Aug. 20, 2009
By David Lepre - UNM Media Relations Assistant
With 2008's starting cornerbacks DeAndre Wright and Glover Quin now plying their skills in the NFL, it would be easy to wonder who is willing to step into the void left by that duo heading into the 2009 season. However, a simple history lesson points towards a bright future for the four current Lobos vying to fill their shoes.
At the end of the 2006 football season New Mexico saw cornerbacks Brandon Payne and Gabriel Fulbright end their Lobo careers with nothing but unproven underclassmen returning. The two players that emerged to take those starting roles? Wright and Quin, both sophomores at the time who ascended to the top of the depth chart and stayed there until they were selected by the Giants and Texans, respectively, in this past April's NFL Draft.
So it comes as no surprise that this year's crop of candidates for playing time at cornerback not only realize the size of the shoes they're trying to fill, they're chomping at the bit for the opportunity. Thus far three second-year corners - sophomore Anthony Hooks and redshirt freshmen Edrick Boger and DeShawn Mills - have received most of the reps with the first team, while redshirt freshman Freddy Young has been turning heads as of late.
Of the four, Hooks is the only one with game experience, having logged minutes last season filling in for an injured Wright. The 5-11, 175-pound sophomore saw action in four games and even started at UNLV.
I'm excited for this year" said Hooks. "This year may be the year I'm able to come out and not have a backup role. Last year was great in that role because I was able to learn, but now I've been able to get a little bit of experience and I'm able to just come out here and just play. I'm ready for that."
"I did watch (Quin and Wright) in their first preseason games." Hooks continued. "I texted them afterwards." Hooks grew close to both former Lobos last season as they helped the wide-eyed walk on get ready each week. "I just wanted to see how they felt. I have a bond and I learned a lot from them throughout the time we traveled together last year. I've gotten closer to them and they've both helped me a lot throughout my process. If I call them, they'll try their best to help me we usually just have a little conversation and just catch up."
"I'm really excited to carry on the tradition of stellar play from Lobo corners," said Boger. "The possibility to have my name mentioned with Brandon Payne, DeAndre and Glover would just be an honor, because those are some really great athletes that worked hard and showed me what to do and what it takes to make it to the next level as well."
"UNM has had some very, very tough corners," the 5-11, 163-pound Boger continued. "Two of the best corners I've ever seen in Glover and DeAndre went to the league. So we're just trying to fill their shoes and step up."
As to who he expects to step into the starting roles, Boger took a very diplomatic approach.
"We are just going out there every day and working as hard as we can and doing everything we can to come out on top," Said Boger. "All the corners, we're all like a big family. We joke and play around, but in the end we have to work together to get the job done and do everything we can to get the win."
"Playing corner at New Mexico means a lot to me," said Mills. "This school is known for its corners. It means a lot for me to come out here and work hard to try to keep up the legacy of this program."
When it comes to the change in coaching staffs and philosophies, Mills says that while some of the technique work may be a bit different this season, the main message remains.
"Just work hard and be very disciplined as a corner." Said the 5-10, 170 -pound Mills. "Make sure you're always in the right spot at the right time. The technique has to be flawless. We won't accept anything less."
"We're constantly drilling them and putting it in their head time after time, every time they line up -`Know where your eyes are,'" said defensive backs and assistant head coach George Barlow. "A lot of times what's getting them in trouble is having their eyes in the wrong place. We've got a number of players here that have the natural ability to play the position. Now we just have to get their eyes in the right spot and get them in the right position so that their athletic ability can take over."
Barlow found the challenge of filling two defensive starting positions vacated by players now in the NFL to be a big draw in his coming to the Lobos.
"That was one of the reasons I took the job here," said Barlow. "It was a new challenge. I had been at the same school for about nine years and was looking for something different. Here we have a bunch of young guys playing corner and they're really just starting to learn how to backpedal, line up, turn, open, drive on routs and get the footwork right. It's been fun. They've been taking the teaching and really want to learn and get the technique down."
"They've all improved quite a bit since when we first got them in the spring," Barlow continued. "Coming out of the spring, Hooks and Mills were the most consistent. This fall, again Hooks has been the pretty consistent. I think that's because he's been in the fire while these other guys are still trying to figure it out. Mills has really come on strong the past couple of days. Mills and Hooks are a couple of guys that have a lot of ability. We just need to teach them the scheme and continue to work the technique and they can become really good players."
As to the possibility of hearing their names called during the NFL Draft somewhere down the road, these corners, as one might expect, wouldn't mind that one bit.
"That's something I'm looking forward to someday," said Hooks. "I'm hoping one day that we can get this to be a school where everybody around the country knows that New Mexico produces great defensive backs. That's going to be exciting."