clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Sean Kugler's way of running a program could start a UTEP to the NFL pipeline

Sean Kugler is not only building a winner at UTEP, he's preparing guys for their next level auditions too.

Tom Gonzales

It's more than his NFL connections, history and knowledge of the NFL game.

Sean Kugler's style of running the UTEP football program could become a huge draw for some NFL teams in the future when it comes to UTEP players who have the size and skill set for the NFL game.

Take a look at this year's UDFA signings, and a yearly trend may follow suit.

Everyone expected both Jameill Showers, and Eric Tomlinson to be either late round draft picks, or sure-fire UDFA's, but to see three additional seniors get a NFL shot is huge for the program.

Kugler has refined the little things in the program into things that NFL teams do regularly, just like UTEP has the past two seasons which is a huge plus for players looking to sign with UTEP that have NFL dreams.

Starting with the mental toughness, Kugler's practices, meetings, and film sessions are as mentally rigorous just as they are physical, and prepare players, and units for situational execution. 

Then you have accountability.

Kugler holds everyone from position coach, to video coordinator, to third string punter accountable for their actions or work.

Then you have the scheme and the hard hitting style he has instilled at UTEP.

UTEP wants to physically and methodically control both lines of scrimmage, efficiently run the ball, and efficiently execute pass play situations.

Defensively its about methodically attacking you with a physical defense that forces turnovers and plays behind the line of scrimmage.  

No chuck and duck or no-huddle around here, mental execution that helps force big turnovers, ball control and having proper technique are NFL aspects Kugler is drilling in his players mettle.  

Finally, you have the way UTEP practices.

Like its previously mentioned, UTEP works daily on situations which has greatly improved the mental toughness aspect of the program.

But not only does it improve mental toughness, it also prepares guys for roles, and NFL rosters for years have been based off role needs for certain systems.

Not only are you required to learn how to react and make plays in situations mentally and physically, but if you want to see the field under Kugler, standing out and having a will to play on special teams is also must.

So what the hell does all this have to do with the NFL starting to pay more attention to the UTEP football program?

From here on out under Kugler, UTEP's players will understand how it all works from a football operational standpoint which will pay long dividends when it comes to mini-camp tryouts, and combines before the draft.

For instance, Jameill Showers and Eric Tomlinson looked very sharp in their NFLPA Collegiate Bowl Practices.

They knew what was going on in those practices, they knew how to practice, how to use every rep as learning tool, and outclassed their peers on the practice part of learning a new system, and adapting the learning into every rep.


They both have been doing that at UTEP for the past two years at a very high level, so now its just second nature.

So while no UTEP player was drafted in 2015, two UTEP players with minimal statistical production in 2014 at their respective positions were signed by NFL teams, but their presence meant a lot to what UTEP did last year.

Josh Bell was a key part in the UTEP offense, as a third down, and rotation back who saw plenty of carries and playing time.  Where Bell really stood out was on special teams, which I'm sure Kugler called his old buddy Mike Tomlin to let him know his top special teams ace has the ability to do the exact same thing he did at UTEP last season on Sundays, Monday's, and Thursdays.

Katrae Ford was not a main target for Jameill Showers, but was another special teams standout, who at 6'5, 235 pounds has a shot at cracking a roster as a pass catching tight end.  Ford could be labeled as a co-special teams MVP from last season along with Bell.

Wesley Miller had an impressive tryout with the Buffalo Bills this past weekend, earning high praise from Rex Ryan on how he went about his on field business, and even drawing a comparison to Jim Leonhard.  Miller is undersized, but he improved greatly in a lot of areas in the last two years under Kugler's watch, and was a favorite of SK's as a leader, and "defensive quarterback."

Ryan went on to tell the Buffalo News

"He clearly jumped out as a guy that was really on top of things," Ryan said. "That's probably the most underrated thing in the NFL game, is how sharp mentally you need to be. Some guys can have all the physical traits in the world, but if you can't handle it mentally, then you're really bringing the team down. He's clearly a guy that really got it."

"I'll be excited to see how he progresses as we go. It's a very deep group back there. What are his shots of making the team? I don't know, but we never put a regulator on a guy, that 'hey, he can't make it.' I'll never say that. You metioned Jim Leonhard. He was a free agent that had, what, a 10-year career or something? So that would be great, I'll sign up for that right now."

So I'm not saying UTEP is going to be Alabama or any other SEC school in filling out NFL rosters, UTEP players will start to see more legit looks for the dream of playing on Sundays under Kugler and his staff.