Every week I will bring you a break down of Kugler's weekly Monday pressers.
This week Kugler went over their preparation points against New Mexico, Kugler also broke down certain position groups as well, and gave a small C-USA preview. Here is was stood out to me. Full audio of the presser is included below.
Kugler on New Mexico:
Kugs noted that running back Casey Carrier is gone (thank god), but the Lobos return both Jhurell Pressley, and Crusoe Gongbay at running back, and also noted their focus on the Lobo's option, and pistol looks.
He also says UTEP was able throw in periods during camp in which the defense saw New Mexico's option and pistol looks, unlike last year Kugler has been preparing his team for New Mexico since last week giving UTEP a full two week prep on the Lobos.
A new defensive coordinator at New Mexico has Kugler thinking he will see a few new wrinkles from the newly minted DC, he also says quarterback Cole Gautsche is expected to start after missing last year's match up with a concussion.
Kugler described Gautsche's running style as a fullback, and notes the returners on the offensive line mixed with New Mexico's capable running backs as positive's and hurdles for the Miners on defense this Saturday.
He points at New Mexico safety David Guthrie, linebacker Dakota Cox and defensive ends Richard Winston as players to watch on the Lobo defense, also notes the size of New Mexico's corners.
Kugler is concerned with New Mexico's kick returner Carlos Wiggins who lead the nation with 1,303 return yards a year ago, and was fifth nationally with a 29.6 yard per return average. Kugler says Wiggins is also used as slash, receiver/running back and will be moved around and shifted just like the New Mexico offense normally does.
Along with their defensive preparation Kugler said the biggest keys for the secondary and defensive line success is gap control and will they will have to perfect with their fits, meaning the Miners have to to be sound on their assignments in the secondary in order to slow down the run.
The defensive line also has to win their one-on-one battle against a solid New Mexico offensive line.
Kugler on defensive improvement:
Basic lining up, knowledge of assignments, and tackling were the main improvements that Kugler said he saw throughout camp from the defense.
Also said he really likes and thinks the secondary is very talented and deep, he said UTEP could go 10 men deep in their rotations and packages within the secondary.
Kugler stated the while the defensive line has a number of inexperienced parts this year he feels the group is more athletic that last year.
Jameill Showers to have more reign within the offense:
Kugler said he always wants to have his best player with the ball in his hands and plans to give Showers more leeway in the offense in terms of calls at the line of scrimmage.
Coach noted that Showers will have a run or pass option at the line, and will be tasked with making that right call. Though Kugler believes Showers is smart enough to handle and notice situations to dictate making the right call, I also completely agree.
Jarrad Shaw and Ian Hamilton will be starters Saturday, though Kugler says he will "ease" in the younger receivers like Tyler Batson, Brandon Moss, and even possibly true freshman Zierre Banner. Can't forget about Malcolm Trail, Jaquan White and Cole Freytag who are all listed on the depth chart.
Kugler compared camp last season to this season where the Miners had a double digit injury list at this time last year, and said this season UTEP has one player questionable for the season opener.
Defensive end Luke Elsner had been battling an ankle injury, as was receiver Malcolm Trail, both will be a go Saturday.
Offensive lineman Chris Thomas is further away, though Kugler would not rule Thomas out of Saturday's opener.
Kugler gave huge kudos to the strength and conditioning program, and long time trainer Dawn Hearn on the minimal, and speedy recovery when it came to injuries this camp. Kugler also congratulated the team on learning how to practice and to protect each other which contributed greatly to the Miners almost clean bill of health to this point.
Kugler says he was happy with the improvement of the special teams, though kickers weren't the main topic.
He noted that UTEP is using more tight ends, and fullback body types on special teams instead of defensive backs which helps protection, increases physicality, and possibly improves tackling on special teams.
He also says the unit has grown largely in part to Brian Natkin and Robert Rodriguez handling special teams duties.
Kugler said Mike Ruggles and Mike Sroka will both see time at punter. Kugler also says place kicking has improved, Jay Mattox returns for the Miners there.
He also mentions Damian Payne as the starting punt returner, though Nick Gathrite and Jarrad Shaw will also see time back there. He didn't mention this but I also have seen Aaron Jones fielding punts in practice.
Kugler said Rice would be the team to beat in C-USA after winning the league last year.
He notes North Texas, Middle Tennessee as tough teams, and also said UTSA has one of the best defenses in the league.
A huge takeaway on this question was he acknowledges that Rice and North Texas were in UTEP's shoes a few years ago, and it seems Kuger is using that blueprint in continuing to rebuild UTEP by sticking to his recruiting and overall approach and schemes on the field.