• January 27, 2022
 Miners Running Backs provide depth, experience

UTEP RB Quardraiz Wadley | Photo by Ruben R. Ramirez/UTEP Athletics

Miners Running Backs provide depth, experience

The running backs for the Miners in 2021 are a combination of youth and experience. Returning to the gridiron for the Miners are Ronald Awatt, Willie Eldridge, Deion Hankins and Quardraiz Wadley.

These guys are looking to run over defenders during the new campaign.

“[The running backs] are all very strong runners and all bring a little something different to the party,” fourth-year UTEP Head Coach Dana Dimel said. “We have Q Wadley, who’s a super veteran, having a really good camp and looking extremely well with what he’s doing. We have Ronnie [Ronald Awatt] who’s also very experienced as well. He’s a slasher and powerful runner. And then Deion, of course, is just so physical and he’s really becoming so verse in all parts of being a running back. He doing things really well without the football. Willie Eldridge is our freshman who can really move and has great speed. I love what he brings to the table.”

Awatt, a redshirt junior, had been switched from defense to offense multiple times since his freshman season in 2017. But he’s found his niche after the 6-foot, 205-pound tailback tallied career highs in carries (42), rushing yards (190) and touchdown rushes (three) last season.

“Going into the new season, I’m just staying as focused as possible and my role will increase from last year,” Awatt said. “I’m staying locked in and as focused as possible.”

Eldridge saw action in three games as a true freshman in 2020. The 5-11, 190 back carried the ball five times and hauled in a reception during his first season with the Orange and Blue.

Hankins returns as the team’s leading rusher. The El Paso product led UTEP in rushing attempts (121), rushing yards (592), yards per game (84.6) and rushing scores (nine). Hankins, a.k.a. Deion “Tankins”, a.k.a. “Earl Campbell” (referred to as by running backs coach Barrick Nealy) possesses the ability to run hard and angry. Hankins gives credit where’s credit’s due.

“I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for the offensive line. I give a lot of props to them,” Hankins said. “They put in the work and they’re in the trenches each and every day. They don’t get as much credit as they deserve. I hang out with them and have called them by brothers over the years.”

The Miners rushed for 16 scores and averaged over 138 yards per game behind the line in 2020.

Wadley endured injures during the 2019 season, while sitting out last season due to COVID. However, the redshirt senior has shown the ability to ball out. In 2018, when Wadley played in all 12 games with 10 starts, led UTEP in rushing yards (627), rushing scores (seven), total touchdowns (eight), rushing attempts (123) and yard per attempt (5.1). He gained a career-high 156 yards at Army in 2017, while going for 111 yards against NM State in 2018.

Wadley, despite missing multiple games the last few seasons, comes into the new year looking to be a leader.

“I’m really excited to be back with the team,” Wadley said. “I think we have some great things going and looking to win a lot of games this year. I’ve been here a while and have done it all. I’m able to help the young guys with players or just being someone to talk to. I can give them great advice. I’m also just trying to lead the team in the right way to create a winning mentality.”

The 2021 UTEP Football season opens on Saturday, Aug. 28 with the “Battle of I-10” versus NM State in Las Cruces. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. MT at Aggie Memorial Stadium. The home opener versus Bethune-Cookman is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 4 at the Sun Bowl and will kick off at 7 p.m. MT.

Season tickets and multiple ticket packages are on sale for the 2021 UTEP Football season. Season ticket prices start as low as $65 and flexible payment plans are available.

For additional questions and information, individuals can call the Eisenberg Family Ticket Office at (915) 747-UTEP, email tickets@utep.edu, go online or stop by in person (Brumbelow Building on UTEP campus, 201 Glory Road) Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For complete coverage of UTEP Football, be sure to follow the Miners on social media at @UTEPFB (Twitter/Instagram/Facebook) or click here to visit the official home of UTEP Athletics.  For our complete coverage of the Miners, click here.

Author: Drew Bonney -UTEP Athletics

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