The UTEP football team is facing a number of questions this spring. Who is the starting quarterback? How will a host of junior college transfers be integrated into the defense? Will the defense be significantly better this fall? One question that isn’t being asked, however, is if the Miners have a reliable field goal and extra point kicker.
The answer is a resounding ‘yes.’
Gavin Baechle has been nothing short of sensational in his first two years in the Orange and Blue. As a freshman in 2018, he handled kickoffs and rated second in Conference USA with a 63.9 average. Then, a year ago, he added field goals and PATs to his list of responsibilities and fared well. He converted 13-of-16 field goal tries and was automatic (8-for-8) from inside 40 yards, as well as a perfect 22-for-22 on point after attempts.
“I was really happy with what I did on field goals,” he said. “We went from the bottom of Conference USA [in 2018] to fifth or sixth, which was definitely a big improvement. Last year I was a little affected doing both [kickoffs and field goals] because after the fifth or sixth game, I did something to my groin and my kickoffs weren’t as good as they were the year before. I just had to work through that. By the end of the season, I was basically back to where I was.”
Baechle finished the 2019 season with 42 kickoffs averaging 57.5 yards, and 22 touchbacks.
If there was a hole in Baechle’s game, he was 0-for-3 on field goals of 47+ yards (he was 13-for-13 from 46 yards or less). He missed from 47 yards versus Texas Tech and NM State, and 50 yards against Rice. He’s working on hitting consistently from distance this spring.
“The focus for me has definitely been longer field goals,” he said. “We didn’t really do too many of those last fall. Whenever we had a meeting, we talked about what I could work on. And long field goals was one of the main points. For kickoffs, it was basically about being more consistent and what I could do to stay healthy, which I wasn’t last year.”
One thing Baechle and his position coach, Joe Robinson, didn’t have to spend much time talking about was the punting game. Mitchell Crawford was entrenched as the Miners’ punter the last two years, but he has left the program to use his final year of eligibility as a grad transfer at Michigan State.
You would imagine that Baechle taking over the punting duties this fall would not be an ideal situation. But he’s ready for anything.
“I’m all for taking that role,” He said. “You know what they say, if a man goes down, the next man has to step up and do it. If it comes down to it, and even if [coach Dana Dimel] brings in a punter, I’m going to do my best to try to beat him out and take all three spots.”
Baechle is accustomed to doing it all – he handled every area of the kicking game as a prep at McKinney (Texas) High School.
“That’s pretty standard,” he said. “So coming from there, I wanted to do all three [in college]. But, of course, we had a punter already.
“In high school, I punted every single year. My freshman year, I was on the freshman team. My sophomore year, I was on varsity. I did all three and all three well. For my junior and senior year, I got first team All-District for punting. And then here [at UTEP], every year I’ve been Mitch’s backup. So I’ve always had to be ready just in case anything was to happen. I would still punt during practice, but not the games. So I feel like if the time comes and I need to do it, I will be fine.”
Baechle punted 69 times in high school for 2,372 yards (34.4 avg.). He averaged 36.5 yards on 31 punts as a senior in 2017.
Who knows if punting is in Baechle’s future. But he’ll continue working hard this spring in order to be well prepared for the fall.
“I’m working on a lot of accuracy drills to make sure I still hit a straight ball and it goes through the uprights, whether it’s a long or short field goal,” He said. “With kickoffs, I’m just trying to stay consistent, and be able to hit touchbacks like it’s nothing. And if I have to punt this year, I just want to be able to put the ball wherever we need to, and help out the cover team as much as possible.”
Fans can renew their UTEP Football Season Tickets, or request new season tickets for the 2020 season now. Renewals will be accepted online until April 10 here, by calling (915) 747-6150, or by visiting the UTEP Athletics Season Ticket Office, located in Room 109 of the Brumbelow Building next to the Don Haskins Center, Monday thru Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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