's forced turnover numbers to increase along with the previously mentioned TFL numbers as things we could see every year from a Scott Stoker orchestrated defense.
Leftwich didn't make very many costly turnover mistakes in camp, as he does a good job of taking care of the ball.
Thanks to the aggressive defensive play, and #AJ29 running over defenses, this number will improve to coach Kugler's liking.
Individual stat projections
|2014 rushing yards/TDs
|1321 yards/11 TD
|1647 yards/14 TDs
|30 rec/293 yards
|36 rec/318 yards
|2014 rushing yards/TDs
|65 yards/ 1 TD
|574 yards/ 5 TDs
|31 rec/263 yards
|58 rec/612 yards 7 TDs
|4 recs/95 yards
|27 recs/311 yards 3 TDs
|21 recs/289 yards 3 TDs
|412 rushing yards/ 3 TDs
|2015 projected passing yards
|2105 projected rushing yards