Sept. 2, 2009
What: Lobos at Texas A&M
When: 5 p.m., Saturday
Radio: 770 KKOB-AM. TV: None
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
The Lobo senior doesn't exactly come out and say he favors a one-back backfield for his final season at UNM, but he is adamant about a prideful statistic the Lobo Hitmen carry like a badge of honor.
Cook and the rest of the trench hogs want to help produce a 1,000-yard Lobo in 2009.
"UNM has a tradition of having great running backs and I don't see anything different this year," said Cook. "We also have a history of putting out 1,000-yard runners and 100-yard game runners. Those are stats we take pride in. We plan on doing that this year, too."
One thing is obvious: both these talented freshmen have the talent to find holes and break tackles. On the depth chart heading into Saturday's Texas A&M game, they share the No. 1 spot. Locksley will break that tie come kickoff.
"We got two backs who are capable of being the starter," said Locksley. "When we make that decision, if that guy is running good, we`ll let him run. If that guy needs a break, we'll bring in the other guy and see what he can do.
"We'll go with the hot back. That might be in the game or in the season. If there is separation as the season goes along, then maybe we'll have a No. 1 guy, but the other guy will be the changeup."
If Locksley plans to go with the pure fastball -- throw the heat -- then Dennis probably will be in the leadoff position. If Butler is the changeup, he'll also probably be thrown at the A&M defense. Both these Lobos have special tools.
"I've never seen cuts like these guys make and I've seen some good runners here," said Cook.
Dennis came to New Mexico from Carver High out of Atlanta. He averaged 13 yards a carry and got attention from colleges such as Alabama, Auburn, Illinois and Kentucky.
"I've never seen cuts like these guys make and I've seen some good runners here."
"The coaches sold me on New Mexico and I liked the coaches and liked the offense," said Dennis. "I felt I had a good chance to play here right away and it looks like that will happen."
Butler came to be a Lobo from St. Petersburg, Fla. He redshirted the 2008 season. He ran for 768 yards and added 319 receiving yards his senior year at Catholic High.
"I just want to get out there and have a chance to contribute," said Butler. "I think all of us (running backs) have put out the effort it takes to play. I go out there concentrating on protecting the ball, not making any mistakes, and knowing my assignments."
There might not be much difference in these two Lobos in their ability to produce yardage, but opponents will be looking at two different styles. The 5-9, 196-pound Dennis runs hard and low and has the feet to make quick cuts and the power to accelerate and break tackles. He's like a brick on roller skates. The 6-foot Butler has more of a lean, receivers' look and is deadly in the open field.
"In Demond, you have a home run hitter every time he touches the ball," said Locksley. "He has the speed to get to the edge and he has the compact, powerful body to be physical in short yardage situations.
"A.J. is more of a slasher. He has great vision and the ability to consistently move the chains. One thing that stands out about A.J. is he very rarely shows negative yardage. He knows how to get to the line of scrimmage."
Actually, both of these backs have the ability to get to the line of scrimmage -- and a whole lot further. Maybe even to the 1,000 yards envisioned by Erik Cook.
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 articles are available at The Richard Stevens Corner