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Southern Miss at UTEP: Q&A with MinerRush.com

Questions with SBNation sister blog, MinerRush.com. We discussed Saturday's game between the Miners and the Golden Eagles.

Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

The good folks from SBNation's MinerRush.com and I exchanged emails about Saturday's game between UTEP and Southern Miss in El Paso. Here's part 1 of the Q&A.

PM: How do Miner fans like Sean Kugler? He's a UTEP alum but had a rough 2013 season. However, looks like he has things headed in the right direction so far in 2014.

MR:I think there has always been a great respect for Kugler with his background as a former Miner and NFL track record, but with four wins this season it now seems fans are starting to buy in. Kugler has came in and done things his way, in the right way and introduced schemes that can be effective with the personnel he has and wants to recruit.  So with an almost complete turnaround from last year, fans are starting to feel 100% sure that Kugler is the guy to turn things around in the long run

PM: What kind of offensive style does UTEP run? Spread? Or more of a running, grind it out type attack

MR: Over the past two weeks we have seen way more spread and at times a quadruple run/pass option attack, but UTEP is a true grind it out offense.  The spread/option has allowed quarterback Jameill Showers to make decisions which is his strong point, and help spread the touches around. UTEP is not an explosive offense but has the personnel to be one, though right now its all about ball control and making things manageable on third downs.  The scheme change from a year ago is perfect for the multiple skill players UTEP implores on offense.

PM:  What are UTEP's strengths? Weaknesses?

MR: Even though the Miners dominated on defense and special teams against UTSA, I still feel the run defense and special teams could be weaknesses though are improving greatly week-to-week. Its been a group effort on defense, though UTEP was allowing well over six yards a carry a few weeks ago. Punt protection seems to be improved with the implement of a rugby style punting attack, though those two points need one more week of consistency to fully take it off the weakness list.

PM: Who are the Miners' impact players? Any possible NFL Draft prospects?

MR:The obvious answer is sophomore running back Aaron Jones. The kid can do it all and will certainly be one to watch as far as where he is getting the ball.  Quarterback Jameill Showers has put together a string of solid games and I would expect for him to keep rolling. Receiver Autrey Golden should always be accounted for on offense,and in the return game (So Miss. fans probably know this), though UTEP is deep with skills players who fit the scheme and you will see multiple guys get touches.
On defense I mentioned its been a group effort, but defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris, defensive back Dashone Smith and fellow DB's Wesley Miller and Devin Cockrell have been consistent forces all year.  UTEP will blitz heavily and can cover well so expect to see a lot of different numbers flying to ball as the Miners are growing up their depth on the defensive side.

UTEP is very young in where they are talented, and the really only surefire draft eligible guy is senior tight end Eric Tomlinson.  Tomlinson goes 6'7 265 and has had NFL scouts at every game this season.  His numbers from this year don't look it, but his blocking ability and football IQ scream NFL prospect.

PM: What kind of crowd is expected at the Sun Bowl on Saturday? UTEP has always had solid fan support and has already had multiple crowds of over 30k this season.

MR: We are all hoping for no less than 40K but at this point its really up in the air on how people feel about this team.  Two things that will help is the basketball team is holding an intrasquad scrimmage which usually draws about 3-4K right before the game, and there isn't really any other major "events' going on in El Paso on Saturday so the consensus is it's 40K or bust.