UTEP Football Building Winning Tradition with El Paso Talent
As Sean Kugler prepares to enter his fourth season as UTEP's head football coach, he has developed a local pipeline of talent that the football program has not seen in almost 20 years. Ten players pictured above (Cole Freytag, Warren Redix, Alan Luna, Eddie Sinegal, Aaron Jones, Derek Elmendorff, Alvin Jones, Brandon Moss, Ryan Metz, and Kavika Johnson) are all on the Miners' preseason two-deep. Each of them played their high school football in El Paso or Las Cruces. Aaron Jones was named to the Doak Walker and Maxwell Award Watch Lists, and the junior running back was also named to the C-USA Preseason Coaches Awards List along with his brother Alvin and Warren Redix.
"We’ve always stated that our recruiting process starts in the El Paso area," Kugler said during his 2015 Signing Day press conference. "Our recruiting process starts here in town."
Since his hiring in December 2012, Kugler has signed 17 El Paso and Las Cruces high school players to scholarships. He is not the first UTEP head coach to build his team with local talent. Charlie Bailey had a similar approach during his time with the Miners from 1993-1999. Gary Nord and Mike Price always hoped to add El Pasoans to their teams as preferred walk-ons. However, there were local plenty of players like Chris Morrow, Omar Duarte, Steve Riddick, Matt Austin, Dirk Dillard, and Ibok Ibok who all contributed to UTEP during the Nord and Price years.
The Jones brothers are the poster boys for staying home and turning into great college football players. However, plenty of other El Paso and Las Cruces natives can be the next great Miner. Johnson had an immediate impact as a true freshman and his ability to run the football makes him a great two-way player at a premium position. Metz came out of nowhere last season to come off the bench and help guide the Miners to an emotional overtime victory over the rival Aggies. Elmendorff starred at Franklin and is now a fixture on UTEP's offensive line. It is obvious that El Paso high school football players are aware of the high success rate Coach Kugler and his staff have had with their recruits. UTEP just signed seven local high school players for their 2016 class.
One of the complaints I always used to hear from my callers on Sportstalk is that UTEP does not pay enough attention to the local talent. That is no longer the case with Coach Kugler. The future looks extremely bright for the Miners, especially since they are building from within in the El Paso community.