UTEP Announces Coaching Staff

The new UTEP coaching staff will be unveiled this week, with two coaches named every day for the rest of the week. Stay tuned to MinerRush for info on all of the new Miner coaches.

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Natkin, Rodriguez, Franklin, Poss Retained

Today, it was officially announced that new UTEP football coach Sean Kugler would retain Brian Natkin, Robert Rodriguez, Gabe Franklin, and Nate Poss as part of his coaching staff in 2013.

Natkin will stick around as the tight end coach and recruiting coordinator for the Miners. He, of course, played tight end for UTEP from 1997-2000, and is one of only two consensus All Americans that the program has ever had.

Rodriguez will coach linebackers, which is the same position that he's held since 2010. Also a former player here at UTEP, Rodriguez still ranks 4th all time in tackles, and is widely considered one of the best to ever play the position for the Miners.

Franklin will remain the defensive backs coach for the Miners, after coaching cornerbacks for the last two seasons. He's now been with the program for the three years, and has also had stops at Bishop O'Dowd High School (CA), California, and San Diego.

The final holdover for the 2013 UTEP football staff will be Nate Poss, who has served as Assistant Athletic Director of Football Operations since 1997.

Here are some comments about these coaches from coach Kugler:

"Brian is one of the greatest players in UTEP history...I had an opportunity to see Brian work as a player and have watched him develop as a coach...He has great character, work ethic and he's an outstanding person. When I first got the job, I knew Brian was going to be one of the coaches I was going to keep here on staff because I respect him so much."

"Robert, to me, is another self-made guy...He's a hard worker. He's from here in town. I admired his work ethic and attitude when he was a player here. He has developed into a great coach. He has worked at it. He's a high character guy that we're excited to keep on our staff."

"Gabe is an outstanding young coach and recruiter...He is very intelligent and a very good teacher. He fits in that mold with Natkin, Rodriguez and [defensive line coach Andrew] Browning, bringing us good youth and energy. He has done an outstanding job this year recruiting guys and hanging on to the commitments that we have. I'm excited about working with him."

Overall, I'm pleased with the guys that coach Kugler has retained as assistants. Brian Natkin and Robert Rodriguez are sons of this program, and are two of the best to ever suit up for the Miners. They're absolute perfect fits. While I'm not completely familiar with coach Franklin, he seems like a great coach and recruiter, and should also be a good fit with the team and staff.


Cornell Jackson Tabbed as Running Backs Coach

Sean Kugler added a sixth assistant to his evolving staff today, bringing on Cornell Jackson to take over as the running backs coach for the Miners. Jackson, who was actually a defensive back in his playing days, has coached on both sides of the ball for over 25 years now.

In 1987, Jackson took his first coaching gig as the running backs coach at Butler County Community College. He then took a position coaching defensive ends as a graduate assistant at Central Missouri State from 1988-1989.

After his stay at Central, he moved on to coach linebackers at Utah State from 1990-1991, Pacific from 1992-1994, and then had his first stop with the New Mexico Lobos in 1995.

In 1996, Jackson made the move to the offensive side of the ball when he became the running backs coach at Arizona State, where he stayed through 1999. But, in 2001 he moved to the defense, once again coaching linebackers, this time for the University of Houston.

Following his stint with the Cougars, Jackson moved on to Washington where he coached linebackers in 2003, safeties in 2004, and was then named the running backs coach and recruiting coordinator.

However, following the 2004 season, he had his second stop in Albuquerque, where he became the running backs coach for the Lobos from 2005-2006. After UNM, Jackson took over running backs at Baylor for the 2007 season.

In 2008, Jackson coached at Kansas State as the linebackers coach, before moving to Purdue in 2009. From 2009-2012, he was the running backs coach for the Boilermakers, and helped lead them to bowl bids each of the last two years.

Along the way, he also did four internships in the NFL with the Seattle Seahawks (linebackers - 1993), the St. Louis Rams (running backs - 1999), the Denver Broncos (running backs - 2001), and the San Diego Chargers (linebackers - 2004).

Coach Kugler had this to say about Jackson:

"Coach Jackson has vast experience...He worked at Baylor, New Mexico, Arizona State, Washington and Purdue. He has unbelievable background. He actually coached on the staff where my son plays. The feedback I have gotten from everybody, including my son, is that he's a fair coach, he gets the best out of his players and they all respect him. I am excited to get somebody of his caliber on our staff."

I don't think that Jackson's knowledge of the game can be questioned. He's spent time coaching the running backs at multiple schools from the power conferences around college football. He also spent time doing a running backs internship with the Broncos under Mike Shannahan. That's intriguing.

However, the one thing that pops up is just the lack of stability throughout his career. It seems like he never spent more than a year at a place before he got to Purdue. Why? Who really knows. If this guys gets as much out of his players, and as much respect from his players as claimed, he should be a great hire.


Whitten Named Wide Receivers Coach

Today, former NFL player Todd Whitten was added to the new UTEP football coaching staff. Whitten, who has been coaching for roughly 25 years, will take over as the wide receivers coach for the Miners.

Whitten is a 1997 graduate of Stephen F. Austin University. The quarterback's name is still written in the record books there as he ranks second in school history in both passing yards and touchdowns.

Upon graduating, he spent a season with the New England Patriots, and as a standout baseball player, he was also drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies.

After his playing days were up, Whitten took to the sidelines as a graduate assistant at Texas Tech in 1988, then moved on to coach quarterbacks at New Mexico State from 1990-1993, and then had a stop here in El Paso as the running backs coach at UTEP from 1994-1995.

Following his stint with the Miners, Whitten spent a year as the head man at Tarleton State, where he would also hold the same position from 2000-2004. In between, he spent time as offensive coordinator at Wyoming from 1997-1998, and then at Sam Houston State in 1999.

In 2005, after five years as the head coach at Tarleton State, Whitten was named the head coach at Sam Houston State. He spent five years as the coach of the Bearkats, leading them to two 2nd place finishes in the Southland Conference. Whitten compiled a 70-52 record in his 11 years as a head coach.

After his stay at Sam Houston State, Whitten became the offensive coordinator at Lamar for two years, and most recently, in 2012, he coached Arlington Heights High School in the Forth Worth area.

Coach Kugler had this to say about Whitten:

"Coach Whitten has been a successful head coach at the Division I-AA and Division II levels...He has also been a coordinator at the Division I level. He brings a lot of experience. He has a great background recruiting in Texas. He's going to recruit West Texas and North Texas for us. I think he'll have a great relationship with those coaches, having dealt with them for an extended period of time. He is an extremely intelligent coach with a lot of experience. He and Spencer Leftwich were college teammates, and the chemistry that they'll bring is awesome."

It seems like coach Kugler made another great hire in bringing in Todd Whitten. He's a guy that has experience not only as an assistant and a coordinator, but the guy has also been a head coach for more than 10 years.

He knows Texas, he's coached high school in Texas, and he's spent plenty of time in this area over his career. Mentioning the chemistry that he's already got with coach Leftwich is just the icing on the cake. If he can recruit Texas, and recruit it well, this guy is an absolute steal.


Andrew Browning to Coach DL

The second coach to be announced today as part of the new UTEP football staff is former Boise State player Andrew Browning, who was a four year letter winner for the Broncos from 2003-2006, and has been a part of the coaching staff in Boise over the last three years.

Browning will take over the defensive line duties, in his first full position as an assistant coach. He was in charge of defensive quality control for the Broncos in 2010, and was a graduate assistant in 2011 and 2012.

Coach Kugler had this to say about Browning:

"Coach Browning was a player at Boise State when I was there...He is a self-made player and coach. He went to Boise State as a walk-on and ended up being probably the best defensive lineman they have ever had. He played with a relentless motor and unbelievable work ethic, and that has carried over into his coaching. Since he graduated he has worked on Chris Petersen's staff and has done a great job coaching and recruiting. He possesses the kind of character that we're trying to bring into this program. His youth and energy will be well served."

Browning becomes the first coach hired by Kugler that doesn't have a track record that we can take a look. However, for a kid to show up as a walk-on and finish as perhaps one of the best defensive linemen to ever play at Boise State has to say something.

Chris Petersen apparently felt that he was enough of an asset to keep him around on his staff, and now coach Kugler feels he's good enough to be a part of his. Hopefully his youth will pay dividends in coaching a defensive line that has some solid play makers already in the program.


Spencer Leftwich Named Asst HC/OL Coach

Today, a couple more coaches were named to the new staff of UTEP football coach Sean Kugler. The first of which is Spencer Leftwich, who was tabbed as assistant head coach and offensive line coach by Kugler.

Leftwich's career began in 1989 at Stephen F. Austin where he was the offensive line coach of the Lumberjacks until 1991. In his first year, the team finished 12-2-1 and made it all the way to the Division I-AA national championship game.

In 1992, he moved to Las Cruces to take over the offensive line duties at New Mexico State. He stayed there for only a year before moving on to take over the same duties at North Texas.

Leftwich stayed with the Mean Green until 2002, when he moved to Tulsa to once again coach the offensive line. After four years in Tulsa, he had another stint in Denton (2007-2009) and then returned to Tulsa in 2010.

In 2011, he served as the offensive line coach for the Pittsburgh Panthers, and in 2012 Leftwich served under Rich Rodriquez as the tight ends coach for the Arizona Wildcats.

Coach Kugler had this to say about his new offensive line coach:

“Coach Leftwich has over 25 years of Division I offensive line experience...He has coached at New Mexico State, North Texas, Tulsa, Pittsburgh and Arizona. He has had outstanding lines everywhere he has been. He is a tremendous teacher. He has great character and comes from a great family. You’re not going to find a better offensive line coach.”

Leftwich seems like a great fit for the program. He's a coach the has ties to Texas, went to school in Texas, and has coached the offensive line for more than 25 years. And, that experience comes at all levels of college football.

Also, in case the last name sounds familiar, his son Mack happens to be the first commit that coach Kugler acquired in his first days as a coach. Mack, of course, is a 5'11 190lb quarterback out of North Allegheny high school(PA).


Patrick Higgins Named UTEP OC

As first mentioned here on MinerRush back on December 8th, Patrick Higgins has been named the Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks coach for the UTEP Miners under new head coach Sean Kugler.

Higgins' football story begins at William Penn University in 1982 where he played both quarterback and defensive back. After graduating with both a Bachelor's degree in Chemistry and a Master's in Exercise Physiology, he moved back to the football field as the wide receivers coach at St. Cloud State.

After his time at St. Cloud, Higgins moved on to Quincy University where he spent time as both an offensive coordinator (1990) and defensive coordinator (1991).

In 1992, he was named the head coach at his Alma Mater, William Penn University, but he would only stay there a year as he then moved to Savannah, GA to take over the head duties at St. Andrews Prep.

Following his stay at St. Andews, Higgins took over the offensive coordinator/special teams duties at division II Shepherd College from 1993-1996.

In 1997, he took over as running backs coach at Columbia University, and then made his way to El Paso 1998 where he served as a quarterbacks and wide receivers coach before eventually taking over the offensive coordinator duties in 2000. Higgins stayed with UTEP from 1998-2003 under coaches Charlie Bailey and Gary Nord.

After his stint at UTEP, Higgins spent a year at Louisiana Tech coaching tight ends, and then six years at BYU coaching wide receivers and special teams.

In 2011, Higgins was hired as the wide receivers coach at Purdue, and was reunited with former Miner head coach Gary Nord. After the firing of the Boilermaker head coach, and due to an illness of coach Nord, Higgins was named the interim head coach of Purdue for the remainder of the 2012 season.

Coach Kugler had this to say about Higgins:

"I had the opportunity to work with coach Higgins here at UTEP...I have known him for a long time. I can't think of a more detailed, organized coach to be our offensive coordinator. He has had a lot of great experience even since he's left UTEP...He has been a head coach, a coordinator and a special teams coordinator. I have seen his work ethic up close and I'm excited to have him on board. He will do a great job."

Higgins seems like another great choice by Kugler. He's been around the block a couple of times, and even has ties to UTEP. He's spent time under some great offensive minds, and should able to do well here with the Miners. It'll be interesting to see what this offense looks like in the coming years.

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