EL PASO, Texas - The UTEP football team is in good shape at the quarterback position heading into the 2022 season with 3,000-yard passer Gavin Hardison and versatile Calvin Brownholtz both back in the fold for the Miners this year.
The Miners also have redshirt-sophomore Kevin Hurley and true freshman Jake McNamara waiting in the wings.
Hardison has nothing but optimism about the quarterback room.
“I feel really good and feel like all of the guys in there are prepared,” Hardison said. “Calvin (Brownholtz) comes in and he has a lot of experience here and knows the offense. We all push ourselves and each other well. We have good relationships with each other. It’s like a brotherhood, so it’s going to be a fun year.”
Offensive coordinator Dave Warner knows the benefit of being experienced at the position.
“Anytime you have experience at any position it’s a plus and probably the quarterback position is at the top of the list there,” Warner said. “(It’s good) if you have a guy (at quarterback) who’s been in the fire, knows the offense and has been under pressure. Having those two guys (Brownholtz and Hardison) back is big for us, and it’s shown throughout camp.”
Hardison was in the upper echelon of Conference USA last year for both passing yards (third-3,217) and touchdown passes (sixth-18).
He became the first 3000-yard passer at the school since Trevor Vittatoe did so in 2009.
Brownholtz, meanwhile, added three rushing scores.
The production translated to the overall team success, with the Miners notching seven victories to along with a bowl appearance, something that hadn’t happened since 2014.
Hardison, though, remains humble about his approach.
“I just want to keep improving my game and keep executing my job,” Hardison said. “That’s my responsibility for this team. I really try to work and grow in every aspect of my game. You’re never going to be satisfied with where you’re at, so I just try to keep working on every aspect.”
Brownholtz and Hardison have different styles, but Warner is confident in each of them.
“They both have their strengths and are a little bit different,” Warner said. “Gavin’s (Hardison) strength is obviously his arm and the pass game, but he’s a capable runner. Calvin’s (Brownholtz) strength is in the run game. He’s a tough, physical kid, but he can throw the ball all over the place as well. Both those guys we feel good about running all types of offense.”
Even with increased expectations, Hardison is keeping things simple.
“Just take it one week at a time and trying to go 1-0 every week,” Hardison said. “Obviously we want to win the conference championship, but we’ll get there if we go 1-0 every week. I want to execute my job and I feel if I have a higher completion percentage then it means we’re completing passes so our playmakers can go make plays for us.”
Hardison does many things well, including throwing the deep ball.
That’s evidenced by his 16.3 yards per completion in 2021, which resulted in him rating second in Conference USA and third in the country in the category.
When it comes to speaking highly of his game, though, all Hardison is concerned about is the team winning.
“I try to let other people decide that,” Hardison said. “All I want to do is get us in the best position to win.”
When it comes to the focus of the unit, it’s no surprise that ball security is at the top of the list.
“As always, we need to eliminate the errors, which means the turnovers,” Warner said. “We had too many interceptions last year. That’s always first and foremost the biggest thing you want to do. I’ve always put a big emphasis on us in spring with our decision making and getting through our reads much quicker than we did in the past.”