Throughout the offseason I heard many UTEP fans saying that with the new coaching staff, UTEP will become a strong contender in Conference USA. Although it is a possibility, I think most fans are getting ahead of themselves.
The team is coming off a 3-9 season, and the wins came against New Mexico State, Tulane and Southern Mississippi, which had a combined record 3-33 in 2012.
The biggest change I’ve seen since the change from Mike Price to Sean Kugler is discipline. Early in his tenure, Kugler has let go of players such as Xay Williams and others for breaking team rules, and others have been disciplined for their actions off the field, which to me sends the right message to the players.
For the 2013 season, I’m really hoping to see what damage the offense is capable of doing. With the addition of Jameill Showers, the offense got an important boost in a crucial position of quarterback. Kugler, who was a tight end himself for UTEP in the late ‘80s, also wants to take advantage of the potential that the tight ends have—Craig Wenrick,
Kevin Perry, Eric Tomlinson and Katrae Ford are all good, and I felt that they were weapons that weren’t exploited in the past.
Nathan Jeffery, along with Autrey Golden and Josh Bell, make up a solid group of running backs that can definitely take the pressure off the passing game.
I also want to point out that I like the commitment and the way most of the coaching staff works. With a solid coaching staff, things will get better as the games and season go by.
As much as the offense improved, the defense has gone through many changes and it will be interesting to see how the defensive backs perform.
The schedule for the 2013 season will bring some challenges for the team, such as the trip to College Station to face Johnny Manziel and the Texas A&M Aggies, plus playing five of the last six games on the road. However, this year’s schedule will not be as strong as last year’s and offers a good chance to start the season 3-0.
The most important thing to look out for this season is how the team plays under a different philosophy. This is the beginning of a rebuilding process and while we cannot expect to get to a bowl game right off the bat, the team has the potential to win most of its games.
We will be able to see the difference on the field, whether that can translate into a winning season remains to be seen. My personal prediction is that the team will finish with a 6-6 record, maybe a little more or a little less.
It was time to move on, and like many El Pasoans and UTEP fans, I’m eager to watch the games first-hand. Don’t expect to see the team dominate the competition, but expect them to be a much more disciplined and committed unit.
Edwin Delgado may be reached at [email protected]