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UTEP's Sean Kugler on opening season with New Mexico, local RB Aaron Jones, and injured players

Published On: Sep 03 2013 02:09:15 PM CDT
Updated On: Sep 03 2013 02:11:20 PM CDT

New UTEP football coach Sean Kugler sat down with ABC-7's Asher Wildman to discuss the upcoming season and spring training.

Sean Kugler Media Luncheon Transcript (9/2/13)

In his first media briefing of the season, the Miner head coach previewed this weekend's season opener versus New Mexico.

Sep 2, 2013

(Opening remarks)
"We're looking forward to this weekend. The staff, the kids, everybody has been working hard. Obviously the first game is exciting for everybody. I know that we'll go out there and give it our best. We're looking forward to having a home Sun Bowl crowd. It's always exciting to play in the Sun Bowl. There's always a lot of energy in the Sun Bowl. The fans here are outstanding and I can't wait to see them get going on Saturday night."

(On New Mexico)
"New Mexico has already had a game under their belt. It's a very difficult offense to defend. It's the triple option offense. There are some principles of the pistol in there. They actually have a coach who came from Nevada. They are well schooled in that system which is very effective. Last year they rushed for 301 yards per game, which was one of the tops in the country. They return a 1,500 yard rusher. They return also a slot/running back who rushed for a lot of yards last year. Their quarterback returns as well. He had over 100 yards rushing in the game the other night. I know he was dinged up. I don't know to what status, so we'll keep an eye on that. I do know that their backup quarterback that replaced him at the end of the game is extremely athletic. He's a junior college transfer. He moved them down the field there toward the end. He probably gives them a little bit different dimension when he's in there. They have a very experienced offensive line. They've got an All-Conference candidate at left tackle. They're a big, physical group that has been playing together for a while. It's a very challenging offense for us to stop. We're going to have to be very disciplined on defense. We're going to have to read our keys. When we're in man coverage we're going to have to keep eyes on our work and we're going to have to gang tackle.

"Defensively, they're kind of like we are. They don't return a lot of starters, but the ones that they do are excellent players. Their weakside linebacker #41 is an outstanding player. He is all over the field and makes a bunch of tackles for them. They moved their defensive end from last year inside to nose guard. He's extremely athletic for that position. He gives them a lot of athleticism up front. They have some junior college transfers with good size along the D-line. And they've got some outside backers who can really run, in particular #10 and #18. In the secondary, they're kind of like us, they've got some guys that are untested on paper but very talented. #15 returned a fumble 45 yards for them. He's a good sized junior college transfer corner. They also have a junior college transfer safety that runs around and hits people. Experience wise, they're very similar to us but a very productive defense. They like to pressure. They fly to the ball and that will be a challenge. Also a very enormous challenge for us will be their kicking game. They have an outstanding punter. He netted close to 47 yards the other night. He kicked four inside the 20, and pinned it deep and two to the one-yard line. That's outstanding at any level. They've got a great kicker that's returning. All three of their kicks were touchbacks into the end zone. He did miss one field goal, which is uncharacteristic of him. They also have two very experienced kick returners who are very explosive. In the kicking game we're going to have to be extremely sound because they can make up the difference. They won the field position battle against UTSA. Unfortunately for them UTSA had the one long drive at a critical moment of the game. We're going to try to flip that field as far as special teams."

(On who will kick Saturday night)
"Our place kicker will be Jay Mattox. He will handle the kickoffs and all field goal and extra point duties. Our punter will either be Brandon Moss or Jay Mattox. That [battle] will continue the early part of the week. I'm leaning towards Moss from the standpoint of being consistent with get off and hang time. That's probably how we'll line up on Saturday."

(On what New Mexico did on Saturday night)
"We kind of go off what we saw last year. Technically we're not supposed to have their film because we don't have a trade, since we didn't have a game. Basically we're going off last year's film schematically. It's going to be a lot of untested things for both sides. They haven't seen us on film as well. We do know that they've changed some schematically and we'll try to adjust to that."

(Are you excited for your first game?)
"I'm excited for every game, probably since I started coaching. I just enjoy coaching. I don't view one game bigger than the other. I won't view this game any bigger than any game I've ever coached in. It's a process. It's one game. Regardless of the outcome of this game, there's going to be another game the next week and we'll prepare the same way for that game. So from that standpoint, no. But of course, having been a player and coach here and getting the chance to go back out and represent this university as a head coach, of course there's extra energy inside me."

(On what he would tell fans who have a wait and see attitude on this year's team)
"I wouldn't put that label on El Paso fans because I think they're great. I think wait and see is pretty much what sports is nowadays. Everybody wants fast results and everybody wants you to win right now. I do know this, our guys are going to compete for four quarters. If we ever come across a young athlete that doesn't do that, he won't be on the field for us. We want guys who are going to be out there and represent this university on and off the field. I do know this -- when the fans are rolling here, this is a very difficult place to play. They will have a new quarterback possibly that has never started a game. And if this place is rocking, that can cause a lot of issues for a quarterback. I understand you have to win games to put fans in the stands, and that's my job to get our team prepared to win games. But I'd love to see a sellout crowd this weekend and see it be as rowdy as they can when New Mexico is on offense, and as quiet as it can when we're on offense. And that becomes a distinct advantage for us."

(Are you pleased with the team's preparation?)
"I'm very pleased with our players' preparation. It started in the offseason all the way back to January. These kids have been working hard. They had an outstanding summer program with coach [Kirk] Davis. They worked hard in Alpine. In the spring we had one practice and probably one in Alpine where the level of play and the effort wasn't up to par, and they knew it. We're not going to stand for that here. We're going to make those guys come to work every day with the same mentality, and that's to roll up our sleeves and go to work. I've been pleased with the preparation but we've still got some more to do. This is opening week for us."

(Do you consider this to be a rivalry?)
"Certainly I consider this to be a rivalry. UTEP playing New Mexico and then playing New Mexico State back-to-back is outstanding. I think all three schools should play each other every year. I hope as long as I'm the head coach here at UTEP that we play both schools because it's great for the city of El Paso, Albuquerque and Las Cruces. The fans get excited when they play each other. If the players don't know a lot of history of this rivalry, they'll certainly know about it by the end of this week."

(On the early portion of the schedule)
"It's always important to get off to a good start. That being said, there are teams that get off to an 0-2 or 0-3 start that go to a bowl game or make the playoffs. I'm not concerned about that. I'm concerned about our team on a day-to-day basis. Are they getting better. Are they competing. Are they doing the right things on and off the field. How many wins, I can't predict that or I'd be working in Vegas. We're working hard and trying to take care of the details that will help them win games. Now we'll see how it translates on the field Saturday night. I'm confident our guys will play hard every snap."

(On Aaron Jones)
"I'll say this about Aaron Jones, and all of our freshmen that we recruited. We're not surprised because he did it on the field in high school. That's what we're looking for is players. We're not looking for the guy that Rivals or Scout.com says is a five star player and committed as a sophomore and they don't do anything their junior or senior year and everybody has high expectations. We're looking for football players. Every single player that we signed this year was an extremely productive player on film. They were the guys that made all the tackles. They were the guys that rushed for 1,500 yards. They were the guys who had 10 sacks. That's going to be how we approach recruiting. That's going to be how we approach our program. I'm not really concerned about what other people think about who we're recruiting or what their stars are. I just know that they can play football, and if we get enough of those guys we can get this thing turned around quickly."

(On being a physical offense)
"We're going to try to be a physical offense. That's why we changed our scheme. We recruited a fullback. We'll continue to recruit fullbacks. The tight ends will be a heavy emphasis in our offense. You'll definitely see one tight end on the field at all times. Sometimes you'll see two, three or four tight ends on the field at the same time. We're not going to be shy about it. We're going to try to be physical. We practice that way. You just don't talk about it. You've got to practice being physical. We banged all camp and I think the kids want to hit and be physical. You've got to push them to understand that and get conditioned to hit. We went through an entire camp and hit every day and had very minimal injuries, which says that you can be conditioned to hit. We feel it will give us an advantage. Maybe it doesn't. I think any scheme can beat any scheme. I think it's how you execute and how players play. But we feel this gives us our best chance to be successful here."

(On the status of Richard Spencer, Wesley Miller and Nathan Jeffery)
"All three of those guys have injuries that have been kind of nagging through camp. I anticipate Jeffery being back full force tomorrow. He had a sprained toe. He should be healthy and ready to go. I think Spencer practiced some last week and was more encouraged with how he ran around. We'll continue to go through that process this week with him. There's a chance we'll have him available for the first game. Probably the furthest away, and I'm not going to count him out because of his character and work ethic, is Miller. He has had a nagging hamstring. Anyone who has had one of those knows it's something you just can't rush. If you rush it, it could easily be a season-long nagging injury. We certainly don't want that. If we don't have him for this game we want to get him healthy for the next game or the following game. I'd be pleased to have all three of those guys out on the field. If not, we go to the next man up and that's our mantra here with our players."

(Will the team come out of the Mine Shaft this year?)
"We'll be coming out of the Mine Shaft. We're going to do something a little bit different with the pick. We're going to have a player carry out the pick, and reward the pick to the player who plays the most physical from week to week. The first player that carries out that pick will have had the most physical camp for us. We love the tradition of the pick. We want to continue that tradition. I think it energizes the crowd. We're going to put the emphasis when they come out on the players. We want to have something that motivates them to want to carry that pick. It will be a very important thing and we'll put a lot of emphasis on it. You represent the team, the school and the physicality of our program when you carry that pick."

(On the bench switching sidelines this year and now being on the press box side of the field)
"My thought process as a player, being a fat lineman standing in the sun for about two hours in your home dark uniform wasn't real fun. And then as a coach, looking across and seeing teams in their white uniforms standing in the shade while you're standing there baking in the sun ... I just kind of said `I wonder why we can't go over there.' There was a lot of thought that went into it. The main thing is that, giving us an advantage. We would never do anything here unless it gave us an advantage on the field. You also have the student section and the band behind the visiting team. I think that give us a little bit of an advantage."

(On Jameill Showers)
"Ever since he suited up I have just been impressed. I think he's got outstanding character. I really felt like he may come in to camp and try to press to impress his teammates and coaches, and he's just a natural. He's an outstanding kid with outstanding character. He comes from a great family. And he's a worker. He's extremely humble, which coming from a big school like Texas A&M you probably would expect differently. This kid is awesome. The players have kind of taken him in as a teammate. He has been a great teammate to them. I really expect big things from him, but really I just want him to be himself. I'm not going to put high expectations on Jameill Showers. He puts the highest expectations on himself. I'm happy to have him on our team because he's just an outstanding person."

Source: UTEP Athletics

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