Michigan OL Patrick Kugler happy he stayed, whether he plays or not

Fifth-year senior hasn't played much, especially at center, and it's not a given he'll be the starter there this season

Fifth-year senior hasn't played much, especially at center, and it's not a given he'll be the starter there this season

Michigan offensive lineman Patrick Kugler admits he’s not a tackle — the fifth-year senior is a center by trade. But he’ll do “whatever it takes” to play, and if that means sliding along the interior of the line (or kicking outside to tackle, however unlikely), he’s happy to do so. 

With his career winding to a close, there’s a sense of urgency for Kugler. He could’ve left, like every other offensive lineman in his recruiting class did. But he chose to stay — even though both playing time and a chance to reunite with family were readily available elsewhere.

“I was talking to my dad about it — he coaches down at UTEP,” Kugler said of his father, Sean, who's entering his fifth season as head coach. “Everyone thought I was going to go there. But no, I wanted to come to Michigan, I came here for a reason and that’s to leave a legacy at Michigan.

michigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 1

Michigan player Patrick Kugler works with high school players during the Michigan Football Elite Camp on June 23, 2017, at Michigan Stadium. (Photo: Kirthmon F. Dozier DFP)

“I just didn’t want to be that guy that left. … I got beat out a couple years in a row. I didn’t want that to be my legacy here. I wanted to be the guy who stuck around and then eventually led this team to something great.”

It’s unclear whether Kugler will start come fall, but he appears to be in a good spot now. He emerged from the spring leading the competition at center and earned praise from Jim Harbaugh, who said Kugler has “had a nice camp” and has “given us a lot of confidence there.” 

 

Confidence is something Kugler himself doesn’t lack. When asked if he thought he was a starter, he said yes, before explaining his philosophy.

“If you don’t think you’re a starter, then why are you here?” Kugler said. “You’ve got to attack every day like you’re a starter, even if you’re third-string right now.”

When Kugler was a freshman, former Wolverines Graham Glasgow and Jack Miller were the ones to show him the ropes. Now, he’s doing his best to pass the torch by mentoring the younger linemen — even his main competitor at center, freshman Cesar Ruiz. With Kugler, there’s no jealousy or fear for his position.

 

“We’re talking all the time during meetings and stuff, talking about how we want to set, tendencies of different D-linemen and stuff,” Kugler said. “He’s a great player, and we’re doing really good, bouncing ideas off of each other.

“... I know he’s going to be a great player here. I hope he’s eventually an All-American here. He has that ability, that’s for sure. As much as I can do to make him the next great Michigan center, I’m going to do it.”

michigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 2 Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown leads player into drills during their first practice in Rome at Giulio Onesti Training Center on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Pressmichigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 3 Michigan football players Michael Owenu, from left Lavert Hill and Ben Bredeson during their first practice in Rome at Giulio Onesti Training Center on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Romain Blanquart DFPmichigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 4 Michigan football player Ian Bunting, left during his first practice in Rome at Giulio Onesti Training Center on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Romain Blanquart DFPmichigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 5 The Michigan football team had their first practice in Rome at Giulio Onesti Training Center on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Romain Blanquart DFPmichigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 6 Donovan Peoples- Jones and University of Michigan football teammates had their first practice in Rome at Giulio Onesti Training Center on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Pressmichigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 7 Donovan Peoples- Jones and Michigan football teammates had their first practice in Rome at Giulio Onesti Training Center on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Pressmichigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 8 Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh watches his players during their first practice in Rome at Giulio Onesti Training Center on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Pressmichigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 9 Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh runs through a drill with Brandon Peters during their first practice in Rome at Giulio Onesti Training Center on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Pressmichigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 10 Michigan assistant coach Pep Hamilton and quarterback Brandon Peters run through a drill at their first practice in Rome at Giulio Onesti Training Center on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Pressmichigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 11 Michigan football players Will Hart, left and Garrett Moores talk with Italian youths about soccer through a fence during their first practice in Rome at Giulio Onesti Training Center on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Pressmichigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 12 Michigan football players Will Hart, left and Garrett Moores talk with Italian youths about soccer through a fence during their first practice in Rome at Giulio Onesti Training Center on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Pressmichigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 13 Michigan football player Joe Hewlett, center and teammates during their first practice in Rome at Giulio Onesti Training Center on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Pressmichigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 14 Michigan running backs coach Jay Harbaugh and players during their first practice in Rome at Giulio Onesti Training Center on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Pressmichigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 15 Michigan running backs coach Jay Harbaugh, right leads a drill with players during their first practice in Rome at Giulio Onesti Training Center on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Pressmichigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 16 Michigan football running backs coach Jay Harbaugh, center leads a drill with players during their first practice in Rome at Giulio Onesti Training Center on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Pressmichigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 17 Michigan football defensive coordinator Don Brown talks with Chase Winivich, left during their first practice in Rome at Giulio Onesti Training Center on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Pressmichigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 18 Michigan football defensive coordinator Don Brown looks at Rashan Gary executing a drill during their first practice in Rome at Giulio Onesti Training Center on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Pressmichigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 19 The Michigan football team had their first practice in Rome at Giulio Onesti Training Center on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Pressmichigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 20 The Michigan football team had their first practice in Rome at Giulio Onesti Training Center on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Pressmichigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 21 Michigan linebacker Mike McCray at the Wolverines first practice in Rome at Giulio Onesti Training Center on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Pressmichigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 22 Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown, center during the Wolverines first practice in Rome at Giulio Onesti Training Center on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Pressmichigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 23 The Michigan football team wraps up their first day of practice in Rome at Giulio Onesti Training Center on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Pressmichigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 24 The Michigan football team wraps up their first day of practice in Rome at Giulio Onesti Training Center on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Pressmichigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 25 The Michigan football team wraps up their first day of practice in Rome at Giulio Onesti Training Center on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Pressmichigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 26 Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown and the team wrap up their first day of practice in Rome at Giulio Onesti Training Center on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Pressmichigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 27 Michigan football players Nate Johnson and Rashan Gary goof around as they wrap up their first day of practice in Rome at Giulio Onesti Training Center on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Pressmichigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 28 Michigan wide receiver Nate Johnson, center gets ready to catch a football as the team wraps up their first day of practice in Rome at Giulio Onesti Training Center on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Pressmichigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 29 University of Michigan football players chat as they wrap up their first day of practice in Rome at Giulio Onesti Training Center on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Pressmichigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 30 The Michigan football team had their first practice in Rome at Giulio Onesti Training Center on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Pressmichigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 31 Michigan defensive lineman Rashan Gary, center gets ready to catch a football as the Wolverines wrap up their first day of practice in Rome at Giulio Onesti Training Center on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Pressmichigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 32 Michigan wide receiver Nate Johnson does a back flip as the Wolverines wrap up their first day of practice in Rome at Giulio Onesti Training Center on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Pressmichigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 33 Michigan football players interact with fans as the Wolverines wrap up their first day of practice in Rome at Giulio Onesti Training Center on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Pressmichigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 34 Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh signs an illustration presented to him by someone after the first day of practice in Rome at Giulio Onesti Training Center on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Pressmichigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 35 Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh signed an article about the Wolverines trip to Rome written in an Italian newspaper after the first day of practice in Rome at Giulio Onesti Training Center on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Pressmichigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 36 Michigan wide receiver Nate Johnson, left and safety Khaleke Hudson sign footballs for fans after their first day of practice in Rome at Giulio Onesti Training Center on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Pressmichigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 37 Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight signs footballs for fans after the Wolverines first day of practice in Rome at Giulio Onesti Training Center on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Pressmichigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 38 Michigan wide receiver Nate Johnson, left and running back Chris Evans goof around as they wrap up their first day of practice in Rome at Giulio Onesti Training Center on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Pressmichigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 39 The Michigan football team had their first practice in Rome at Giulio Onesti Training Center on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Pressmichigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 40 Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh talks with fans after their first practice in Rome at Giulio Onesti Training Center on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Pressmichigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 41 Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh talks with fans after their first practice in Rome at Giulio Onesti Training Center on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Pressmichigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 42 The Michigan football team had their first practice in Rome at Giulio Onesti Training Center on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Pressmichigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 43 The Michigan football team had their first practice in Rome at Giulio Onesti Training Center on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Pressmichigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 44 Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight during the Wolverines first practice in Rome at Giulio Onesti Training Center on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Pressmichigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 45 Michigan wide receiver Donovan Peoples- Jones, center, had their first practice in Rome at Giulio Onesti Training Center on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Pressmichigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 46 Michigan assistant coach Pep Hamilton runs through a drill at the Wolverines first practice in Rome at Giulio Onesti Training Center on Thursday, April 27, 2017.  Romain Blanquart, Detroit Free Pressmichigan-ol-patrick-kugler-happy-he-stayed-whether-he-plays-or-not photo 47

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