Ten Miners were selected to the Athlon Sports All-Conference USA Preseason Team on Friday.
On offense, Aaron Jones and Will Hernandez were tabbed second team honors. Jones started the first two games last season before suffering a season-ending injury. The captain ran for 139 yards on 17 carries, including a program-best 91-yard touchdown rush and added a 24-yard touchdown reception against Texas Tech. The junior also garnered C-USA honorable mention honors after only playing two games last season.
As a sophomore, Hernandez started all 12 games last year at the left guard position. He was named to Phil Steele’s 2015 Postseason All-Conference USA third team and earned a C-USA honorable mention. He was part of the unit that led C-USA in sacks allowed (12) and ranked tied sixth nationally in sacks allowed per game (1.0).
Also earning second team recognition are specialist Jay Mattox and Alan Luna. Mattox led UTEP with 68 points and connected on 15-of-19 field goal attempts and was 23-of-24 on PATs. Currently the senior ranks third amongst kickers in program history with 203 points and his 98-career PATs ranks second in school history.
Last season, Luna ranked tied second in C-USA and tied 16th nationally in punting average (44.4 yards per punt). The walk-on tallied 21 punts on 50-plus yards and 15 punts inside the 20-yard line.
Receiving third team honors are Alvin Jones and Hayden Plinke. Jones played and started in all 12 games last season. The linebacker led the team with 93 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks and two safeties and added four quarterback hurries.
Plinke played in 11 games and started in 10 before missing the last game of the season due to injury. He was named to the John Mackey Award Midseason Watch List and ranked second on the team in receptions (37) and receiving yards (405).
Garnering fourth team recognition are Jerome Daniels, Nick Usher, Devin Cockrell and Terry Juniel.
The Miners were picked to finish third in the league in the west division and were selected to challenge Southern Miss for the top spot. Both Steven Lassan and Mitch Light picked UTEP as the sleeper team. Lassan also designated Aaron Jones the comeback player of the year.
UTEP will kickoff the season at home on Sept. 3 against I-10 rival NM State at 6 p.m. MT.