Army must face the UTEP Miners this season, and when the Black Knights make the trip to West Texas in the middle of September, they won't face a team with a first-year head coach. Sean Kugler is entering his fourth season in El Paso. He's an alumnus of the school. He was a position coach for UTEP over a decade ago. He's a familiar face who has managed to survive the most perilous and uncertain part of a coach's tenure, the first three seasons in which one's players are inherited from the previous coaching staff. Kugler is trying to leave a more decisive imprint upon the Miners, but he enters this threshold season -- a year when nearly all players are his own selections -- with a new offensive coordinator.
Brent Pease -- that name will be familiar to national college football fans and observers.
People in the Western United States will recognize Pease as the offensive coordinator for the 2011 Boise State team in Kellen Moore's final season. They will also know that Pease returned to work under Chris Petersen with the Washington Huskies the past two seasons as a wide receiver coach. Pease, if he's part of any coaching tree in major college football, belongs to Petersen's tree.
Fans in the Southern United States will think of Pease in largely negative terms. Pease used his 2011 season with Petersen (one of college football's best coaches in the 21st century) and Moore (one of college football's greatest all-time quarterbacks, at least on a purely statistical level) to land the offensive coordinator job at Florida under Will Muschamp. The 2012 Florida team did reach the Sugar Bowl and gain a top-five national ranking at the end of the regular season, but the Gators' defense did almost all the heavy lifting. Quarterback Jeff Driskel presided over a cringe-inducing offense which busted loose on just a few select occasions. Pease was part of a successful operation, yes, but he was carried more than he fueled Florida's rise.
In 2013, everyone was waiting to see if Pease could adjust to 2012's limitations and turn the Gators' offense into a legitimate force.
When Driskel and Florida stumbled badly in an ugly week-two loss to the Miami Hurricanes, it became apparent that the project of ap-Pease-ment wouldn't work. Driskel got injured later in September of that 2013 season, so to an extent, Pease wasn't able to coach a full season with his expected starter. Yet, given Driskel's shaky form for much of 2012, the Gators knew going into 2013 that they needed a competent backup signal caller.
Pease got nothing out of Tyler Murphy.
The Gators' offense hit a wall in the back half of the 2013 season. In the final seven games of the campaign, Florida never scored more than 20 points against a schedule which included a pre-Derek Mason Vanderbilt team and an FCS member, Georgia Southern (before the Eagles' jump to the FBS). Florida scored 17 or fewer points in five of those seven games, 14 or fewer in three. These point totals also refer to team scoring; when adjusted for defensive touchdowns, special teams touchdowns, and touchdowns technically scored by the offense but created by short fields flowing from a takeaway or a kick return, Florida's 2013 offense looks even worse.
Pease left Gainesville a beaten man. Petersen, a foremost mentor, took him in at the University of Washington, and only now is Pease back in the coordinator's chair. He's at a school which, like Florida, has orange and blue colors; the similarities end there.
If UTEP owned a certain kind of character on offense the past few seasons, Army's staff has to consider how things will be different under Pease. Studies of UTEP's 2015 film will form part of the mosaic for the Miners' offense, but Pease's travels under Chris Petersen -- and at Florida -- will also require some examination.
The great and unanswerable question: How much can you assess a man who coached Kellen Moore one season, and Jeff Driskel and Tyler Murphy the next two? Is Pease not as good as his 2011 season? Better than his miserable Florida seasons? Both?
This is how the nature of a team transcends the head coaching spot alone. This is how UTEP is even more of a mystery this season.
Jeff Monken will have to do some sleuthing.
We'll present similar examples of coordinator-flavored changes for Army's 2016 opponents in the coming weeks.