May 2, 2013
Here are parts V and VI of a 10-part series examining the University of New Mexico's position-by-position outlook upon its exit from spring practice on Saturday.
Starters returning: Senior Kasey Carrier
Also in camp: Senior Demarcus Rogers (missed camp due to a knee injury), sophomore Jhurell Pressley, sophomore Wendell Carter, junior Xavier Madrid, junior Crusoe Gongbay, junior Emmauel Fatokun (missed last third of camp due to a knee injury).
Questions coming into camp: The Lobos running backs had to adjust to a new position coach as Apollo Wright came from Florida International to take over the same duties at UNM. He wanted to find out what his group knew about the nuances of the entire offense and what it needed to learn.
What happened during camp: A lot of the status quo from 2012, which isn't a bad thing. Carrier, elected a team captain, obviously will be the focal point. Pressley and Gongbay each showed signs of being a strong backup. Rogers, who actually had the team's first 100-yard rushing game in 2012 in the season opener before missing the last 11 games of the season, has pressure on him to get up to speed when he returns in the fall.
With that said, the players sought out the nuances of the offense and Wright made them look at the big picture on the field.
"They are all hard workers, they're willing to work, they all want to get better and they want to know as much as possible about the game, especially this offense," Wright said. "They're always asking questions, asking why. They're very hungry for information."
With the year Carrier had in 2012 - a school record 1,469 rushing yards - coupled with the fact that known commodities don't get an abundance of team work during the spring because the coaches are trying to develop the younger players - he could've been forgiven if he laid low and just tried to stay healthy.
But Carrier just isn't built that way.
"He was probably one of the ones asking the most questions," Wright said. "He wants that opportunity to get to the next level. So he's asking about a defensive lineman technique or linebacker read. I think he likes the fact that I have experience coaching the defense, so he'll ask more about the defense."
Coach Wright wisdom: "Anything that we did in the spring, I want them to keep doing over the summer so the game comes slower to them. I want them to keep doing their footwork drills, keep up with their knowledge piece. I want them doing everything we did in the spring so that we come back without a lapse between the spring and the fall."
Starters returning: Senior Dallas Bollema
Also in camp: Junior Trajuan Briggs, sophomore Michael Arredondo, senior David Orvick, redshirt freshman George Aho, junior Malcolm Proctor, junior Toby Ball, junior Josh Romero, junior Damacio Lopez.
Questions coming into camp: UNM lost senior middle linebacker Joe Stoner to graduation and is looking for his replacement. Bollema returns at the weak side LB spot, but could he become a leader? And who will back up Bollema?
What happened during camp: Bollema answered the questions about leadership when he was voted as one of the four team captains during the spring.
"Dallas had a tremendous spring," inside linebackers coach Kevin Cosgrove said. "Dallas is a better player now than he was last fall. He is a take-charge guy with that group. A lot of the guys look at him and how he plays, and he's a big role model for the guys at the position."
Ball, a special teams stalwart last season, emerged as a viable contender, along with Orvick, to take over the middle linebacker spot.
"You look at Toby Ball, he had some experience but didn't play a whole lot last year," Cosgrove said. "He's made some great strides; I'm, really proud of his progress. They have good competition at the mike linebacker spot with David Orvick and Toby."
Arredondo also showed some flashes of being capable of earning playing time at middle linebacker.
Briggs, a converted running back who sat out last season after transferring from the University of California, is engaged in a battle for the backup weak side LB spot with Proctor, a junior walk-on.
"Tray loves playing linebacker," Cosgrove said. "There's a lot of stuff that happens very quickly in front of him. As spring went on, he started to get it. There's no question he wants to. He's a physical guy and runs very well. The game's got to slow down; it's very fast for him right now."
Coach Cosgrove wisdom: "The whole key at the (middle) linebacker spot is the development of all three of the guys (Ball, Orvick and Arredondo), and the competition I can create in the fall at that position to get the best starter possible."