Mack Leftwich is back, some details on recruiting, and a look at FAU highlight this week's media luncheon with Sean Kugler.
Here are the most important quotes.
Kugler opens by talking about what the team did during the bye week.
"We are coming off a bye week, a productive bye week for us."
"The coaches did self-evaluations on each individual group and collectively as an offense and defense, to see where we can get better."
"The goal was to come up with solutions rather than whine about why things have happened or what happened, or what's the reason due to injury, whatever, that wasn't what we were looking for."
"We were looking at being honest, looking in the mirror at ourselves, being humble and coming up with answers."
"I think we had a productive week of practice. The coaches really focused in on individual technique. Most of the practices were structured around basic fundamentals of football and individual technique and individual stations."
"It culminated in a scout scrimmage which was live that was coached by the GA's. There was a lot of energy and a lot of fun. We really utilized the week to get a handful of guys healthy and fresh, not only physically but mentally."
UTEP hopes the bye week pays off for some players who have playing banged up.
"Coming out of that bye week, guys like Mack Leftwich, Kelvin Fisher, Alvin Jones, Autrey Golden and Treyvon Hughes, guys that have either been out or extremely limited due to injuries the past few weeks, we will have all of those guys back healthy, which is very important to our team."
Kugler then talks about the APR report that was released last week.
"We did receive great news last week from the MAC [Miner Athlete Academic Center]. Each year they come out with the APR reports and we were given a perfect rating, a 1000 rating."
"Which means that every single player in our program right now is on target to get their degree."
"I know when you're at the midpoint of a struggling season and you're 2-4, that may not mean a lot to a lot of people, but it means a lot to me because one of my main goals as the head coach is to make sure every single one of these student-athletes gets a degree."
"When we took over this thing, I can tell you it was not in perfect shape. These kids have done a great job working in the classroom. The MAC does a great job. I told the team, they needed to hear some positive news and I was more proud of that than anything and I was excited for those guys."
The coaching staff hit the El Paso area hard in recruiting this past week according to Kugler.
"The coaches went to their respective recruiting areas to either see recruits or their games."
"It started in El Paso. We blanketed the city on Monday and Tuesday. We saw every single school in El Paso."
"The main focus was to see the recruits that are currently committed to us for 2016. At this point I can't name names, but we have six El Paso student-athletes that are committed to us for next year."
"We hope to potentially have seven, which I know would certainly be a record. They are all outstanding football players and outstanding young men. It starts for us right here in El Paso."
"I thought the coaches did a nice job of blanketing the city, not only looking at recruit able scholarship players, but also looking for walk-on type players that can help our program win."
Kugler said the coaching staff identified some issues that need to be worked on for the final six games.
"We came back as a staff off the weekend and really took a hard look at what we can do to change practice to benefit our team, to change what we need to work on to emphasize things we have been lacking at, we wanted to take a proactive approach to attacking the things that we have been poor at."
"There are a lot of things we need to change to get better."
"Really, we've got to improve on three things in my mind. Number one is red zone on both sides of the ball. We have been extremely poor in the red zone on defense and offensively. We can't come away with field goals offensively and we've got to hold teams to field goals or get them out of the red zone defensively."
"Third downs, we've got to be more productive in that area, getting off the field on third downs on defense and maintaining drives and putting together sustained drives on offense and not getting knocked out of that situation."
"Explosive plays, chunk plays as you call them, a +10 yard run or +20 yard pass, we have been extremely lacking that on the offensive side of the ball and we have given up way too many explosive plays on the defensive side of the ball."
"As well as overemphasizing the basic fundamentals that we need to be better at -- tackling and ball security, because right now we are currently at -8 in the ball security area and we need to get better."
A big emphasis Kugler talked about on Monday was that the team and staff will not give up on the season.
"I want the fans to know that we have not given up on the year. I hope they haven't either."
"Some people may have, I'm not concerned with those people. I'm concerned with our team."
"We are really going to do our best and roll up our sleeves to try to get this thing turned around this year. We've got six games left and our focus is to improve on those six games this year."
Even with a 2-4 record, Kugler is still pleased with his team's effort and focus on and off the field.
"My main focus as a head coach is the seniors. We have 16 outstanding young men who I want to see finish the year on a positive note, to have fun, to go out there and be energized and really enjoy the last half of their season."
"I want to make it a positive experience for this entire team because as I have mentioned many times before, when you're 2-4 in a lot of cases going to work is miserable."
"That hasn't been the case with this group. I am amazed with all of the things that have happened to them this year, they come back to work every single day. They have a positive outlook. They work in the weight room. They work in the classroom."
"I have had to deal with no problems off the field. I really like the group. My focus is to repay these guys by letting them have a positive experience these last weeks and see if we can get this thing turned around."
Then Kugler talks about FAU.
"It is a team that I feel right now should be easily 3-3. They lost an overtime game to Tulsa. They played Miami extremely tough. It was 20-20 going into the fourth quarter. They lost a last-minute game versus Rice that was a tough loss for them at home."
"From the turnover standpoint, they're in the negative category -2."
"One thing that stands out to me is they have gained 10 interceptions on defense. Time of possession, they are 11th in Conference USA. Penalties, they are ninth in Conference USA. The other thing that stands out, they have been pretty consistent scoring through the quarters. It's not a team that starts slow or finishes slow."
Breaking down their personnel.
"Offensively, they play two quarterbacks. I don't know their quarterback situation as far as health. I know that Johnson has been their quarterback of the past and has really done a great job for them and their program. He is kind of like a bigger Jameill Showers, he is 6-1, 240 and looks like a fullback."
"But he did not start the past game against Marshall. Driskel, a redshirt freshman started the game. He is a very talented young man. They have been throwing the ball more with him. They are averaging 185 yards a game passing with him, as opposed to 133 with the other quarterback. Whether it's due to injury or them making a quarterback change I don't know, but Driskel was the quarterback we saw last week."
"They have two excellent running backs, #9 Howell 6-1, 205, he has a 4.8 average. Their backup tailback has a 5.1 average. He is also 6-0, 205."
"They have an extremely tall, athletic group of skill players. Their tight end is 6-6. And they've got three receivers 6-1, 6-3, 6-2."
"Very tall, athletic fast group. And they have all been productive. Things that have been standing out for them, they have been trying to maintain the rushing game. Red zone, they are sixth in Conference USA. They have given up 16 sacks and they are -2 in the turnover category."
"Defensively, it is a very fast, athletic defense."
"They have a cornerback named LeBlanc, he's got 25 tackles and he leads them in interceptions with three. He is a very talented corner."
"I feel they have one of the better defensive tackles in Conference USA in #11 Coley. He is 6-2, 300. He is second on the team in tackles. He's got 6.5 tackles for losses, 4.5 sacks, three quarterback hits and two forced fumbles. That's an interior lineman. Usually those are stats that are reserved for an outstanding end. This guy is a defensive tackle racking up those kinds of numbers."
"They do have an outstanding defensive end in #9 Hendrickson. He leads their team in sacks with five. Two very good interior players and a solid corner. I have been very impressed with their freshman linebacker Azee Al-Shaair. He's a 6-2, 215-pound true freshman that is extremely athletic. He leads their team in tackles with 48."
"Their safety is also a solid player. Where they have been very good is third downs."
"They are sixth in Conference USA at 39 percent success rate against them. They have been great in the red zone, they are number one in Conference USA allowing only 50 percent touchdowns."
"They are second in Conference USA in sacks and interceptions. They have a very good defense and we are going to have to be at our best. The thing that stands out is their athleticism."
Then Kugler touches on UTEP's quarterback situation.
"Garrett [Simpson] will be the no. 2 quarterback, Kavika [Johnson] and [Ryan] Metz will be utilized as far as their package."
"We went through a stretch with two freshmen quarterbacks, not just one, that have never seen the field. We saw some of the positive results of that. I think both of those guys are really talented."
"I love both of those young men. I think they're going to be outstanding quarterbacks for UTEP in the future. And we saw some of the negative results. Some costly turnovers."
"We had four pick sixes, we had some intentional groundings. Just knowing situations, knowing when to get rid of the ball, knowing when not to get rid of the ball, taking sacks when you really didn't have to."
"Those are all teaching moments for those guys but they're not going to be set off to the side. I think they are too talented not to utilize them in some way. They will still have a package for us. I think both Ryan Metz and Kavika Johnson, in the future and this year, are going to be great quarterbacks for UTEP."
Kugler then gives insight on the 2016 recruiting plan.
"You also look at graduation and how many guys you're going to be losing. Defensive backs is going to be an area, we'll probably sign five players this year."
"Running backs, because of the quick loss of depth and also Jeremiah Laufasa graduates, we'll probably sign two in that area."
"Defensive linemen, we'll probably sign three."
"Linebackers, we're going to sign two due to graduation."
"But if you look at it, we have 16 available, and 10 are probably going to go to the defensive side of the ball this year."
"The remaining six go to the offensive side of the ball. But we do want to sign some running backs for sure and defensive backs, those to me would be the two priority positions in signings this year."