Major Questions Answered as UTEP Readies for Fall
With Camp Alpine kicking off August 8th for the UTEP football team, the excitement is in the air with the start of the college football season just more than a month away. Now the real fun begins as Head Coach Sean Kugler prepares his team for their September 7th home opener against the University of New Mexico and the rest of the 2013 campaign. While spring ball gave Kugler his first chance to see his players in action, the fall will answer some major questions as the competition for potential starters and backups really starts to heat up.
1. How will the new players and veterans embrace Coach Kugler and his coaching philosophy?
Based on early reviews, the players appreciate Kugler’s hard-nosed, disciplinarian approach and are excited with the changes on both sides of the ball. There will be some bumps in the road as with any coaching change, but overall the players are looking forward to the smash mouth type football that UTEP will bring to the football field this fall. As for those not on board, they will have a hard time finding the field and some may find themselves without a roster spot come September with Kugler at the helm.
2. Is Jameill Showers a shoe-in to start at quarterback?
Most would agree its Showers’ job to lose, however, Kugler and the offensive coaching staff will not just hand over the position. Showers is a gifted athlete and has been waiting for his chance to be the man after having to backup a current NFL quarterback and a Heisman trophy winner, some may say there is some pressure, but nothing like what he had to deal with at Texas A&M. With the recent departure of Carson Meger, sophomore Blaire Sullivan and redshirt freshman Garrett Simpson will have even more snaps to try and challenge Showers for the starting job. Should be an interesting battle to say the least, but it would certainly be a surprise if anyone other than Showers is the starter in the home opener versus the Lobos.
3. How quickly can the UTEP defense pick up Scott Stoker’s schemes?
Change is inevitable when a new coach is hired, but Coach Kugler faced a whole different challenge when he had to replace former defensive coordinator Jeff Choate shortly after the completion of spring ball. While Stoker (former defensive coordinator at Sam Houston State) is a talented coach, he has an uphill battle on his hands to prepare this defense for the start of the season with only the fall to really implement his system. With some winnable games early in the schedule, it will be imperative for the defense to gel quickly to give the Miners an opportunity to start the season on a winning note.
4. How heavily will the UTEP offense rely on Nathan Jeffery and Jordan Leslie?
If UTEP hopes to even think about a winning season, Jeffery and Leslie will have to post some big numbers for the UTEP offense. Jeffery started last season with a bang rushing for 177 yards in the opener against Oklahoma, but a groin injury slowed him down the rest of the season as he could never regain that form from the opening game against the Sooners. Leslie on the other hand managed to stay relatively healthy in a breakout year almost posting 1,000 yards receiving (973 yards) on the season while hauling in six touchdowns. His play last year didn’t go unnoticed as he is one of 75 candidates named to the 2013 Biletnikoff Pre-season Watch List. If Jeffery can stay healthy and Leslie can develop a good rapport with Showers this fall this could be a special season for the duo.