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Beyond The Box Score: UTEP's improvement is deeper than X's and O's

What we're seeing is deeper than just a dominating defense, and an even more dominant offensive line coming together.


Don't wanna say I called it, but I called it.

No I didn't think UTEP would go to a bowl, nor did I see the opportunity for the Miners to go 8-4, or a huge one year turnaround from the dumpster fire that was 2013.

What I did feel coming from watching the first day of camp is a winning formula being instilled to build to a winning football program.

Our good and well respected UTSA SB Nation blogger Jared Kalmus penned this gem of a write up describing the leadership downfall or whatever you want it call it from the preseason C-USA darlings.

What UTSA isn't getting UTEP is, and that's leadership, and a winning attitude overhaul.

Jared was right when he talks about leadership, body language, and giving up, mixed with a lack of a winning hammer.  No matter if a player from the inside steps in and calls out the writer, the truth is football is a game of adversity, and it's how you handle it from a leadership, and character standpoint to keep standing tall.

This UTEP team supports each other, they coach each other, they give each other a hard time like brothers, and well......they just like each other and fight for each other.

Gone are the November meltdowns, gone are the 50-point shootouts, and costly third down defense mental farts.

Enter smash mouth, aggressive defense, built behind a tough as nails team chemistry, and a we're going to kick your ass on every play aspect that wears the other team down from a physical and mental standpoint.

The old saying you have to die in order to go to heaven holds true for the UTEP football program.

Last season was the definition of a rebuilding season, but not just personnel or recruiting was involved.  Sean Kugler has taught this group what it really means to be a college football player, and a complete football team.

It all starts off the field.   UTEP prepares, goes to class, and practices with a winning purpose.  There is nothing being given because of how many stars you had coming out of high school.   Every depth chart job has been earned through hard work on the practice field, film and meeting rooms, and in overall character.

I always felt Mike Price teams just didn't have the care for each other during adversity, nor the no nonsense leadership starting at the top with the coaches that never trickled down to the players.  I had the sense of way too much entitlement and watch me do me football under Price.

What we are seeing is how it is done on really good NFL teams.

Say all you want about NFL guys, they don't care because they are millionaires, they don't need to work hard because "they made it".  For 10%-15% of NFL guys that will hold true, but most just flat out love the game of football and embrace the grind that it takes to come together to build a winning culture.

And that is what we are seeing from this group.   Guys buying into a disciplined system that build leaders and character through tough mental challenges in being a good person, and game planning.

This UTEP football group just loves to play the game the right way, and embraces the grind of the game from studying, to game day.

They want to watch film, they want to lift, they want to be around each other, and most importantly they want to the be the UTEP team to start the winning tradition under Kugler who has become, a friend, father, mentor, and the ultimate players coach who is respected like a football god by his players.

Its nice to have game changing players like Aaron Jones, one of the best offensive lines in the conference, and now one of the top defensive units in the conference.

But to have a team that buys in to a system that is deeper than just running the ball, and playing good defense is the most rewarding part of seeing a team come from the depths of the low, to a bowl eligible conference contender.

Gameball: Offensive line and running backs