There's no question about it; it was tough going in 2013. Sean Kugler took over a program from Mike Price that had made improvements in his tenure, but had begun to slide during his final seasons.
Kugler's job was no easy one. He was tasked with not just coaching a football team, but implementing an entirely new system with a new ideology, and more than anything changing a culture.
Call it what you will, but there's no question the new head man felt the program needed to be cleaned up. That process saw not only a number of players leave the team, but also saw others get their minutes reduced significantly.
The defense took the brunt of the hit, and it left that unit in a bit of a struggle to find itself for the majority of the year. On the bright side, plenty of younger guys got invaluable playing time, and the Miners had a number of scholarships to offer to the 2014 class.
And what a class it turned out to be. The Miners actually took 26 players on official visits, and wound up signing 23. No matter what business you're in, that's a hell of a success rate. Let's just hope that success rate can transition into wins on the field.
We'll have to wait until football season to see how that turns out, but I do have say that recruiting class offers a lot of promise as to the future of UTEP football. Coach Kugler did an amazing job signing 23 players that not only have the talent, but also fit his system, and embody exactly what he is trying to build.
Of the 23, 20 are high schoolers which fits Kugler's plan to build this thing from the ground up and for the long term. Not that there's anything wrong with going the JUCO route, but we know these kids will be able to grow and develop in the system, rather than be gone after just a year or two.
Kugler also did a great job to not only fill some voids on the defense, but to also continue to build his run first offense. He was able to add two more 3 Star running backs to an already extremely talented stable.
- David Hamm out of Klein, TX rushed for over 1,800 yards in his senior season, and drew interest from a ton of high major programs. In the end, he had offers from Illinois, UTEP, and Texas St.
- Treyvon Hughes our of Carrollton, TX rushed for better than 1,400 yards, and was also one who drew interest from plenty of high majors. Most thought he was headed to Iowa, but the Miners were able to snag him.
- Chris Jones - 6'1/300lbs - A first team All District player and All State honorable mention, Jones should fit right in with the Miners.
- Derron Gatewood - 6'3/295lbs - Was tabbed third team All State by Dave Campbell's Magazine, gave up 0 sacks in 2013.
- Jerrod Brooks - 6'5/305lbs - Another who allowed 0 sacks in 2013, and also a part of a unit that averaged better than 250 yards rushing.
- Christopher Misaalefua - 6'5/355lbs - Names First Team Division III All State by Max Preps, and was named East Sequoia Lineman of the Year on both sides of the ball.
- Alex Villareal - 6'0/300lb DT - Villareal was a guy who was originally committed to Houston, and then signed with Oklahoma State before going the JUCO route. He's a guy who could make an immediate impact.
- Justen Tatum - 6'1/240lb LB - Tatum is another guy who gained a lot of interest from high major programs. He could also be looking at playing time in year one.
- Luke Elsner - 6'3/240lb DE - Elsner is a high motor guy who recorded ridiculous numbers, including 76 tackles, 25.5 TFL, and 14 sacks in his senior season.
- Jimmy Musgrave - 6'0/235lb LB - Musgrave is a guy that almost certainly will play immediately. He's definitely got the talent, but just look into his story and you'll see the work ethic. Originally and Oregon Duck, Mugrave went the JUCO route and will now have two years remaining with the Miners.
- Warren Redix - 5'10/175lbs - Redix compiled nearly 2,700 yards receiving in three years at Montwood, and received plenty of interest from mid and high major programs before joining the Miners.
- Eddie Sinegal - 6'0/170lbs - Sinegal racked up nearly 2,600 yards in his three years at Andress, including more than 1,000 in his senior year.
- Adrian Hynson - 5'10/185lbs - Hynson was tabbed First Team All State by Dave Campbell's Magazine, and registered 83 tackles and 2 ints in 2013.
- Mookie Carlile - 6'1/200lbs - Carlile has great size for the safety position, and had 90 tackles, 7 pass deflections, and 5 interceptions as a senior.
- Nike Needham - 5'11/185lbs - Needham is a guy with great hands and a ton of upside. He registered 38 tackles and 2 ints, but also had nearly 900 yards receiving.
- Stephen Forester - 6'1/230lbs DE - Forester is another new Miners to have put up stellar number in his senior year. In 2013, he had 99 tackles, including 26 TFL and 15 sacks.
- Augie Touris - 6'4/235lbs DE - One of the first commits for the Miners this year. He will be a part of the New York/New Jersey All Star game.
- Joseph Kraemer - 6'3/245lbs DE - Kraemer could be another immediate impact player. He's got great size for the position, and was a target of fellow C-USAers Southern Miss and FAU.
- Jason Fao - 6'0/300lbs NG - Fao could be a huge force in the middle for the Miners, not only for his size, but also his athletic ability. He tallied over 200 tackles in his high school career. Also offered by NMSU and Utah State, and had interest from a number of high majors.
- Mike Sota - 6'4/260lbs DT - Sota is another guy with great size and upside. He had 69 tackles, including 13 for loss and 6 sacks in 2013.
- Sterling Napier - 6'4/245lbs TE - A four starter, Napier hauled in 43 passes for 682 yards and 3 scores in his senior season. He also had interest from UNM and NMSU.
- Nick Jones - 6'7/260lbs TE - Jones is JUCO transfer who will have two years of eligibility. Last year, he hauled in 17 balls for 243 yards in seven games.
- Sloan Spiller - 6'0/225lbs FB - Spiller, ranked 81st on ESPN's top 300 RB, could be a nice passing threat out of the back field. Also played some tight end in college.