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Stevens: Run-Blocking Football Is A Big Hit with Lobo Hitmen
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  03/29/2010
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

March 29, 2010

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Lobo TV: Lobo Football 101 - Run Blocking

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

It seems like almost too simple a blocking concept, too basic a football notion, to bring such joy to the faces of three rugged New Mexico Lobo linemen.

But throw the phrase "run blocking" at Dillon Farrell, Karlin Givens and Mike Cannon and then head for high ground. Because these three Lobo Hitmen probably will be looking for someone to pancake.

To appreciate the smiles that leap to the faces of these Lobos, to understand the excitement in their voices, think of:

  • A kid on Christmas morning seeing a new two-wheeler under the tree.
  • Barack Obama upon learning his health bill has passed.
  • Tiger Woods finding out that all media types have been beamed to Mars.

    Yeah, these Lobos are dying to play a little smash-mouth football in 2010 because, well, you don't become an offensive linemen, if you don't like to smash into that guy in front of you.

    "We take pride in being known as the Hitmen," said Givens, a senior guard. "We're known for running the ball at UNM and having 1,000-yard rushers. We want to get that reputation back."

    Said Cannon: "I came here because of the run game. If the passing isn't working and you don't have a run game, you aren't going to be very successful. I'm hoping we'll have two 1,000-yard rushers, maybe three. "

    If that happens, Lobo coach Mike Lockley's no-huddle, multi-attack offense might never need to go skyward. But Lock's plan for 2010 is to bring more balance to his offense and establish his Lobos as a team that can run the football when it wants to - and needs to - run the football.

    It's a simple enough notion. You pass better when you run well. You run better when you pass well. But the emphasis on the run game during spring drills makes for happy O-linemen.

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    2010 FOOTBALL
    Sept. 4 - At Oregon
    Sept. 11 - *Texas Tech
    Sept. 18 - *Utah
    Sept. 25 - At UNLV
    Oct. 2 - *UTEP
    Oct. 9 - At NMSU
    Oct. 16 - Open Week
    Oct. 23 - *SDSU
    Oct. 30 - At CSU
    Nov. 6 - *Wyoming
    Nov. 13 - At Air Force
    Nov. 20 - At BYU
    Nov. 27 - *TCU
    *UNM Home Games
    ''

    ''

    "Any lineman likes the running game," said Farrell. "It's kind of mano y mano (man on man): Just going out there and throwing your weight against another guy. It's a dogfight.

    "Run blocking on third-and-one, fourth-and one, short goal-line situations. That's the best part of the game."

    The development of the Lobo offensive line will be huge emphasis this spring, and not simply because football games so often are won or lost in the trenches. The Lobos have some big holes to fill.

    Gone are All-Mountain West center Erik Cook, Joshua Taufalele and Ivan Hernandez. UNM returns the most experience in Givens, Cannon and Byron Bell. Farrell and Mike Muñiz might fill the center spot by committee, but one of those linemen likely will emerge as the No. 1 snapper.

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    Givens and Cannon split time at the left guard spot in 2009, but Cannon has been moved to the other side and those two are the frontrunners to start - prior to fall ball. The two seniors also will be looked upon to replace the leadership lost from Cook, Taufalele and Hernandez.

    "They played last year and they have great respect for this program and this game," said coach Mike Degory, who coaches the centers and guards. "They are my leaders."

    Said Givens: "That's part of my role this year. We got a lot of leadership last year from Erik and Josh. They showed me the ropes and they showed me what it takes to be a leader. A lot of that comes through action, lead by example."

    Said Cannon: "If someone is doing something wrong, they'll hear from me. I'm not going to jump on someone to degrade them, but I'll jump on them to teach them something or maybe motivate `em."

    Coach Mike Degory gives some pointers to center Dillon Farrell


    The leadership from Givens and Cannon appears to be set. Degory's biggest challenge as a coach might be to groom consistency and even excellence out of two Lobos who didn't steal a snap away from Cook last year.

    "Erik will be tough to replace," said Degory. "That's why spring ball is so important. We have some young guys coming up who we are pretty happy about. Now, they have to get better and prove themselves."

    That's Muñiz and Farrell - big Lobos with little experience.

    "There have been a long line of fantastic centers who have come through this place," said Farrell, a redshirt freshman. "It's definitely a lot of pressure and it's in the back of my mind. But pressure can either bust a pipe or make a diamond. Hopefully, it will make a diamond."

    If that diamond forms, it needs to join the rest of the Lobo linemen in cutting holes into defensive lines. The Lobos' running game improved as the 2009 season progressed, but Degory wants to see excellence from the beginning of the 2010 season - a season that starts at Oregon.

    "You look back through the history of the Lobo program and the years they were successful, they ran the ball successful," said Degory. "When you play this game, all the way from Pop Warner (YAFL) to the NFL, the great teams all run the football."

    Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at rstevens50@comcast.net.

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