POSTED: Wednesday, February 5, 2014 - 5:23pm
UPDATED: Thursday, February 6, 2014 - 2:06pm
El Paso, TX — Coach Kugler on the qualities they looked for in players off the field
We’re extremely excited about this 2014 class. I just want the El Paso fans to know that before we ever even turned on the film for these young men, we talked to coaches, opposing coaches, people within that school. We wanted to figure out what type of character these young men had before we even turned on the film. The other criteria we had was that we needed to have a transcript in hand to make sure that these guys were on the academic track as far as progress wise that shows that they have a burning desire to get a degree. Again, that was before we ever even turned on the film.
Coach Kugler on the qualities they looked for in players on the field
When we turned on the film, what we were looking for was production. Productive players. Guys that made plays because if you make plays in high school, you’re probably going to make plays in college. We tried to stay away from “potential players.” Guys that just have “potential” but haven’t shown it on film. These guys can all play, and I think you’ll see that when we show the highlight film. The other thing that a premium was on was getting our kind of guys. I think everybody in this day and age gets enamored with ‘this guy’s a five star, this guy’s a four star, this guy’s a two star.’ I’ll give you an interesting tidbit. In the Super Bowl on Sunday, there were more two start, three star and unranked players playing for both teams than combined four and five stars for both teams. The best of the best playing the best of the best were comprised of unranked and two and three star players. In my mind a lot of that stuff, I know it’s exciting for the fans, but in my mind it is kind of BS. We’re looking for guys that can play football and do it on film that will translate into college.
Coach Kugler on his thoughts when he woke up today
I woke up this morning and reality kind of hit. Thirty years ago today I signed a letter of intent to become a UTEP Miner. I’m starting to really feel my age.
Coach Kugler on the class overall
We went into this class with a plan, and I can’t really thank Brian Natkin enough for keeping us on track with that plan. He’s as cut and dry when it comes to recruiting as it gets. We wanted to sign mainly high school players. We signed 20 high school players, and three junior college players that are here on campus right now, in addition to another high school player that graduated early. We signed 12 offensive players and 11 defensive players. The focus of this group was going to be recruiting lineman. We signed 11 lineman, seven on the defensive side of the ball and four on the offensive side of the ball. We added much needed size and toughness. We signed 13 players from Texas, and we made a commitment the first day we took this job to focus on El Paso first. I think everybody can agree we signed the best players in El Paso last year, and I’m pretty confident we signed the best players in El Paso this year. We signed five players from California, two from New York and we went all over for recruiting in just trying to find the best players we could. We signed one from Ohio, one from Wisconsin and one from New Mexico.
Coach Kugler on the highlights for each player in the class
I’m not going to read the entire bio for each person we’ve signed but just some of the bullet points. I think you’ll see we signed productive players.
Starting the class is Stephen Forester. He’s a defensive end/linebacker. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see this young man playing linebacker here. He started all four seasons at Dallas Christian High School. He recorded 99 tackles (71s/28a), 26 tackles for loss, 15 sacks, seven forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and five blocked kicks during his senior season alone. This guy was an All-State player. He was an All-State defensive lineman and academic All-State.
Alex Villareal, who is a junior-college lineman that we signed from Northeast Oklahoma, is 6-4, 300 pounds and he gives us some much needed size inside. He’s a three-star recruit on Rivals.com. Coming out of high school he signed with Oklahoma State where he had a very productive freshman season. He played the entire sophomore season with a torn pectoral muscle. We have signed him. He’s had surgery and is going to be healthy and ready to go for us in June. He’s a special talent with a special motor, and he’s an outstanding young man.
Jason Fao is a nose guard from Long Beach, Calif., who played at a very storied program in Long Beach Poly High School. He’s 6-0, 300 pound nose guard with a motor. His nickname is “Pops.” We call him “Pops.” He’s a four-year defensive starter for Long Beach Poly. His first two years he played middle linebacker. I think that tells you something about his athleticism for a 300-pounder. He posted 97.5 tackles (79s/18.5a), including 28 for loss and 8.5 sacks during his senior season. For his career he finished with 207.5 tackles, 52 tackles for loss and 21.5 sacks as a nose guard. This guy plays with tempo and energy. He was also utilized at linebacker and on offense he was used as a lead blocker as a fullback on goal line situations. He’s ranked the 72nd nose guard prospect in the nation and he was the Defensive Lineman of the Year in his division.
Mike Sota, a young man we had visit this past weekend, we are excited about getting him. He’s got needed size to play defensive end or defensive tackle. He’s 6-4, 260 pounds, and he’s got a frame to put on a lot more weight. He tallied 69 tackles (50s/19a), 13 tackles for loss, six sacks (37 yards for loss), six quarterback hurries and six pass breakups. The pass breakups come from when they played him as a standup outside linebacker and dropped him off into coverage. He’s extremely athletic and had a very productive junior year. He was also named his league’s lineman of the year out there in California.
Joseph Kraemer is a defensive end, 6-3 245 pounds from the Dayton area, Kettering, Ohio. This is in one game. He notched four solo tackles, two tackles for loss and three sacks during a postseason 35-21 win over Wyoming in the 2013 Ohio Boys Football playoffs. Anybody who knows anything about Ohio football knows that it’s like Texas football. It’s intense. It’s good football. He recorded 60 tackles, six sacks, one fumble recovery and one forced fumble during his junior season. He’s ranked the 95th defensive end in the nation by Scout.com and is a three-star recruit on Scout.com. This kid has a frame. His dad is 7’0. When I went in the home, I was looking up. He’s got a sister that plays volleyball that is 6’2”. He comes from a big family. I think this kid can grow into a big one.
Augie Touris, from Buffalo, who played in Canisius HS, is another big kid. He’s 6-4, 235 pounds. I think this kid could go in two directions. I think he could be a defensive end for us. He also was a productive tight end in high school. He’s very athletic. He blocked two punts during his senior season and was first-team All-Catholic selection and All-WNY league All-Star first-team defense honoree. He’s going to play in the New York/New Jersey All-Star game and we are going to see where his body takes him. He’s another one of those long, big-framed kids who is going to grow into a big player for us.
Luke Elsner was in this past weekend, and I think he really enjoyed the weather. He’s from Wisconsin. He’s 6-3, 240 pounds. This guy has a relentless motor. He recorded 76 tackles (63s/13a), with 25.5 tackles for loss and 14 sacks. He also had three forced fumbles, four blocked punts and five pass breakups. He opened up the playoffs with 12 tackles, 4.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss in one game. That’s production. He was named Defensive First-Team All-State. During his junior season, he racked up 17.5 sacks, with 51 tackles, three forced fumbles, one blocked kick and one pass breakup. All you got to do is watch this cat on film, and he is all over the place. He just like the other guys I just mentioned is going to be a big kid before it’s all said and done. He’s got a big frame, long arms. He’s probably going to be a 270 pounder when it’s all said and done.
Jimmy Musgrave, who is here on campus, I had an opportunity to watch him on drills during our first offseason workout. This kid is competitive. He’s tough, and he loves the game of football. He’s actually a bounce back. He started his career at the University of Oregon and went back to junior college. He led his conference in tackles He had 94 tackles (47 solo), eight sacks, 15.5 tackles for loss and one forced fumble. He’s a very productive linebacker and is very smart. In high school he was a dual threat. He played running back and had 79 carries for 452 yards and six touchdowns. He’s the 28th ranked junior-college linebacker in the nation by 247sports.com.
If you talk about production, Justen Tatum may be the most productive player we signed. This is a young player, he just turned 17. He’s 6-1, 240 pounds and may be one of the best athletic kids that we had on visits. He guided his team to the state championship game, and this is no aberration here. He had 35 tackles (13s/22a) and led the team in rushing with two touchdowns for 90 yards in the state championship game. That’s not his senior season stats. That’s one game. In 2013 he had nine performances with 17 or more tackles. He finished his senior season with 247 tackles (123s/124a), seven sacks, 1,013 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. And that’s as a fullback. You’ll see him on film. He’s the 83rd ranked linebacker in the nation, and he was All-State for both defense and offense. He’s a team captain and an outstanding student.
Nik Needham is a defensive back/wide receiver. I think this guy could end up on either side of the ball. On offense he hauled in 39 passes for 877 yards (22.5 avg.) and five touchdowns. On defense he tallied 38 tackles (31s/7a), three tackles for loss, two interceptions and .5 sack. He’s ranked 74th in the nation at cornerback on 247sports.com and was named the 2013 Scholar Athlete at his school. He’s another young man that has a lot of good football ahead of him.
Adrian Hynson is a safety from Corpus Christi, (Flour Bluff). This guy after the season was named Dave Campbell’s Texas Football All-State first team, which is quite an honor in the state of Texas with all the great players in the state of Texas.
This guy was a three-year starter who 83 tackles (29s/54a and 4 tackles for loss) his senior year, and also picked off two passes for 100 yards. He was named All-District MVP and was the 2013 Friday Night Fever Play of the Year recipient. He’s ranked the 75th safety in the nation on 247sports.com and he was All-State. He played in 14 games in 2012, tallying 106 tackles (57s/49a) and four tackles for loss. This is a very productive player who makes plays with great speed. You talk to the people at his school. This guy has outstanding character. We had secretaries coming out of the woodworks, we had assistant coaches and more telling us what an outstanding kid he is.
Mookie Carlile is a four-year starter at Stephenville High School. He had a very productive high school career for him. He’s a good sized defensive back who may even end up being a strong safety/linebacker for us. He’s 6-1, 200 pounds. He registered 90 tackles (51s/46a), seven tackles for loss, seven breakups, and five interceptions (team leader).He’s the 73rd safety in the nation on 247sports.com. His junior year he tallied 97 tackles (45s/52a) and two interceptions. He led his team to three straight district titles. He also lettered in basketball and baseball. That’s a lost art now a days. I love it, having a three-sport player. He was a regional finalist in baseball, and he’s a two-time All-District outfielder and a first-team honoree for his baseball team. He’s a well-rounded athlete.
Now we get to the “fat guys.” They don’t have many stats but they got a place in my heart. The first one, “Pookie” Chris Jones from Corsicana, Texas. He’s a three-year starter for Corsicana High School. He garnered back-to-back District first-team honors. He was named the Newcomer of the Year and AP All-State Honorable Mention this past season. He also competed in the discus throw in track. This guy is an outstanding puller. He’s got great size. We’re going to play him at the center position. He kind of reminds me of a former center that played here, James Spady who was very athletic. “Pookie’s” got quite a few pounds on James.
Derron Gatewood is an offensive guard from Odessa, Texas, and Permian High School. He also earned a spot on the 2013 Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Super Team third team. He gave up zero sacks during the 2013 campaign. He’s a three-time All-Academic All-District football player. He played baseball for two seasons. That’s an athletic 295-pound baseball player.
Jerrod Books, who came in to visit this past weekend, this kid is a young man who just turned 17. He’s 6-5, 305 pounds with long arms and is very lean. This kid is going to be an outstanding player for us. He’s extremely athletic, and he’s just a young man. He’s going to grow into his frame. He’s going to be 325 pounds, and he is going to be lean. He allowed zero sacks himself and played on an offense that scored 426 points in 11 games (ranked second in district). He also does shot put and discus throw as a dual-sport athlete.
This is one I was nervous about (pronouncing correctly). Christopher Misaalefua. I got that right the first time. From now on, he’s going to be called “Big Chris.” He’s an offensive tackle/offensive guard. He’s 6-5, 355 pounds. He is a large, young man. He was named Max Preps All-State Division III first team. He garnered league lineman of the year honors and played on both sides on the ball. On defense he compiled 22 tackles (13s/9a) and one fumble recovery during his senior season. He’s an offensive lineman for us that has size and athleticism. All you need to point out that is that he plays basketball. The first time we saw him moving around was on the basketball court. This guy plays power forward and gives it a new name at 6-5, 355 pounds. He was selected to play in the DB Guru All-Star game. He was a three varsity basketball player. He is going to be a force for us inside, and he moves very light on his feet for a guy that size.
I’ll get to the two El Paso signees. Again, much like last year, we really felt like we got the best players in the city. Warren Dedix may be one of the more productive guys we signed if you really look at the numbers. He was MVP of the district two years in a row and registered 2,679 yards on 184 receptions (14.56 average) and 34 total touchdowns. That’s not his career. That’s his senior season. I’m talking about production. He also compiled 751 rushing yards on 63 carries. When we were recruiting this young man we talked to a lot of people in town and asked them to name the most competitive kid in town. Just about everybody mentioned this kid as being the most competitive kid in town. He’s an outstanding student. We’re excited to get him. His junior year he was just as productive. His sophomore year he was just as productive. He played in the El Paso Football Showcase All-Star game. He could play slot receiver for us. He could play running back for us. He could return kicks for us. He may be able to play DB for us. He sounds a lot like a guy we signed last year named Aaron Jones.
Eddie Sinegal from El Paso Andress started three seasons on varsity squad. He racked up 2,560 yards on 122 receptions (20.9 average) and 26 receiving touchdowns (29 total TDs). That’s production. This guy also plays basketball. He’s a very versatile athlete who excelled on the hardwood. He played four years on the varsity basketball squad. He was named All-City first team in 2012 and 2013 for basketball. He earned First-Team All-District in 2013 for football. This guy is productive. He’s a bigger framed wide receiver. I think once he grows into his body he’s going be a 6-2, 200 pound receiver with outstanding athleticism.
Probably the days of signing 165-pound running backs is over. The style of play we want to play is physical downhill football. Both of the backs we signed this year are 220 pounds, starting with David Hamm from Klein, Texas. He rushed 288 times for 1,821 yards and 18 touchdowns (19 total TDs). He carried 27 times for 225 yards and a pair of touchdowns (39 and eight yards, respectively) in a playoff game. He was voted District Offensive Player of the Year. He was a Houston Area’s top-100 football recruit and he’s been selected to play in the 34th Annual UIL High School Touchdown Club finalist.
Treyvon Hughes, the other “Pops,” the little “Pops,” during his senior season at Hebron High School, rushed 240 times for 1,445 yards (6.0 average) and 14 touchdowns (15 total TDs). He was named 2013 co-offensive MVP District 5-5A. He picked up a three-star rating by ESPN.com and is ranked the 81st running back in the country in the 2014 ESPN 300 Top Running Backs List. He accounted for 43 percent of his school’s total yardage. He rushed for 1,461 yards on 205 carries and 16 touchdowns his junior year. He played linebacker his sophomore year. That will tell you a little bit about his toughness.
The next guy is a guy who can play multiple positions. Sloan Spiller, who played at Katy High School. Everyone knows they were the runner-up for the state championship this year .They won the state championship recently. It’s an outstanding program. This guy can play fullback, he can play tight end. He was All-District in 2013. He had 15 receptions for 275 yards and five touchdowns. He’s No. 81 on the 2014 ESPN 300 Top Running Backs List. That’s for fullback in the nation. He had
247 yards and two touchdowns in leading them to a state title. He’s going to be a very productive player for us. He’s physical in the run game. We are going to start him off at fullback and see where that goes. We are very excited about him.
The next, I won’t say young man, he’s probably the oldest of the class is Nick Jones. He’s a tight that we signed from Erie Community College in Buffalo, N.Y. He’s 6-7, 260 pounds. He’s about the same size as Eric Tomlinson, our other tight end which will give us nice book ends at the position. He caught 17 passes for 214 yards (12.6 avg.) and two touchdowns this year. He’s ranked 19th on 247 Sports Top Junior College Tight Ends List. He earned the 2013 Western New York Junior College Football Scholar Athlete award. But more importantly, this guy served in the Marines from July 2007 to April 2012, doing four tours of duty. He earned 12 ribbons, including the combat action ribbon, the humanitarian ribbon, and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement medal. He was an all-around athlete who played basketball and lacrosse in high school. We had Sergeant Kelly on our team last year that provided great leadership. Sergeant Kelly has graduated, and we are hoping the Nick Jones can pick up that torch from day one. Judging by the way he worked during the first morning workout, we got ourselves a natural born leader.
The last young man is also here on campus. He’s a high school athlete who graduated early and enrolled in the spring. He’s already in our offseason program. Sterling Napier was a four-year starter at Cleveland High School near Albuquerque, N.M. He caught 43 passes for 682 yards (15.9 avg.) and three touchdowns. He was also a good player on defense who tallied 31 tackles (four solo), 6.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. He had 172 yards receiving in one game. He’s a tight end. That’s pretty impressive. He ranked fifth on New Mexico Top Recruits List and was a part of the 2011 2011 state championship squad. He also played basketball and graduated in December 2013. He is here on campus with us right now.
Coach Kugler on being thankful to all who helped out with this process
That kind of sums up the class but I want to say a few thank yous for a few people. Denise Mata put together all of our website and bios that you’re reading right now. She did an outstanding job because a lot of this stuff doesn’t come in until late, and she has to put it together very quickly. If you look at our website, the UTEP Athletics website, it has all of the player’s bios and highlights where you will get a chance to look at those. She did an outstanding job. Juergen and Stephanie for putting together the video and sound system and highlights for stuff like that. I’d like to thank all the coaches for their tireless efforts in recruiting. There was a lot of time on the road, a lot of time away from their family. Hours upon hours talking to these young men, getting to know them better, getting to know their character, and we’re real excited about that.
Coach Kugler on the perception players don’t want to visit El Paso & sign with UTEP
I always find it funny when you hear the perception of El Paso, and how kids don’t want to go to El Paso. We brought in 26 players for visits. We signed 23 of those 26 players. They enjoyed the university. Most of those players brought their families. We got a chance to know their families. Just know that these young men are coming from outstanding families with great family values.
Coach Kugler on balancing the roster in terms of offensive/defensive players on scholarship
I’d especially like to thank Brian Natkin, our recruiting coordinator, for balancing the numbers and for sticking with the plan. We’re in a constant struggle to get this headed in the right direction. I can’t emphasize enough. My first day on the job there were 23 defensive scholarship players on the whole team. Now we are at 40, and that has a lot to do with moving people around, but most importantly the recruiting aspect of it. We had 14 wide receivers on scholarship, four more than we had offensive lineman on scholarship, and we are trying to run a very physical style of football. After this year, we’ll have seven receivers on scholarship and 15 lineman on scholarship. Those are the kind of numbers we want to carry year-to-year. I really felt personally it was going to take us two years to balance our numbers. Brian’s creativity has done it in one year. We’re right where we want to be with our numbers, and from this point on we are not going to deviate from our plan. We will be signing those numbers every year.
Coach Kugler staff changes and final thanks to the entire staff
At this point, I’d like to introduce the staff changes that I’m going to make. Brian did an outstanding job at recruiting coordinator. This year he is going to be our special teams coordinator. Last year we did not have one. We did it collectively as a staff. I thought they did an outstanding job but I want the players to have one voice. Brian will do an outstanding job in that. Assisting him will be the assistant special teams coordinator Robert Rodriguez. He’s another guy well versed in special teams and another high energy young coach that will assist Brian. I know we are going to have the best special teams in the conference with those two running it. From that point, starting on Monday, Gabe Franklin will be the special teams coordinator. There are many reasons for this. Gabe is an organized young coach as I’ve ever been around. Gabe also has brought in some outstanding athletes the last few years. He’s an outstanding recruiter. He’s great with the parents and great with the kids, and it’s an opportunity for him to continue the path that Brian started. I can’t thank the staff enough & everybody involved. Norma putting together the flight plans and that’s a hard job in itself. Mona and Donna keeping tabs on everything that comes through the office, filtering it to the right place. Recruiting is a very long process, and we’ve wrapped it up.
Coach Kugler on the future of the program
I’m confident that El Paso fans will like these players on the field, but more importantly off the field. Character is going to be put at a premium from here on out. I think many people could try to sway me in a different direction. That isn’t going to happen. We are going to do it one way, and one way only here. We think the end result is going to pay off. I promise you this: I didn’t come down here to lose games. I’m not going to go through seven straight losing seasons. I am not going to put the fans through that. If this thing isn’t righted after around three seasons, I’ll walk. I promise you. Without pay. I don’t care. We are going to get this turned. I promise you that. Thank you.