Offensive lineman Will Hernandez was named to the 2017 Athlon Sports Preseason All-American third team on Tuesday.
The senior comes back after a stellar season where he garnered AP All-American second team, FOX Sports’ All-American second team, All-Conference USA first team and Pro Football Focus Best Pass Protector honors. The lineman has started all 37 games in his career for the Miners at the left guard position.
He led the offensive line that paved the way for Aaron Jones to rush for a single-season program-record 1,773 yards, while Jones also became UTEP’s all-time leading rusher last season. The Miners averaged 185.5 rushing yards per game and scored 20 touchdowns on the ground.
Hernandez is one of two student-athletes from C-USA that makes an appearance on the Athlon Sports All-American team. The Las Vegas, Nev., native also was named to the Athlon Sports Preseason All-C-USA first team.
Teammate Alvin Jones also garnered Athlon Sports All-C-USA first team recognition, while Devin Cockrell and Terry Juniel received second team honors. Jones was appointed to the 2016 All-C-USA second team after leading team in tackles 93 (44 solo). He ranked fourth in the league in tackles per game (9.3) and added 6.0 tackles for loss (28 yards), 2.5 sacks (22 yards) and a pass breakup.
Cockrell started all 12 games last season and ranked fourth on defense, while leading all defensive backs with 58 tackles (31 solo). He added 3.0 tackles for loss, a pass breakup, a quarterback hurry and a fumble recovery. The senior led team with 10 special team’s tackles (seven punt return tackles)
Juniel returns to the Miners special teams unit as the starting punt returner. The specialist was the team’s leading punt returner, tallying 203 yards on 22 returns (9.2 avg.), with a pair of long returns of 43 yards. Juniel led C-USA in punt returns and return yards. The junior returned nine kickoffs for 164 yards (18.2 avg.) with a long of 26 yards.
UTEP’s center Derron Gatewood and punter Alan Luna also received recognition on the All-C-USA Preseason fourth team.
Athlon also ranked UTEP 120th in their preseason national rankings.