2013 UTEP football's 10 things to know: A UTEP man, Jameill Showers and unknowns

Jim Cowsert-US PRESSWIRE

The UTEP job is a difficult one, but UTEP alum and respected offensive line coach Sean Kugler succeeds Mike Price and attempts to make something out of a Texas A&M transfer quarterback, some weapons and a green defense.

Confused? Check out the glossary here.

1. Sean Kugler is a UTEP guy ... and that's about all we really know

It is never a good idea to spend too much time trying to figure out how a new coach will do when he is first hired. Coaching changes are such an epic crapshoot, and if you're being hired as a head coach, you probably have a pretty good resume. Still, it's easy to lean on certain assumptions depending on what type of hire is made. A former head coach at another school has a track record from which you can glean certain tendencies. A hot shot assistant can be viewed through the lens of his previous bosses.

But if you're trying to figure out what kind of coach Sean Kugler might be at UTEP, or how good he might be, good luck. Kugler has been pretty specialized in his areas of expertise for quite a while. A former UTEP offensive lineman who played for Bob Stull (then the UTEP head coach, now the UTEP athletic director), Kugler spent eight seasons as a UTEP assistant (first a graduate assistant, then tight ends coach, then offensive line coach) before spending five years with the Detroit Lions (tight ends, then offensive line), one with Boise State (offensive line), three with the Buffalo Bills (offensive line) and three with the Pittsburgh Steelers (offensive line).

It isn't hard to find a fellow coach who will gush about working with Kugler -- Boise State's Chris Petersen when Kugler left Boise in 2006: "There's absolutely no question that he's the best football coach I've ever been around" -- but aside from serving as Petersen's assistant head coach, he's never held a title loftier than offensive line coach. And he's only worked for one season at the college level since the turn of the 21st century. That he is a UTEP guy is good, as is the fact that he clearly isn't destructively ambitious, the type to leave for a better job after one season. If he is solid in his new role, he could stay in El Paso for solid amount of time. We just have no idea of knowing in advance whether he will be solid in his new role.

2. Mike Price basically fielded the same team for three straight years

Since 2006, UTEP ranked 83rd, 81st, 82nd, 98th, 96th, and 93rd in the F/+ rankings. Consistency can be a good thing, but it probably wasn't Mike Price, who retired following 2012. Price won eight games in each of his first two seasons in El Paso (2004, 2005), and he certainly established a higher baseline than what existed through most of the 15 years between Stull's departure for Missouri and Price's arrival. UTEP had won three or fewer games in a season 10 times in 15 years and had only won more than four twice; the Miners were 6-30 from 2001-03.

The program was a disaster, and while Price couldn't maintain success (UTEP lost either seven or eight games in each of his last six seasons -- this is a hard job, in other words), he did manage to raise the bar at least a bit. But it was time for him to go. UTEP rode an absurdly easy schedule (wins over UA-Pine Bluff, 2-10 New Mexico State, 1-11 Memphis, and 1-11 New Mexico, and no team with an above-.500 record) to a bowl bid in 2010, but the writing had been on the wall for a while. He does not leave an empty cupboard for Kugler, however, especially considering the transfer Kugler recently added.

2012 Schedule & Results

Record: 3-9 | Adj. Record: 5-7 | Final F/+ Rk: 93
Date Opponent Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L
1-Sep Oklahoma 7-24 L 11.8 - 21.9 L
8-Sep at Ole Miss 10-28 L 20.7 - 41.8 L
15-Sep New Mexico State 41-28 W 28.8 - 25.3 W
22-Sep at Wisconsin 26-37 L 28.2 - 38.2 L
29-Sep at East Carolina 18-28 L 15.5 - 31.1 L
6-Oct SMU 0-17 L 16.6 - 24.6 L
11-Oct at Tulsa 11-33 L 35.9 - 35.5 W
20-Oct Tulane 24-20 W 27.8 - 46.5 L
27-Oct at Houston 35-45 L 29.9 - 26.9 W
10-Nov Central Florida 24-31 L 30.5 - 27.0 W
17-Nov at Southern Miss 34-33 W 23.5 - 53.9 L
24-Nov Rice 24-33 L 31.8 - 29.3 W
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
Points Per Game 21.2 102 29.8 77
Adj. Points Per Game 25.1 93 33.5 106

Offense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 88 90 92 86
RUSHING 79 99 101 97
PASSING 70 72 71 67
Standard Downs 72 83 63
Passing Downs 105 97 109
Redzone 114 107 120
Q1 Rk 43 1st Down Rk 56
Q2 Rk 110 2nd Down Rk 100
Q3 Rk 99 3rd Down Rk 104
Q4 Rk 66

3. Purdue attempted balance

New offensive coordinator Patrick Higgins, like Kugler, has lived a pretty specialized existence of late. After serving as UTEP's offensive coordinator from 2000-03 (not exactly the most incredible span of time for the Miners' offense), he has served as either a special teams coach or receivers/tight ends coach at Louisiana Tech, BYU, and Purdue for the last nine seasons.

He did, however, serve as interim offensive coordinator, then interim head coach, as Danny Hope's regime fell apart at Purdue last year. Is there anything we can glean from that? Not really. Purdue passed slightly more than average on standard downs but basically attempted a balanced attack. The Boilermakers had no semblance of offensive efficiency, but that was probably a personnel issue, not a scheme issue. He inherits what could be a pretty interesting set of skill position players; balance is probably not the worst idea in the world.

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2013 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards Comp
Rate
TD INT Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Nick Lamaison 126 252 1,686 50.0% 12 9 21 7.7% 5.7
Carson Meger 5'11, 200 Sr. NR 46 76 504 60.5% 1 3 6 7.3% 5.6
Blaire Sullivan 6'3, 210 So. ** (5.4) 21 43 390 48.8% 2 1 3 6.5% 8.0
Garrett Simpson 6'6, 240 RSFr. ** (5.4)








Jameill Showers
(Texas A&M)
6'2, 219 Jr. *** (5.7) 27 44 319 61.4% 2 1 1 2.2% 6.9

4. Hello, Jameill Showers

Whatever Higgins wants to do with the ball, he'll quite possibly have a mobile quarterback running the show. UTEP is basically in the middle of a three-man playoff for the starting quarterback role, with the winner of this spring's Carson Meger vs. Blaire Sullivan match taking on Texas A&M transfer Jameill Showers upon Showers' arrival this summer.

Showers showed potential in minimal opportunities at A&M, but he was overshadowed, first by Top 10 draft pick Ryan Tannehill in 2011, then by Heisman winner Johnny Manziel in 2012. In minimal opportunities, Showers showed solid ability with both his legs and his arm, and it will be pretty easy to assume he will win the starting job in 2013.

However, he will get a battle. Meger, a senior, was more efficient than starter Nick Lamaison last fall, but Sullivan might be a little more intriguing overall. He was interesting on the ground (he ran more than he passed) and in longer passing (18.6 yards per completion, albeit with a dreadful 49 percent completion rate). A new coach has to like inheriting quarterbacks with different skill sets and similar skill levels; that's what Kugler and Higgins have here.

But yeah, Showers is probably going to win the job.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
TD Adj.
POE
Nathan Jeffery RB 5'11, 205 Jr. ** (5.3) 184 897 4.9 5.1 7 -5.7
Blaire Sullivan QB 6'3, 210 So. ** (5.4) 56 260 4.6 4.7 2 -4.9
Autrey Golden RB 6'0, 190 So. *** (5.5) 36 163 4.5 4.7 0 -3.4
Nick Lamaison QB 34 186 5.5 4.8 0 +0.3
LaQuintus Dowell RB 5'9, 195 So. NR 33 165 5.0 4.8 0 -2.0
Josh Bell RB 5'11, 210 Jr. NR 32 113 3.5 2.2 3 -4.4
Xay Williams RB 5'11, 195 So. NR 23 89 3.9 2.2 1 -2.2
Carson Meger QB 5'11, 200 Sr. NR 11 45 4.1 2.5 0 -1.3
Jameill Showers
(Texas A&M)
QB 6'2, 219 Jr. *** (5.7) 8 47 5.9 5.4 0 +0.6
Paul Franklin RB 6'2, 200 So. *** (5.5)





5. First impressions aren't worth much

In the first game of 2012, then-sophomore Nathan Jeffery ripped off 177 yards in 21 carries and scored on a blocked punt as UTEP threw a scare into Oklahoma.

After battling a groin injury, however, Jeffery struggled the rest of the year (in comparison), averaging just 4.4 yards per carry. He has looked solid this spring, and he'll be running behind a reasonably experienced, if thin, offensive line. There is good depth here, especially if the quarterback can add a running dimension to the mix, but Jeffery appears to be the man atop the depth chart.

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Yds/
Target
Target
Rate
%SD Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Jordan Leslie WR 6'2, 210 Jr. *** (5.6) 95 51 973 53.7% 10.2 26.4% 64.2% 9.9 112.8
Michael Edwards WR 92 51 820 55.4% 8.9 25.6% 48.9% 8.7 95.0
Devin Patterson WR 6'0, 200 So. ** (5.4) 29 11 126 37.9% 4.3 8.1% 34.5% 3.7 14.6
Malcolm Trail WR 6'1, 190 So. ** (5.2) 29 16 121 55.2% 4.2 8.1% 58.6% 4.2 14.0
Craig Wenrick TE 6'5, 265 Jr. *** (5.5) 22 12 150 54.5% 6.8 6.1% 63.6% 6.8 17.4
Jim Jones WR 6'0, 170 So. ** (5.2) 17 11 84 64.7% 4.9 4.7% 41.2% 5.1 9.7
Autrey Golden RB 6'0, 190 So. *** (5.5) 14 8 88 57.1% 6.3 3.9% 42.9% 6.5 10.2
Nathan Jeffery RB 5'11, 205 Jr. ** (5.3) 11 8 43 72.7% 3.9 3.1% 54.5% 4.0 5.0
Ian Hamilton WR 6'5, 220 Jr. NR 10 5 42 50.0% 4.2 2.8% 70.0% 4.7 4.9
Kevin Perry TE 6'5, 260 Jr. ** (4.9) 9 4 54 44.4% 6.0 2.5% 66.7% 6.9 6.3
Felix Neboh WR 8 5 41 62.5% 5.1 2.2% 87.5% 3.5 4.8
Eric Tomlinson TE 6'6, 255 Jr. *** (5.5) 8 4 26 50.0% 3.3 2.2% 0.0% 1.7 3.0
Ishmael Harrison DB 5'11, 185 So. ** (5.4) 7 4 72 57.1% 10.3 1.9% 85.7% 7.3 8.3
Katrae Ford TE 6'4, 240 So. ** (5.2) 3 3 22 100.0% 7.3 0.8% 66.7% 7.7 2.5
Cole Freytag WR 6'2, 190 So. NR 2 1 11 50.0% 5.5 0.6% 0.0% 4.3 1.3
LaQuintus Dowell RB 5'9, 195 So. NR 2 2 10 100.0% 5.0 0.6% 50.0% 5.2 1.2

6. Wanted: efficient receivers

Five UTEP players were targeted with at least 20 passes last year; none had a catch rate better than 55 percent. There was certainly some big-play capability here, especially from junior Jordan Leslie, whose per-target averages were lovely, but while you can thrive with an all-or-nothing guy atop the targets list, you need some efficient complements.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 97.1 2.92 3.05 37.1% 65.9% 22.8% 87.1 4.7% 8.2%
Rank 81 73 77 82 70 108 80 62 90
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Career Starts/Honors/Notes
Eloy Atkinson C 29 career starts
Brander Craighead LT 6'6, 280 Jr. ** (5.4) 23 career starts
Jerel Watkins LG 6'3, 280 Jr. ** (5.0) 21 career starts
James Nelson RT 20 career starts
Kyle Brown RG 6'2, 280 So. ** (5.2) 12 career starts
James Martin LT 5 career starts
Paul Santillan LG 2 career starts
Paulo Melendez C 6'2, 315 Jr. NR
Corin Brooks RG 6'4, 315 So. *** (5.6)
Mike Amdall RT 6'4, 310 Jr. NR
Jerome Daniels OL 6'3, 300 RSFr. ** (5.4)

Defense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 93 105 98 106
RUSHING 97 114 101 117
PASSING 81 97 86 101
Standard Downs 117 107 117
Passing Downs 72 50 77
Redzone 76 89 62
Q1 Rk 87 1st Down Rk 114
Q2 Rk 103 2nd Down Rk 78
Q3 Rk 53 3rd Down Rk 77
Q4 Rk 117

7. A dash of Boise

Kugler is not the only Boise State coaching alum on staff. He tapped Jeff Choate to run his defense and Andre Browning to run his defensive line; Choate spent six seasons under Petersen in various roles (RBs coach, LBs coach, nickel backs coach) before a year as Washington LBs coach. An intense guy, he inherits a unit that, to put it kindly, lacked much of Boise State's precision last year. The Miners were decent at closing drives after forcing passing downs, but with a sieve for a defensive line, they forced fewer passing downs than nearly any team in the country.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 80.7 3.60 3.32 43.5% 72.5% 13.7% 95.3 3.9% 7.0%
Rank 122 124 69 114 89 122 71 83 53
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Germard Reed DT 6'1, 275 Jr. ** (5.4) 12 26.0 3.7% 7 2 0 2 0 0
James Davidson DE 6'3, 240 Sr. ** (5.2) 12 25.5 3.6% 6.5 2.5 0 0 0 0
Greg Watkins DE 12 24.5 3.5% 4 3.5 0 1 1 0
Horace Miller DE 6'1, 240 Sr. ** (5.3) 12 22.0 3.1% 7.5 6 0 0 0 0
Marcus Bagley NT 6'1, 320 Sr. *** (5.6) 12 18.5 2.6% 0.5 0 0 0 0 0
Ruben Munoz NT 12 12.0 1.7% 1.5 0 0 1 0 0
Roy Robertson DE 6'6, 245 So. *** (5.6) 10 10.0 1.4% 2 1 0 0 0 0
Adam Ayala DT 6'5, 280 Sr. *** (5.5) 11 5.5 0.8% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Cooper Brock DE 6'3, 240 Jr. ** (5.1) 9 3.5 0.5% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Justin Cordova DT 4 2.0 0.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Devonte Richardson DT 6'3, 280 RSFr. *** (5.5)

Peter Nonu DT 6'0, 295 Jr. ** (5.2)

Dewan Edmondson DT 6'2, 255 Fr. ** (5.4)






8. The D-line got pushed around

UTEP ranked 124th, dead last, in Standard Downs Line Yards per Carry, 122nd in Stuff Rate (the number of times you stuff a run in the backfield) and 114th in Opportunity Rate (the rate at which an opposing line creates opportunities for its runners). There was decent quickness throughout the line, and the Miners were decent at rushing the quarterback without blitzing; but if you can't even remotely stand up to the run, it doesn't really matter how you rush the passer. The tackle position could get a boost from newcomers (junior college transfer Peter Nonu enters the fray, as does Devonte Richardson, one of last year's more highly-touted recruits), but the margin for error here is small. Choate and Browning (a member of the Boise State line until 2006 and a defensive assistant for the last three years) have their work cut out for them here. Boise State's defensive line was always an area of strength, but it might take them a while to replicate that at UTEP.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Josh Fely WLB 12 78.0 11.2% 5.5 1.5 0 4 0 1
Aubrey Alexius SLB 12 48.5 6.9% 3.5 0.5 0 0 1 0
A.J. Ropati MLB 6'0, 230 Sr. *** (5.5) 12 40.0 5.7% 2 1 0 3 2 1
Gage Sharp SLB 5'11, 205 So. ** (5.2) 12 24.5 3.5% 1 0 0 2 0 0
Jamie Irving LB 7 22.0 3.1% 1 1 0 1 0 0
DeAndre Little MLB 6'1, 230 Jr. *** (5.7) 11 16.5 2.4% 2.5 1 0 0 0 0
Anthony Puente WLB 5'11, 215 So. NR 12 7.0 1.0% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Trey Brown LB 5'11, 225 So. ** (5.3) 9 4.5 0.6% 0 0 0 0 0 0
David Logston LB 6'2, 225 Sr. NR 8 1.5 0.2% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Darnell Murray LB 6'0, 220 So. ** (5.4)

Cooper Foster LB 6'1, 200 RSFr. ** (5.4)

Lawrence Montegut LB 6'1, 210 Fr. ** (5.4)






Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Drew Thomas CB 12 64.5 9.2% 2 0 1 7 0 2
DeShawn Grayson FS 12 59.5 8.5% 1 0 0 8 1 0
Shane Huhn SS 12 37.5 5.4% 0 0 2 4 0 1
Darren Woodard CB 12 36.0 5.2% 2.5 0 2 6 0 0
Richard Spencer DB 6'2, 200 Sr. *** (5.6) 4 28.5 4.1% 1 0 1 1 2 2
Wesley Miller SS 5'9, 185 Jr. NR 12 23.5 3.4% 1.5 0 1 5 0 3
Damarcus Kizzie FS 5'9, 180 RSFr. NR 1 10.5 1.5% 0 0 0 1 0 0
C.J. Haley CB 5'10, 170 Jr. NR 12 6.0 0.9% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Adrian James DB 5'11, 190 Jr. ** (5.2) 2 1.0 0.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Da'Carlos Renfro DB 5'10, 185 So. *** (5.5)

Ishmael Harrison DB 5'11, 185 So. ** (5.4)

Dashone Smith DB 6'0, 200 RSFr. *** (5.5)



Nick Gathrite DB 5'9, 175 Jr. ** (5.3)

Jameel Erving DB 6'2, 190 Jr. ** (5.2)
Jaylon Scott DB 5'9, 165 Fr. *** (5.5)
Quentin Tezeno DB 5'11, 170 Fr. ** (5.4)

9. The back seven is dreadfully inexperienced

Considering the awful run defense, UTEP's pass defense was a relative strength, but the Miners must replace all four starters in the secondary and two more at linebacker. Newcomers litter the secondary -- two junior college transfers, two three-star 2012 signees, and two incoming freshmen could all play a role in piecing together the 2013 two-deep -- though the biggest star could be senior Richard Spencer, who was piecing together a prolific 2012 season before a knee injury. At linebacker, meanwhile, backups like Gage Sharp and former star recruit DeAndre Little will get every opportunity to thrive.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Ian Campbell 66 42.6 5 18 21 59.1%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB TB%
Steven Valadez 5'10, 195 Jr. 49 61.4 26 53.1%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Steven Valadez 5'10, 195 Jr. 25-27 8-10 80.0% 2-5 40.0%
Dakota Warren 1-1 0-1 0.0% 0-2 0.0%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Autrey Golden KR 6'0, 190 So. 29 28.3 2
Michael Edwards KR 8 16.0 0
Laquintus Dowell KR 5'9, 195 So. 4 15.8 0
Michael Edwards PR 14 7.6 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 24
Net Punting 12
Net Kickoffs 25
Touchback Pct 16
Field Goal Pct 113
Kick Returns Avg 32
Punt Returns Avg 43

2013 Schedule & Projection Factors

2012 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
7-Sep New Mexico 122
14-Sep at New Mexico State 123
21-Sep UT-San Antonio 114
28-Sep at Colorado State 117
5-Oct Louisiana Tech 89
12-Oct Tulsa 56
26-Oct at Rice 92
2-Nov at Texas A&M 13
9-Nov at North Texas 112
16-Nov Florida International 99
23-Nov at Tulane 111
30-Nov at Middle Tennessee 98
Five-Year F/+ Rk 96
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 113
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* -4 / +3.2
TO Luck/Game -3.0
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 11 (6, 5)
Yds/Pt Margin** +2.8

10. Stock up on wins early

Again, it's hard to know what to think of this staff or the talent it inherits. Almost every member of Kugler's staff (including Kugler himself) has ties to either successful teams or, in the case of linebackers coach Robert Rodriguez (a former Miner star), UTEP itself, and almost every member is now filling a role higher than one he has previously filled. In players like Jameill Showers, Nathan Jeffery, Jordan Leslie, and Richard Spencer, the Miners do have a little bit of high-end talent, and if they can figure out how to replace star punter Ian Campbell, they could have a good special teams unit again.

Breaking in a lot of new pieces (and coaches) is not conducive to a fast start, but for UTEP's sake, it better start fast, as its four lowest-projected opponents are also its first four. If UTEP is of reasonable quality out of the gates, it could easily start 4-0 or 5-0. The stretch run is loaded with softies, too, but it is also loaded with road trips.

If they can get to four wins early, they might be able to squeeze out two more later on and, like the 2010 team, reach a bowl team despite limited abilities. That might be too much to ask, but it is certainly something to shoot for in Kugler's first year.

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