April 30, 2012
Today's story on the tight ends is the final part of a series of University of New Mexico football position breakdowns. Other position stories include:
By Greg Archuleta
UNM Assistant Athletic Director of Communications
It would’ve been easy for University of New Mexico assistant football coach Derek Warehime to throw his hands up in the air during spring practice and ask to call him in August
The Lobo tight ends coach, however, worked through the barriers and got his group as much mental and physical work as he could.
UNM started spring practice with two of their top three veterans watching from the sidelines. Converted senior fullback Chris Biren had a pelvic injury that would keep him out of spring drills, and junior Andrew Aho suffered a knee injury just prior to the spring session that might force him to miss a week or so of fall camp.
Two practices into the spring, senior starter Lucas Reed suffered a hamstring injury that forced him to miss eight practices.
Still, Warehime remained undeterred in his task to teach the position.
“It puts us behind a little bit,” Warehime concedes. “But those guys are older and have been in live action. We’re just going to have to get them up to speed.”
That left Warehime to teach a largely inexperienced quartet of tight ends for the bulk of spring camp. Junior Mat McBain, who was an offensive lineman until late last season, was the only scholarship player among the available players.
Redshirt freshman David Georges from Valley High School and walk-on Alex Gard from Sandia also took part, but redshirt freshman Michael Wilkinson, a Cibola High School grad, was the pupil that showed the most promise.
“Michael had an outstanding spring,” Warehime says. “The problem is that he’s going on a (church) mission to New York. He’s leaving in July for two years.”
So while Warehime challenged his healthy players on the field, he challenged his ailing veterans in the classroom.
“The biggest positive has been how in-tuned to what’s going on mentally they have been,” Warehime says of his upperclassmen. “I ask those guys questions or make them go up to the board in meetings to draw up something to make sure they’re on the same page as everybody else, and they knock them out of the ballpark.
“Especially Andrew and Chris, because of where they are physically right now, I can’t say enough about those guys. That’s the best I’ve been around with guys being engaged in here, watching tape, wanting to get better without being able to take a rep.”
Reed was able to get back for the last five practices and start and give glimpses of being a major weapon for the Lobos – as he was in 2010 when he earned first-team All-Mountain West honors.
“The thing that’s helped him out more than anything else is gaining 30 pounds in the offseason and doing it the right way,” Warehime says of Reed. “He ended the 2011 season at 216 points and now he’s popped up is right about that 240-pound area.”
It’s important because Warehime says becoming more physical is one of the two major adjustments the group must make in 2012.
“Because we are more of a run-oriented offense, the thing we’ve got to improve on is the physical part of the game and understanding technique and how that allows you to be more successful. That’s what separates the good teams from the not-so-good teams.”
While blocking is what Warehime says the group needs to improve most, he adds that the level of communication with the rest of the offense is another big change from last season.
“That’s always the hardest thing to learn, just the communication process,” Warehime says. “The thing that’s on these guys at the position that they didn’t have to do in the past is the amount of communication you have to have with everybody on the line of scrimmage – having to talk to a slot receiver to make sure he’s blocking the right guy, having to talk to the offensive line to let them know they have help. That is a different deal.”
Fall camp will be a different deal for the tight ends in trying to make up for lost work in the spring.
“We’ve got to do a good job in a hurry in a couple of weeks in Ruidoso at camp,” Warehime says. “Finding out where Chris Biren fits; once Aho gets back, where does he fit? How much can Lucas handle? Where does a guy like Mat McBain fit? Then with the freshmen coming in, what can Christian Rebhun handle? What can Chris Edling handle?
“You’d love to be able to plug them all in there and not miss a beat. They’d all be fresh, all play 15 or 20 snaps a game, play 100 miles per hour and not make a mistake. But that’s not reality. Each of these guys adds an element to the offense. I’m looking forward to have that healthy room, ready to rock and roll.”
And if Warehime should throw his hands up in the air, at least it should be because of a mistake made on the field.
That he can correct.