UTEP head football coach Sean Kugler enters his fifth season at the helm. Conference USA sat down with Kugler on the first day of C-USA’s 2017 Football Kickoff on Wednesday to answer a few questions regarding the 2017 campaign.
Why are Will [Hernandez] and Alvin [Jones] so important to the program?
“Will Hernandez is probably the most physical players on our program. He’s been our starting [left] guard for three years and he’s on the Outland Trophy Watch list. Will is one of the hardest working players I’ve ever been around. He brings a work ethic that we are looking for in our program. Will is probably one of the strongest players I’ve been around. He’s very humble and just a hardworking kid.
“Alvin Jones is the twin brother of Aaron Jones, who was drafted by the Green Bay Packers this past year. And Alvin again has been equally productive. He’s been our leading tackler the last three years, our leading sacker two out of the three years and our leader in tackles for losses.
“Both those guys are very productive. They’re both productive in the classroom and going to graduate on time. [Will and Alvin] are both quality kids with great work ethic. So, they deserve to be [at media day] and they deserve to be Conference USA Preseason candidates.”
How much improvement are you expecting from the defense after playing a year as a 3-4 defense?
“We’re expecting drastic improvement. We saw it in the Spring; just from a communication standpoint and guys getting lined up in the right places. Last year – to a fault of my own – that was a little more than what we expected, completely making a drastic change switching from the 4-2-5 to a 3-4. Number one, just the time to learn it, I felt the defense drastically improved as the year went on. But from a personnel standpoint, we had to go and get linebackers and we’ve got 20 linebackers on our roster now, which is drastically improved. Having that many linebackers will also help the special teams with all those big bodies running around.”
What do you have to do to generate more of a pass rush?
“We have to generate more sacks and we’ve addressed that by signing some linebackers. We could have a whole new linebacking crew out on the field for the exception of Alvin and Dante [Lovilotte]. Lovilotte’s a returning linebacker who had an outstanding season. We signed Julian Jackson, who’s a graduate transfer from Wake Forest. We also have some young, up-and-coming players who we were impressed with during the Spring – guys like Dylan Parsee and Lawrence Montegut and those type guys. But we have to generate more sacks and that is what the 3-4 defense is built on and that’s what we expect.”
How does having a returning starting quarterback [Ryan Metz] help to improve the offense? Does it take weight off you as a coaching staff?
“[Ryan Metz] is a quality kid. He’s a leader and a competitor. He was probably out [on the field] too early in his career. He just wasn’t quite ready yet, but no fault of his, he just had to be ready. Now he’s ready. It’s his time, he’s put in the work and he’s very productive when he’s played. Our offense, when he was inserted in last year, averaged over 30 points per game from the time he was the quarterback till the end of the season. The team rallies around him and he’s got a great demeanor. We’re excited about Ryan Metz and what he can do for the program this season.”
What did you learn playing under Andy Reid?
“I learned a lot, [Andy Reid] was really my mentor – a father figure to me. I always knew I wanted to be a coach. But after spending three years playing for Andy Reed, I knew I wanted to be the best coach. He’s probably the best coach in the NFL, even though I’m being biased about that. As far as a line coach, he’s the best line coach I’ve ever been around.”