Since “coming home” to coach his alma mater Sean Kugler has only posted an 18-31 record in four seasons at UTEP. To say that 2017 is a crucial year for Kugler is an understatement as he needs to get the Miners above .500, for the first time since 2014 to save his job.
UTEP at #7 Oklahoma
Location: Oklahoma Memorial Stadium
Kickoff: 2:30 PM CT
UTEP is replacing tailback Aaron Jones, who was the school’s all-time leading rusher, and it appears that the responsibility will fall on the shoulders of a committee of backs. The rotation of backs will include Walter Dawn Jr., Kevin Dove, and Josh Fields. Kugler also said Ronald Awatt will be involved as well.
Regardless of who the running back is, they will have the advantage of working behind an offensive line that has starting experience at all five positions. All-American left guard Will Hernandez leads the group up front and will serve as the anchor of the line.
Junior quarterback Ryan Metz loses tight end Hayden Plinke, who led the Miners in receptions last season, and will look to David Lucero to fill the void in the passing attack.
During his weekly press conference Coach Kugler spoke highly of his defense, saying they were bigger and more athletic than in years past. UTEP is entering their second year of running a 3-4 base defense after switching from a 4-2-5 in 2016.
Safety Devin Cockrell is the leader of a secondary that returns three starters, and Michael Lewis returns to the other safety position after missing the 2016 season.
Denzel Chukwukelu, and Luke Elser will start on opposite sides as the bookends of the defensive line, but the Miners have have true freshman Trace Mascorro starting in the middle as defensive tackle.
The good news for UTEP is that they return a total of 15 players with starting experience. The flip-side of that is those starters return from a squad that finished 4-8 in 2016.