December 11, 2012
Big week for Kuglers
During Sean Kugler's introductory press conference at UTEP, the school's president joked that he thought he was getting a Kugler family package deal.
But he's not, only dad is set to be a Miner, as the program's head coach; sons Robert and Patrick are staying with Purdue and Michigan, respectively, much to the delight of those programs.
The Wolverines will have to wait to see what they've got - Patrick is a verbal commitment in the '13 class - but the Boilermakers know now. Robert has started the second half of the season at right guard, ascending to the position sooner than many thought the still undersized 285-pounder could.
"Pound for pound, he's probably our best football player right now," offensive line coach Shawn Clark said. "One thing with Kugler, he's smart and sees things, and that makes up for his lack of stature. He sees the defense and what's going to happen before the snap and that helps him play fast."
Kugler helped the Boilermakers solidify their offensive line, which had struggled early in the season. But now, particularly in rush blocking, Purdue seems to have found a group that works. Early in the season, the 6-foot-2 redshirt freshman was getting only a handful of snaps, but against Wisconsin in Week 6, he split reps with previous starter Devin Smith.
It was in that game that he won the job, and started the next week at Ohio State. He's been starting ever since.
"After that game, I knew I could do this and I don't need to be nervous," he said. "After that, it was just fun.
"Early on, I thought when I was getting in I wasn't messing up. With the mental side of it, most of the time I felt I was doing the right thing. Being an undersized guy on the offensive line, I have to try a little extra and put that much more effort into it."
Kugler's made a quick adjustment to offensive line, and there's a good reason why; Sean is a longtime offensive line coach, with his tenure with the Pittsburgh Steelers ending either in three weeks or in the playoffs. That upbringing helped when Robert moved from being a 245-pound tight end to center for the first day of spring practices earlier this year.
Kugler's snaps were bad in those early practices, he admitted, but by the end of the spring Danny Hope had told him he'd have a chance to play in the fall. As it turned out, that was at right guard, where Purdue needed a steady, athletic performer.
"I always thought I might have a little bit of an advantage," Kugler said of being the son of a coach, "being able to see things that maybe I've gone over before, and with coach here I feel like I pick it up pretty easily."
Kugler wants to work on his strength and flexibility this offseason, with an anticipated move back to center for the spring. But before then, he's looking forward to Purdue's bowl game vs. Oklahoma State and excited for his dad's opportunity.
"It's awesome, a good deal for him," Kugler said. "I've always wanted him to be a good head coach. It'll be excited to watch him go."
Kugler says his dad has always had his sights being an offensive line coach in the NFL, and with that accomplished wanted a chance to lead a college program. He'll do so at his alma mater, where he was an assistant coach from 1993-2000.
"He's always had his eye on UTEP because that's where he played," Robert said. "He played and coached there before, so they have roots there."
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