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UTEP football: So What’s Next?

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There are a lot of questions about what is next for the UTEP football team; here are a few things to think about.

Getting Healthy

Should be UTEP's number one priority heading into the New Year.

The Miners pushed back off-season conditioning to February, spring ball starts March 15th with the spring game on April 15th. UTEP will take a full month off after spring workouts then begin summer conditioning.

I doubt we see the likes of Aaron Jones, Terry Juniel, Devin Cockrell, or Hayden Plinke in spring ball as all need time to heal from major injuries, and will be key pieces in 2016.

Another big concern is the health and career status of Mack Leftwich who suffered multiple concussions this season.

Sean Kugler is taking a new approach in keeping guys healthy and physically fresh despite the rigorous schedule they already go through with off-season workouts.

Adjustment one of many from Kugs is the most important at this point to get guys back to 100% health for the fall.

Hire coordinators

Long term priority of the off-season is the health of the many returners UTEP will have in 2016, but the immediate priority is hiring new coordinators.

No solid names have come out on either the defensive or offensive side, but we do know Sean Kugler is aggressively pursuing those empty positions.

Kugler has offered an unnamed offensive coordinator, but no other candidates for either position have surfaced.

On the defensive side, Jeff Choate was thought to be a possible replacement name, but is now the head coach at Montana State.

It appears defensively that UTEP will go in a scheme change direction, possibly moving away from the 4-2-5 Kugler has used the past three seasons.

Getting away from the man-to-man looks in the secondary could be the biggest reason for the change, but with UTEP lacking current linebacker depth, the defensive coordinator position should be filled in the next couple of days or weeks for recruiting purposes.

Offensively things are even murkier, but the depth is already built.

Does UTEP continue with a two back based offense, or is Sean Kugler looking for something different like a spread based run-option scheme.  Either way it will involve a run first theme, but quarterback development should also be the candidates' strong point in my opinion.

Kavika Johnson showed he could become the quarterback of the future, but Ryan Metz has also shown he could be the guy too.  You have two very raw, but suitable quarterbacks to build around, where do you go from a scheme standpoint?

So much to figure out when it comes to X's and O's going forward, where does Kugler make his move?

Recruiting

The obvious and most dire need of immediate 2016 impact recruits is on the defensive side.

So far no one has left the program to our knowledge as the semester wraps up this week, but defensive end, linebacker, and corner back are immediate needs for 2016.

UTEP has a few JUCO offers out to those positions, and cornerback is the most needed to be filled position for 2016 as UTEP is losing three defensive backs to graduation.

With the JUCO mid-year transfer signing period coming up next week, the Miners would probably like to grab a JUCO commit in an area of need this week with the few offers they have out for those positions.

On the offensive side, almost everyone returns out of the skill positions, and UTEP snagged a much needed JUCO plug in on the offensive line that will once again return four starters and a pair of players who filled in for injury returning in 2016.

Keeping JUCO safety Houston Haynes committed should be another priority as he showing heavy interest in Colorado State after a visit this past weekend.  247Sports has ranked Haynes as the 9th best JUCO defensive back.

UTEP signed a high school quarterback, but word is the Miners could be in the market for a transfer quarterback who can come in compete for a possible spot right away.

Kugler mentioned that the remaining scholarships for 2016 would go to the defensive side of the ball, so shoring up 2016 depth on the defensive side of the ball looks to be a major priority in the next two months.

Position coach changes

UTEP officially lost wide receiver's coach Todd Whitten to an FCS head coaching job, and there is a possibility that UTEP has more than a few open position coach vacancies.

You figure finding out where you want to go with your coordinators is first on the list, but grabbing position coaches with not only on field development knowledge, but recruiting ties should also be a priority after the coordinators are settled upon.

Not only are positions coaches important for development, but recruiting ties, and a strong recruiting background should also be on the top of a checklist for potential replacements.

Red-shirt/Gray-shirt development

UTEP has 10 red-shirt freshman, and a handful of gray-shirts who are expected to stay on the roster and compete in spring practice for depth chart spots.

The most needed positions will be along the defensive line, and at linebacker.

Gene Hopkins, Christian Richardson, Foster Dixson, and Jayson VanHook, will be names in the front six to keep an eye during spring.  While Omar Lloyd, and Jerrell Brown could also be guys who can crack the secondary depth chart with a solid spring showing.

UTEP still has JUCO transfers Elloitt Oldham (WR), and Brennan Royal (DB) who will also see plenty of reps in the spring at their respective positions.

Plenty of starters and guys who say plenty of action return, but developing depth at a number of positions will be an important part of UTEP's spring and off-season plan.