Aug. 5, 2009
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
If the new-look Mike Locksley Lobos need to watch some film on quick hitting, swarming and aggression, they might check out the footage on Locksley's first Media Day as a Lobo.
In what probably goes down as the biggest Media Day ever for Lobo football, the New Mexico media was out in full force as it swarmed Locksley, his coaching staff and probably the most Lobo players to ever stand in front of Media Day microphones, cameras and the not-yet-defunct notebooks.
"I understand all this and I'm glad to see all the interest," said Locksley, whose Lobos open practice on Thursday preparing for the season opener Sept. 5 at Texas A&M. "We came here to make Lobo football bigger and better and this interest is part of that job."
The questions Wednesday afternoon at the Media Day luncheon and interview session were mild enough with a lot of attention aimed at the biting question that faces most football teams: "Who will be the starting quarterback."
Locksley's answer to that question is that there isn't yet an answer and all Lobos will go into fall ball with an equal shot at playing time and starter status.
"We're still in the evaluation process trying to determine who are playmakers on both sides of the football and on the special teams," said Locksley. "We also are looking to see who will emerge as leaders. We are going to challenge our players to step up."
The stepping up process and the evaluation process begins Thursday at 2:30 p.m. and again at 5 p.m. The early, swing shift sessions are designed to divide the 2009 Lobos into two units in order to maximize snaps at all positions.
In other words, Locksley doesn't want the younger Lobos having to stand around on the sidelines watching the more experienced Lobos get most of the snaps - and most of the evaluation. There simply is too much learning to do.
"The younger guys will come out first and then go lift weights and condition," said Lobo senior Ian Clark. "Then the next group comes out."
It's not bad news for the Lobos players, who will be on the field for approximately 2 ½ hours. It will be harder on the Lobo coaches, who will be on the field for around five hours.
Locksley says this practice structure is essential since the first-year coach is installing a no-huddle, multi-look offense and also adding a 4-3 defensive package to blend in with UNM's traditional 3-5 front.
Locksley is willing to throw out Christmas analogies as he looks forward to Thursday's friendly invasion by the UNM players. But that doesn't mean he is running around like a 6-year-old waiting for an early-morning visit from Santa Claus.
"I'm checking the list twice," said Locksley. "We did this at Illinois, Maryland and Florida with a new staff, so we've been here before. But that doesn't mean we're not excited. This is like Christmas in August."
It's also a lot of been-there, done-that for a staff that boasts a combined 128 years of coaching experience at the collegiate or pro level.
Locksley's staff is dynamic and tested. But this also is a season of challenges as Locksley looks at a 2009 schedule that has to rate as one of the more challenging in UNM history.
"As a team, we have a great challenge before us with our schedule," said Locksley. "But as a team, we also love a challenge."
The Lobos face the always-tough Mountain West schedule plus non-conference games with Texas AM, Tulsa, New Mexico State and Texas Tech.
The Christmas package of Lobos that Locksley and his staff get to rip into on Thursday includes 22 returning lettermen, eight starters back on offense and three starters back on defense.
"We have 105 guys coming in (Thursday) and you want to make sure things go smoothly," said Locksley "We're like teachers with their lesson plans. We chart things out as far as we can, but we also know you might have to make changes along the way.
"It's a busy time. We still have a lot of things to figure out, but we know what we want to do and we know how to do it."