SATURDAY: Lobo Football Spring Fiesta '14
TIME: 11 a.m.
LOCATION: Branch Field at University Stadium
EVENTS: Football practice open to the public, jumping houses and face-painting for the kids, a concession stand with pizza and $1 popcorn and beverages to purchase, an autograph session with the Lobos after practice and the chance for one lucky Lobo fan to win football season tickets.
ENTRY: Gates 3 and 4 on the west side of University Stadium.
PARKING: On the west side of University Stadium
By Greg Archuleta
UNM Assistant Director of Communciations
For offensive linemen such as Reno Henderson on the University of New Mexico offensive line, the goal is to turn a small problem into a big opportunity.
While the University of New Mexico has much greater numbers on the offensive line in 2014 than it did in 2008 when only eight linemen were available for spring practice, the Lobos now are trying to figure out how who will fill in for the large shadows left behind by 6-foot-5, 300-pound center Dillon Farrell and 6-4, 308-pound left tackle Darryl Johnson.
“Everyone’s focused on the defense in the spring,” coach Bob Davie said, “but Jason (offensive line coach Lenzmeier) has a challenge building up the offensive line because of the players we lost.”
So far, 6-foot, 291-pound senior LaMar Bratton has slid over to take Farrell’s place and the 6-3, 258-pound Henderson is penciled in at left tackle. And the 6-foot-2, 284-pound Garrett Adcock is manning the offensive guard spot that Bratton vacated.
Lenzmeier knows the unit has some growth, both in maturity and in the weight room, but he likes what he sees so far.
“We’ve got some young guys that are battling, not a lot of game experience,” the former Lobo lineman-turned coach said. “I’ve been impressed with the way they’ve been battling. Reno Henderson is a guy who has three years left after redshirting last year and has done a good job for a guy that’s undersized, but we’re going to put some weight on.”
Oh, from Lenzmeier’s lips to Henderson’s stomach.
“I’m trying to gain weight,” Henderson said. “It seems like that’s where all my money’s going, but it’s not happening yet. I’m eating everything in sight.”
Henderson, who comes to UNM from the New Mexico Military Institute, hails from Ocala, Fla. He has a theory that the dry New Mexico air makes him take in more water and leaves a bit less room for food.
On the field, however, Henderson has gained, compared to his knowledge of the offense and the pace at which Division I football operates.
“That was the biggest adjustment for me, that there’s no off time,” he said. “You have to play hard every play. I feel like I’m getting a little more comfortable with things.”
Bratton, the senior leader of the group, said he likes the job Henderson has done to step in at left tackle and help with the cohesiveness of the unit.
“Reno is a nice little project we’ve got going,” Bratton said. “He’s definitely coming along fast. When we started in the spring, he was a little confused. But now he’s picking up things, making calls and he’s understanding things.”
That’s important for a unit that doesn’t have as many big bodies and in years past. The need for everyone to have a deep understanding of the scheme and to play their positions without hesitation is paramount.
“You have to use whatever you have to your advantage,” Bratton said. “I try to get pad level under people all the time. You have to be crisp with your technique, and you have to know what your assignments are so you can play physical.”
That’s not to say that the Lobos don’t have big bodies on the line, as 6-5, 315-pound senior guard Jamal Price and 6-3, 311-pound redshirt freshman Toye Adewon can attest, but the unit understands that it may not simply overpower opponents as it has done in the past.
“We have an offensive line that does whatever they can to stay disciplined and is doing whatever they can to stay focused on their technique and get better at it,” Bratton says. “These last few practices, we’ve been staying out a lot later than everybody else working on our technique because I know that we’re in a position that we need to fill shows, so it makes everybody want to get better.”
Lenzmeier said he wants to have seven or eight offensive lineman work their way into roles that he trusts going into the fall. He wants his players to have to fight for their starting jobs.
Something else that is making the unit better is the improved play of the defensive line, which is giving the offensive line more to think about and more to prepare for.
“The defense has given us fits sometimes, which is good,” Lenzmeier said. “We want that competition; it helps make us better.”
Henderson has a different type of competition in his mind to help him get better and compete for playing time in the fall.
“I want to be the knockdown king,” he said. “Bratton has that title right now (with a team-best 148 knockdown blocks in 2013). I haven’t told him yet, but it’s coming.”
Just like the progress of the entire line – it’s coming.