Aug. 23, 2009
What: Lobos at Texas A&M
When: 5 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 5
Radio:770 KKOB-AM. TV: None
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
The preparation isn`t over yet. Lobo coach Mike Locksley has yet to name his starters, still has to form his scout teams, still has almost two weeks before his troops board a plane pointed toward the Sept. 5 clash at Texas A&M.
But the Lobos did pull into sort of a rest stop along the journey this weekend with a revealing scrimmage Saturday night at University Stadium and a good-time Fan Photo Day on Sunday.
The events marked the end of pre-school training camp, but did not mark the end of improvement. The Lobo players still have a lot of work ahead of them, plus the additional burden of classrooms and books.
"We have some things to clean up and I think what will clean it up will be working more with the guys who we expect to go to battle with," said Locksley after Saturday's two-hour scrimmage.
"We have a good idea coming out of this scrimmage which guys we have to start getting ready and which guys aren't ready. There are a few guys still on the bubble."
Locksley said he and has staff will review the scrimmage film and then burst a few bubbles and determine a few starters this week in practice. But Saturday's scrimmage did reveal more than a few Lobos poised and ready for a College Station battle with Texas A&M.
The talent on this Lobo team shouldn't be questioned. It is real. But the pre-season challenge for this first-year New Mexico coaching staff was to get these Lobos to mesh into offensive and defensive schemes that weren't used by the previous coaching staff.
On offense, that was the move to a no-huddle, multi-Lobo attack out of a variety of formations that could either go run or go pass. On defense, the move was to the more traditional 4-3 front without totally abandoning the three-man front and not lessening the Lobos' maniacal passion to get to the football.
"We were fortunate to come into a situation where the kids have some swagger," said Doug Mallory, UNM's defensive coordinator. "We plan to keep that swagger. These kids have a lot of confidence and they are prideful in their defense.
"We have our base in and the kids understand the scheme and are playing good, fundamental football. They understand their roles and are starting to play quicker and more aggressive. Right now, we are stressing being sound, but we'll keep adding things, tweak things, add new pressures. We won't go any faster than what we think they can handle."
In Saturday's scrimmage, several defensive Lobos made cases for playing time against A&M. Seth Johannemann and Clint McPeek had 11 tackles apiece while Johnathan Rainey and Carmen Messina had 10 each. Rainey had three tackles for a loss (two sacks) and forced two fumbles. Jaymar Latchison had eight tackles, including three for a loss (two sacks).
You play like this against UNM's massive and experienced offensive line, and you are doing something right.
"The defense has picked up everything and the confidence level is high," said Latchison. "We have made tremendous strides and have most everything down. We are ready to test ourselves against some real competition (Texas A&M)."
The defense has had its moments against the Lobo offense, but turnabout is fair play, too. Quarterback Donovan Porterie got some nice protection from his O-line Saturday, completing 20-of-31 passes for 187 yards and two TDs.
"We've adapted well to the new offense," said senior center Erik Cook. "We put in so much during the spring that we are just fine tuning now. We know the basic structure so well that it's easy for us to add plays and know our assignments. I think we are ready. We are confident and comfortable with what we are doing"
Porterie, a senior, is making a strong case for some playing time against the Aggies. So is All-American kicker James Aho, who was 4-of-4 on his field goals. Quarterback B.R. Holbrook completed 7-of-14 passes and Brad Gruner completed 9-of-15.
"The guys have to realize how important these next practices are."
Lobo Coach Mike Locksley
One of Locksley's more pleasant chores might be looking for a running back to distinguish and separate himself from a talented pack. Locksley has the same comfort zone in looking for playmakers from his deep and talented receiving corp.
Roland Bruno looked sharp Saturday with seven grabs, but the depth and versatility of this group was revealed in stats that showed 18 receivers pulling in at least one pass.
"One thing I want to concentrate on over the next two weeks is smoothing out our communication," said Porterie. "I don't want anybody to be missing anything. We have to make sure we are on the same page at the same time."
Said Locksley: "I`m happy with all phases. We only had maybe two practices where I didn't see improvement or maybe the right energy. We still have a couple of weeks to prepare and the guys have to realize how important these next practices are."