Previously: CB Reon Dawson, CB Channing Stribling, S Delano Hill, S Dymonte Thomas, CB Ross Douglas, CB Jourdan Lewis, LB Ben Gedeon, LB Mike McCray, DE Taco Charlton, DT Maurice Hurst Jr., DT Henry Poggi.
|Wexford, PA – 6'4", 280|
5*, #27 overall
4*, #82 overall
4*, #101 overall
4*, #97 overall
Notre Dame, Florida, FSU, Miami, PSU, Stanford, MSU
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
|Notes||Father was Steelers' OL coach, now HC at UTEP. You guys.|
Junior highlights (he is the left tackle or a DT):
Offensive linemen are notoriously the hardest players to project. Enormous long-armed bodies might not be able to "bend" and end up at Western Michigan. 240-pound tight ends might balloon into the top pick in the NFL draft despite playing at Central Michigan. Relying on sleepers and development has been good enough to send Wisconsin to the last three Rose Bowls. Etc. There is no such thing as a sure thing on the offensive line.
But if there is, Patrick Kugler is it. Let us describe the ways:
- SIZE: at 6'4", 280-ish as a freshman Kugler will easily approach the 300-pound range that NFL centers usually are.
- PEDIGREE: his dad was the frigging Steelers' OL coach, and he was so good at that UTEP hired him to be their head coach. His older brother plays center at Purdue.
- TOUGHNESS: played through a torn labrum to participate in a high school all-star game.
- TECHNIQUE: no doubt because of his pedigree, folks say he was "easily the most technically sound offensive lineman" at said high school all star game in which he played despite having a torn labrum.
I mean. Seriously. You guys($).
Sam Webb: … if you’re a scout in the stands, and you’re watching Patrick Kugler on the field, what do you see?
Patrick Kugler: “I would just say mean. I mean, people who I go against don’t like me very much. I try to be the meanest guy out there. My dad taught me that. Just, if anything, be mean. I just try to be mean all the time, and if you’re pounding them into the ground, they just don’t want to get back up. That’s my goal.”
Sam Webb: Have you ever been on the field against someone and done something to them, and said ‘oh man, I feel bad about that’.
Patrick Kugler: “One time. This guy, he kicked me the play before, and I just grabbed him by the face mask and ripped it off, but I mean, I felt bad about that afterwards, but at the time it seemed like the right thing to do.”
You guys. His dad's advice:
Asked what words of wisdom his father has shared with him, Pat said: "Be nasty. Don't let up until you hear the whistle."
Pat paused and added more sage advice he's picked up having spent his whole life around football:
"Maybe give 'em a little after the whistle. Kill 'em, basically."
When he committed to Michigan and word came out that he was going to play center that made so much sense to me, and then as this season developed with its missed blocking assignment fiesta I craved the presence of Kugler on campus as quickly as possible.
I'm weird. I love David Molk almost as much as anyone to come through this program not named Denard. I'm weird, but I'm not wrong. In the NFL, centers who can do all the things that make your offense work with their brains are a fungible commodity. In college, they are a treasure. See also: Michigan's with-and-without-Molk YPCs in the Denard era. I'm not wrong. It is only barely hyperbole to call Patrick Kugler the most important recruit in this class.
As you might expect from the son of an offensive line coach, Kugler is an advanced technician and nasty dude. Virtually every scouting report will start off praising his technique and IQ. A sampler:
- Bob Lichtenfels, Scout: "Kugler is a technician and he is nasty. He finishes his blocks and always plays to the whistle. He has great feet and gets to the second level as well as anyone. Very dominant at the point of attack. … very cerebral and is rarely in bad position. Very good knee bend and deceptively athletic."
- Allen Trieu, Scout: "great feet and gets into the second level very well. He's a technician and a smart player … bigger and more athletic than most center prospects. You essentially have a kid that could easily play tackle or guard for most schools at center. That is also a position where smarts and knowledge of the game come into play and this kid certainly has it."
- An opposing coach: “He looks like an NFL guy playing with middle-school kids … You know he's a coach's kid. You can just tell. He's got great technique. He gets off the ball so hard. He does not look like he should run as fast as he does. You see kids that big and they're slow and gawky. But he's got great, great feet. I think he's in a class by himself. He stands alone.”
- Anonymous Rivals evaluator: "comes off the ball strong with good blocking angles and shows very little hesitation before impact on the defender. He does a good job of lowering his 6-5 frame to get under the smaller high school opponents he faces. … shows that he likes to put defenders into the turf with violence."
Kugler is not only the son of an O-line coach, but also one tough dude. … not unreasonable to think he can't easily fill out into a 300-pound interior lineman. He is a physical and tenacious run blocker. He does need to watch his pad level at times, but is able to play with good leverage. He does a good job of getting placement with his hands and being able to control defenders. He can deliver a good initial pop, but looks to have much better drive once he is into a defender rather than initial explosion on contact. He is able to create and maintain push with sustained leg drive and looks to bury the defender every play. He displays a good understanding of combo blocks and good pull/trap ability. He moves well in space and can get a hat on active second level defenders. … mixes good ability and heady play with a tenacious style to get the job done.
A lot of these scouting evaluations expect these high school kids to be NFL-level players based on junior high school film, and that's never more true than it is for OL. That's a highly positive evaluation with some minor, obvious issues—"does need to watch his pad level at times" is something you could put in every OL evaluation ever without raising an eyebrow.
Meanwhile, Scout's profile has our favorite Area For Improvement:
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
Kugler plays both sides of the ball for North Allegheny. He has excellent quickness and feet. He has good flexibility and change of direction which is displayed when playing defensive tackle. Kugler has the athleticism and reach to play tackle with the mentality of an interior lineman. He gets good leverage and push on both sides of the ball. Finishes blocks and easily gets to the second level - Scott Kennedy
I assume that area for improvement is based on the idea Kugler would end up as a tackle, which some of the sites projected him to early. All eventually came around to the idea he would be an interior lineman.
Importantly for a guy projected to center, all of those evaluations emphasize Kugler's ability to get to the second level. If your center can pull—and Kugler will be able to—that opens up additional options in the run game, and if he's good at moving to the second level your inside zone game ramps up its effectiveness. It's a key attribute for a center, and not necessarily one I've seen mentioned much in evaluations of offensive linemen.
"Intensity" is another word that comes up frequently. Tim Sullivan:
Kugler showed outstanding stamina, athleticism and effort while playing both ways, just about the entire night for North Allegheny…. In the second half, Kugler played like a man possessed. His intensity greatly improved and he showed his leadership skills while pushing his teammates to put the game away. He was displayed very good technique and footwork while pass blocking and he showed a very good burst when he was run blocking. Although he is most comfortable when pass blocking, he gets to the second level extremely quickly and looks like he will develop into an excellent run blocker.
“Once the game starts, he changes to a different level of intensity,” Walker said of Kugler. “One of the reasons why he was so focused on schools in the B1G is that he loves to run block. He’s a physical kid, and he wants to put people in the ground. He’s a very aggressive blocker.”
A Brady Hoke kind of guy.
As mentioned, Kugler drew heaps of praise at the UnderArmor game, where he was the headiest, most advanced OL there:
…easily the most technically sound offensive lineman in attendance. He adapted well to different pass-rushing moves used against him, knew where to place his hands, and listening to him talk to other offensive linemen and the coaches nearby, his high football IQ was apparent.
He quickly adapted to both interior OL positions, earning a start at guard while simultaneously being named the best center around.
Patrick Kugler, Wexford (Pa.) North Allegheny
The Michigan commitment has manned the toughest position on the line in the all-star setting better than anyone else. Taking into consideration that it’s fast paced, with new install, very little time for connectivity among a line and in a setting that most certainly favors defensive linemen, the 6-foot-4, 275-pounder has been reactive, fundamentally sound and shown excellent lateral quickness.
I mean. You guys.
David Dawson- Dawson and Patrick Kugler might be the two best lineman overall on the white squad. … Patrick Kugler- Kugler was as good as advertised in the first day of practices. Kugler won the majority of his one on one reps and did a good job in the team periods. Kugler had outstanding technique and showed very good lateral quickness. Kugler had a mean streak and was able to move opposing defensive tackles in the run game.
Based on that performance and Kugler's all-around profile, 247 would name him (and David Dawson) to their All-America team, calling him the nation's top center.
Kugler is another opposite-of-character-issue guy what with his dad. (A pattern emerges.) His prep coach confirms:
“He’s a young man that loves the game,” Walker said of Kugler. “He loves to compete. He does a good job of getting himself prepared and taking on leadership responsibilities. He does all the little things off the field to prepare. He’s a student-athlete all the time. He does what he has to do in the classroom, and carries himself well. He’s a good kid to be around, he has the right kind of focus and he’s not taking anything for granted.”
I mean, Kugler told various sites he actively hopes to redshirt, something I have never ever seen. He backed off a hard stance either way a bit later, but the desire is clear:
"I have no idea if they want me to play next year, or not," Kugler stressed. "Personally, I'd love to redshirt and get that fifth year of education, but if the coaches need me to play that would be great. I'm a team guy first, so whatever they need from me is what I'll do."
Kugler further stated he hasn't even looked at the depth chart because "Michigan was the school I fell in love with, so that never mattered to me." As of January he was at 285, with a goal of arriving in the 295-300 range. (Area For Improvement: check.) He was also scheduled for surgery on his labrum. That must have slowed down his workouts, but with a four-month recovery timeline by the time he arrives on campus he will be full-go.
That depth chart is ripe with opportunity, with only Jack Miller and a couple of walk-ons currently competing at center. With the labrum injury and Glasgow showing he can be good depth for the interior spots, a redshirt is still in the cards. After that, it's going to be a war on the interior.
"I saw it in his face," Patsy said. "As a mom, you know your kid so well, and I could just see his face light up with emotion. I could see it starting to happen."
“I can't grow facial hair,” Kugler said with great disappointment. “It's bad. I've been growing it a month, and it's barely noticeable.”
People might be surprised to know that ...? Me and my brother used to play ping-pong the morning before every game. It would be intense ping-pong. We would wake up in the morning and play before school on game days. I don't know why, but we would play at 6:30 or 7 in the morning.
Kugler popped up in a "Spartan Sizzling Seven" at the start of last year's cycle as one of the most likely players to end up at State. That list: Riley Norman (MSU, but for track and field), Jon Reschke (check), Kyle Bosch, Steven Elmer, Patrick Kugler, Ethan Pocic, and Greg Webb. One of seven is… well, it ain't good. Kugler in particular twisted the knife, visiting State a half-dozen times, then hitting Michigan once and abruptly ending his recruitment a day before he was scheduled to go to East Lansing again.
Why David Baas? High school tackle at 6'4" who moved to the inside, starting at guard before moving to center, where he was an Outland finalist, Rimington winner, All-American, and second-round draft pick. Topped out at 310 pounds, which is well within Kugler's range, and was a highly-regarded recruit who hit some high school All-American lists.
Guru Reliability: A shade less than exacting. Healthy, high profile player, All Star game, consensus. They are projecting a position move.
Variance: Low-plus. Only the facts that this is an offensive lineman and that there is a slight position adjustment—albeit one almost every interior lineman makes—hold this down from plain ol' low.
Ceiling: High. It is tough for centers to work their way into the first round of the NFL draft because they're just less rare than 6'8" guys just as agile. He could be a Rimington contender, though.
General Excitement Level: Very high. You guys.
Projection: Nonzero chance he emerges into a starting job in year one. Likely? No. Would I even regard that as a bad sign? Well… yeah probably. But not as much of one as you might think. It would be lovely if they could get a redshirt on Kugler and have Miller in front of him for two more years and get a couple of upperclass years from an eminently prepared guy.
If that does happen, Miller is going to be pretty good. If Miller does stay in front of Kugler, Kugler will likely compete at the guard spot opposite Kalis as a redshirt freshman. That will either be vacant (if Ben Braden wins the job and moves to tackle) or held by Graham Glasgow.
That I can't project this guy to definitely start until he's a redshirt junior says something about the burgeoning depth on the offensive line. Some of these guys will wash out from injury or lack of ability; this is inevitable. But the guys who do work out are going to be high four-star potential sorts who have lived up to it, and the competition to emerge is going to be brutal. That's how you build a kick-ass line.