Earlier last week, during preparations for their opener against Northern Arizona, Derron Gatewood tore his ACL, and he'll miss the remainder of the 2018 season. The senior from Permian made 22 starts in the last three seasons, starting ten games at center last season. Add to Gatewood's absence; the Miners also lost projected left tackle Greg Long for the year.
To compensate, UTEP moved projected starter at guard, Rueben Guerra to center and shifted backup center Bijan Hosseini to right guard. The Miners also started a true freshman, Zuri Henry at left tackle. Henry is a talented young player, but it's a lot to ask a true freshman to protect the blind side.
As a result, the Miners started five players on an offensive line, with only tackle Jerrod Brooks having seen action at his 2018 position. The lack of experience and continuity showed as the Miners struggled to run the ball and allowed five sacks to FCS member Northern Arizona.
Gatewood is a glue guy. He's seen time at both guard and center and made the Rimington Watch List. He's one of the better centers in CUSA. The position itself requires a player who can make line calls, initiate numbering, shift schemes, and also hold up in the middle of an offensive line. Gatewood is missed by the Miners, NAU took advantage.
Dana DImel signed eight offensive linemen in his first recruiting class, including JUCO tackle Tres Barboza. He's currently listed as a backup to Brooks. With road trips to UNLV and Tennessee on the horizon, the offensive line will face a lot of adversity in the coming weeks.