Coach Kugler talks QB choice, challenges ahead of season opener

The 2015 UTEP football season kicks off in nine days and head coach Sean Kugler has yet to name a starting quarterback.

Kugler, who enters his third year at UTEP, said on Thursday’s team luncheon that he will name a starter on Monday Aug. 31.

“We’re working on that right now, those guys are competing,” Kugler said. “This is one of the best quarterback competitions I’ve ever been a part of statistically and competitively. We have a good group.”

The Miners have four candidates vying for the position in Garrett Simpson, Mack Leftwich, Ryan Metz and Kavika Johnson.

El Paso’s own Aaron Jones returns for his junior season after rushing for 1,321 yards in 2014. Expectations will once again be high for Jones.

“Aaron looks great. He’s 20 pounds heavier than he was last year, I think he’s a step faster,” Kugler said. “He’s added some muscle to his body which will let him withstand more carries. He’s had an outstanding camp and I think he’s primed for a great season.”

Jones was named the Dave Campbell Texas running back of the year in 2014 and is once again on the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose award list which recognizes the top offensive player in Division I college football.

One player who switched from running back to wide receiver, is senior Autrey Golden who’s liking the switch in roles.

“It’s something different. Everyday I’m learning something new,” Golden said. “It’s something that keeps me on my toes and keeps me humble. I think I like receiver better, I don’t have to block those big ol’ linebackers and you don’t get hit as much. I get to play a lot more at receiver.”

Golden is inching his way into the NCAA record books as he currently has six career kickoff returns for touchdowns and needs two more scores to break the FBS record currently held by Tyron Carrier of Houston and C.J. Spiller of Clemson.

“I’ve never been so close to anything like this, even in high school,” Golden said. “It’s something that’s exciting.”

The Miners are coming off of a bowl appearance in 2014 and will open their season with three consecutive road games beginning Sept. 5 against the Arkansas Razorbacks.

“It’s one of the best team’s in the country last year, they’re very physical,” Kugler said. “It’ll be a great litmus test to see where we are as a program because we’re going to have our hands full.”

The Miners will play an additional road game in 2015 leaving them with only five games at the Sun Bowl. Kugler expects his team to be competitive despite the schedule.

“We have talked about wanting to be the most competitive team in our conference week in and week out and the most physical team in our conference,” Kugler said. “We think that’ll translate to wins when we add it up at the end of the year.”