April 13, 2009
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
Lobo Michael Scarlett's plan is to catch a whole lot more passes in 2009 than he did in 2008. That's his plan for the obvious reason that he thinks he is a better receiver than the Lobo, who pulled in only 11 passes in 2008 for 104 yards. He wants to help his team more than that.
But there is another reason Scarlett wants to make a lot of grabs. If you catch it, the line of scrimmage and the rest of the Lobos have to catch up to you. If you catch it, you get to stand around for a few precious seconds and maybe catch your breath, too, while the rest of the Lobos hustle to your spot on the field.
If you miss the football, you have to dash back to the line of scrimmage, try to pick up the next called play on the march back to the ball, and then line up in a hurry in UNM's no-huddle offense.
Of course, maybe if you aren't catching a lot of footballs, you don't have to worry about staying on the field and running back to the ball. You just might get subbed out.
The second part of Scarlett's plan is to establish himself as one of UNM's top threats in 2009 - catch it often, catch it short, catch it long, stay on the field.
"No huddle, getting the defense on their toes, that's a receiver's dream," said Scarlett, a Sandia High product. "This offense is amazing. The coaches are always changing things up. I remember thinking last year, `This is hard.' And that was just going back to a huddle. Now, everything is even faster.
"As you are coming back to the huddle, coaches are calling the plays, so you have to look over at the sidelines as you are running back. If you go long, it's a lot better if you catch the ball."
The Mike Locksley offense is designed to take what the defense gives, but there is no question that the UNM receivers likely will see the ball in the air more than the UNM team of 2008 that liked to hand the ball off to Rodney Ferguson.
The Lobos had 540 running plays last year and threw the ball 289 times. There is a decent chance the Lobos' offense of 2009 will have more balance in the run-to-pass numbers.
"We didn't throw the ball much last year," said Scarlett. "And last year, it was more technical (routes). This year it's more play with your own athleticism, play with what got you here."
Athleticism, speed and good hands are what brought Scarlett to UNM from Sandia. The talented Matador - All-State receiver and safety - committed to become a Lobo after his junior season when UNM promised to honor that scholarship even if he got injured his senior year.
"I didn't want to take the chance of getting hurt and maybe getting lost in a junior college," said Scarlett. "But I also wanted to play in front of my family and my friends and this just felt like the right choice for me."
Scarlett said the toughest adjustment to Locksley's no-huddle offense is the tempo. "It's hurry up," said Scarlett. "But I'm starting to pick it up. I'm getting comfortable and tweaking my routes to my personal taste. You know, throw some of your own juice on the route."
What Scarlett is saying is that the no-huddle offense places pressure on a defense to quickly react to the UNM formation and the defense doesn't always line up the same way. That gives the Lobo receivers a little leeway to make adjustments in routes.
"We are going to see a lot of different defenses, different looks, so you have to change things up," said Scarlett. "My biggest goal from last season is to be more of a contributor to the team -- make plays and make plays when they count."
And, remember, if a receiver makes plays, the line of scrimmage comes to him.
Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous GoLobo.com articles can be found on The Richard Stevens Corner.