March 31, 2009
By Alfredo V. Moreno - UNM Assistant Media Relations Director
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - The return of icy winds to the UNM practice fields didn't slow down the Lobo football team, which wrapped up spring practice No. 4 on Monday afternoon. New Mexico worked out in full pads, but remained in what head coach Mike Locksley calls "thud mode," meaning that ball carriers are not tackled and blockers are not allowed to cut defenders.
That'll all change on Wednesday, however, when the Lobos hold their first full-contact scrimmage of the spring. UNM will continue to polish technique and install more of the offensive and defensive playbook for the first half of practice before moving to University Stadium around 5 p.m. for the scrimmage session.
Here are some of my observations from practice No. 4 along with a quick interview with junior wide receiver Bryant Williams. Check back to GoLobos.com on Thursday morning for a complete recap, statistics, and interviews from Wednesday's scrimmage.
Ball Security - The Lobo offense spent approximately 15 minutes working through a variety of ball security drills on Monday. There was no mistaking the importance of these drills as Locksley was the most vocal coach on the field, roaming from station to station to make sure ball carriers kept the football secured "high and tight" at all times, even while jogging from one drill to another. Nothing can derail a high octane offense faster than turnovers so Locksley is determined to make ball security a priority.
D-Jones Stands Tall - Senior wide receiver Daryl Jones had a strong 7-on-7 performance with a number of athletic receptions and running solid routes to get himself open. The 6-4, 212-pounder is the Lobos' biggest and most powerful receiver and has a chance to emerge as a legitimate threat in the passing game this fall. Already a polished blocker for the run game, Jones has six catches for 72 yards in his 34-game career. If can continue his strong play through training camp, expect those numbers to increase dramatically.
Team Drill Highlights - While tackling wasn't allowed, there were still plenty of bodies going full speed during the practice-ending team drill. Senior quarterback Donovan Porterie had a good stretch with a string of accurate mid-range passes and key completions to convert third down plays. He also faked a hand-off and kept the ball for a 5-yard gain, despite being what he's described as 80 percent recovered from ACL surgery.
Junior quarterback Tate Smith unleashed his cannon of an arm on several nice throws. Smith's 30-yard completion down the sideline to redshirt freshman Quintell Solomon was probably the throw of the day. Smith sprinted right and delivered the ball on a rope despite heavy pressure by sophomore middle linebacker Carmen Messina.
The smallest wide receiver on the team, Roland Bruno, has continued to play much bigger than his 5-10, 166-pound frame, making a number of tough catches across the middle. The senior has worked tirelessly over the past three years to expand his role from marginal walk-on to one of the key cogs of the offense since 2007 (45 catches, 428 yards in 25 games). Bruno is a tenacious blocker, one of the most dependable pass catchers on the field, and is developing into a real leader in the program.
Despite the offense's success on Monday, the catch of the day was turned in by redshirt freshman cornerback Nathan Enriquez. The Las Cruces, N.M. product made a one-handed interception off a tipped pass, snaring the ball out of the air while off balance and trapping it on his helmet as he slid to the ground. Honorable mention goes to Quintell Solomon's juggling, falling backward grab on Tate Smith's laser throw.
Finally, I had a moment to check in with junior wide receiver Bryant Williams after practice. Williams led the team with 36 catches (272 yards, 1 TD) in his first Division I season in 2008 and also had a 40-yard touchdown run. Click here to listen to the ALL-ACCESS audio clip.