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UTEP Football: Midseason Report Card

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NCAA Football: Southern Mississippi at Texas El Paso Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterbacks: D

Brent Pease was looking for consistency from the quarterback spot, and so far this year, the only consistent mark is the revolving door in who starts due to unfortunate injuries.

Zack Greenlee has had a forgettable start to his UTEP career, clinging on to a 50 percent completion percentage through his first 102 pass attempts, all while battling injury.

Kavika Johnson has been moved around all over the offense, so his play really does not affect this grade. Although Johnson has shown some promise as an H-Back with five catches.

Ryan Metz is expected to be back in the saddle after the bye week against UTSA which could raise this grade in terms of consistency at the seasons end.

In an offense in where being able to run the ball is the MO. UTEP's quarterbacks have struggled to find any consistent production which leads to a poor grade in the first half of the season.

Running Backs: B+

Aaron Jones should get an A+++, but as a group, UTEP's running backs have been a small disappointment.

Freshman Quadraiz Wadley has struggled with ball security, but you can see glimpses of a productive future in the freshman back.

Outside of Jones and Wadley, no one else has really received chances in terms of just simple carries.

I expected Darrin Laufasa to have at least have 30-50 carries by this point, but he's had three so far in the first six games.

Jones has UTEP ranked 3rd in the nation in rushing IsoPPP thanks some of his long touchdown runs, and he ranks fourth in the nation in total rushing yards. But UTEP's rushing success rate ranks 108th in the nation which could've been helped out with the expected depth that has not panned out at this point.

Jones has been as good as expected, but the depth Sean Kugler hoped to develop and emerge is still a work in progress.

Wide Receivers: C-

Every midseason report card under a Sean Kugler coached UTEP team makes it tough to grade the wide receiver group.

The lack of a consistent and potent passing game falls squarely on coaching, so it's unfair to give UTEP's wideouts a D or F since the total production proves that is where they should be graded.

Eddie Sinegal has emerged over the past two weeks in a big way, and Cole Freytag leads the group with 16 catches and two touchdowns. Outside of those two, there isn't much to brag about.

The most disappointing part is proven play makers like Warren Redix, Jaquan White, Tyler Batson, and even Terry Juniel to a point have not had the fair chance to be factors due to poor play calling, and game planning.

One thing heavily underrated is the run blocking from Sinegal, and Jaquan White among others which is pretty fun to watch at times.

With Ryan Metz at quarterback, those names should be called upon more often in the second half of the season, but to this point, and over the past three seasons, UTEP's wideouts have been hidden by inept play calling.

Tight Ends: D

Hayden Plinke had a nice game against LA Tech, but once again like UTEP's passing game, the production just hasn’t been there.

Kent Taylor has also been a huge disappointment, but the improvement of Sterling Napier has been very positive moving forward.

Blocking has been so-so for the tight ends outside of Napier, but pass catching production from this group is once again handcuffed by play calling.

Offensive Line: D

A lot of people outside of the program will look at the quarterback position as the main reason for UTEP's offensive struggles. But it all starts upfront for UTEP.

Statistically, UTEP's offensive line is creating just 88.5 yards per game which ranks 112th nationally, and UTEP is 125thin the nation in where the run is being stuffed.

The Miners have tried to adjust with putting their better athletes on the right side of the line which is still a major work in progress.

UTEP's adjusted sack rate is 9.4 percent in passing situations which is highest rate at UTEP since Sean Kugler has been the head coach. With plenty of veterans along the offensive line this is a very disappointing area of struggle for the Miners in 2016.

Defensive Line: D

No one really knew what to expect from UTEP's defensive line, especially with so many new faces and a new scheme.

The past few weeks have seen guys like Gino Bresolin, Mike Sota, and Gene Hopkins have a nice sequence or a solid series here and there.

But the like the team in general, consistency is a big judgement mark.

The future looks bright with Sota, Hopkins, Chris Richardson, Denzel Chukwukelu, and Keith Sullivan who is on campus on a Prop 48 athlete.

The fact of the struggling matter: UTEP's defensive line has one of the worst havoc rates in the nation, and opposing offensive lines are creating 91.5 yards per game along the line of scrimmage against the run.

Although growing pains are evident with a group that is slowly improving, but is still nowhere near its future potential among the youngsters who are seeing significant playing time.

Linebackers: B-

Even with Alvin Jones battling injuries all-season, there have been a few bright spots at linebacker.

Dante Lovilette continues Sean Kugler's string of success with recruiting JUCO linebackers. Lovilette leads UTEP in tackles, and forced the season's first turnover at Texas in a big situation.

Jayson VanHook has been another key standout, recording UTEP's first sack of the season, and also has 3.0 tackles for loss on the year.

With so many guys playing out of position to make up for the loss Jones at times, this group has done its job for the most part. When Jones has been healthy, this group is very effective, but the need for more depth is evident in dime packages.

Secondary: B

Before the FIU game, these guys were really pushing for an A rating. But the Miners secondary took a big step back last week.

Nik Needham is truly playing like an all-conference defender with eight pass break ups, and two TFL's.

Kalon Beverly has dealt with a nagging hamstring the past few weeks, and true freshman Justin Rogers has stepped in producing an interception in the Miners last game.

UTEP's veteran safeties have also done a good job of setting the tone physically, and helping out in run support. Dashone Smith and Devin Cockrell account for 13.7 percent of the Miners tackles, with Smith batting away three passes.

In a half season with plenty of disappointments, the speed, and physicality of this group has been a strength at times. The hope is the continuity continues, and more all-conference type production emerges.

Special Teams: C+

UTEP's kicking game has been acceptable, Alan Luna is having another strong year after a slow start, and well…..Jay Mattox hasn't been able to do much with the offensive struggles.

The return game has shown small showings of effectiveness, but the needed weapon of a strong return game to score, and flip field position has been virtually non-existent at times.

UTEP's average field position ranks 111th nationally, so while other parts of the special teams make up has been solid. That aspect brings down this unit's overall grade.

Coaching: F

Look, Sean Kugler has done an incredible job of building a culture of accountability, academic success, and overall character.

It's UTEP's lack of X's and O's creativity that once again gives the coaching staff a rough grade through six games.

Last season at this point, it was a straight up F. Now UTEP was able to turn things around (if you will) despite injuries last year and finish with five wins.

This year it's tough to predict that happening, but once again the coaching staff should be fully graded for a full season work and it's not looking anywhere near acceptable at the midway point.

Times are rough in UTEP-land, and it's good to see the coaching staff hold themselves accountable for the 2016 shortcomings. But the bottom line is the job is nowhere near getting done, and in the end, UTEP's coaching staff is the key for a midseason turnaround.

Overall: F

It hasn't been pretty, we’ve seen the offense at times seem very close to breaking out, defense has had its moments (+/-), but the five straight losses are ugly, no other way to describe things.

A 1-5 start is the reality of UTEP not using the formula they would like to play with week-in-and-week-out. Penalties, struggles upfront, offensive struggles, inability to force turnovers at a high rate, and a few important injuries have derailed what was expected to be a special year in El Paso.

A (major) miracle is needed for a second bowl appearance in a four year span, but at this point, even the die-hard of UTEP fans just want to see simple improvement the rest of the way before the B-word is tossed around these parts, ever again.