It was a quiet C-USA Media Day with nothing relatively new or surprising from around the league other than a new TV deal for the conference is expected to be announced during the academic year.
On the UTEP side, Sean Kugler, Aaron Jones, and Roy Robertson-Harris kept to the script, and showed off their bling from the 2014 New Mexico Bowl appearance.
Kugler said the same things from the end of the spring about the quarterback competition, and feels the key to improving the pass game is in the depth of UTEP's young, but deep pool of wide receivers.
"We're very young at receiver. But again, I think collectively as a group it's our most talented group since we've been here. There's going to be some heated competition during camp." Kugler said, "They made some plays during the spring and they're going to need to make plays. The passing game needs to improve to compliment our running game. It's an area of improvement that I think is going to happen drastically this year is at the receiver group."
The UTEP defensive renaissance is no longer a secret across the league, but the depth UTEP has built on the recruiting trail over the past two classes has Kugler talking about his defense with a hidden gleam in his eye.
"I feel real good about our (defensive) line and our depth there at that position, particularly at the end position. I think we're going to have great competition inside at the tackle position. I think we're bigger than we've been inside; we're in the 280-290 (pound) range. The linebackers we have great depth and experience with Alvin Jones,Jimmy Musgrave and Trey Brown. Those guys have all started and had great success for us. I also think we have good depth in the secondary."
Secondary depth is young, and unproven, but a few young guys like Nik Needam, and Mookie Carlile had huge growth in the spring to make the position battles there very intriguing, and something to watch closely in camp.
"That's another area we've heavily concentrated on because we run a nickel 4-2-5 (defense). Kugler said of the secondary. "So there's going to be quality competition at the corner spot and I feel real good about our safeties and their physicality."
Overall it seems the staff has high expectations, and confidence to throw in some new wrinkles in the defense now in the third year of the system, plus having an abundance of depth to do so.
"I really felt from the quarter point of last year, particularly after the LA Tech game, our defense flew around. They were disruptive, they made plays behind the line of scrimmage, they forced turnovers and the offense fed off of it. Kugler noted of his defense in 2014. "That's really when our team started becoming a team. I think coach (Scott) Stoker and his staff do an outstanding job. They're in the third year of that system and instead of teaching fundamentals - step one tackling - they're out there running schemes and making adjustments. They're very comfortable in the scheme and I think they're only going to improve."
Another thing that brought this team closer together was chemistry, continuity and growth of a strong brotherhood that will continue to carry over for years to come at UTEP.
"I think it's a very close-knit group. These kids do a really great job of playing for each other and they've really become a family."
Camp starts August 6th in Ruidoso, New Mexico and is open to the public.
Top Links from around the league
Video from interview from C-USA west coaches, and players. (UTEP Interviews start at the 1:18:56 mark)
The Daily New Journal (MTSU): Notebook: C-USA coaches tab MTSU as dark horse
The News Star (LA Tech): Holtz: Tech has unfinished business despite ‘magical' 2014 season
WBKO.com (WKU): Tops not shying away from preseason prognostication
GoldenEaglePride.com (So. Miss): Reed Sees Great Opportunity In 2015
San Antonio Express-News: UTSA fishing for better days on football field
Charlotte Observer: Charlotte 49ers in for culture shock in first season in Conference USA
UTEP’s Roy Robertson-Harris: (Doughty) feels that pressure coming. He’s good at getting around us. He’s real good on his feet. I respect him— Chad Bishop (@MrChadBishop) July 22, 2015
Marshall coach Doc Holliday with a sexy quote about the WKU offense: "They’ll undress you defensively."— Chad Bishop (@MrChadBishop) July 22, 2015
Monken quoted Shawshank when talking about his 3rd season "Get busy living or get busy dying." Said the time to get it done is now. #CUSAFB— GoldenEaglePride.com (@GldnEaglePride) July 22, 2015