April 30, 2013
This is the first two parts of a 10-part series examining the University of New Mexico's position-by-position outlook upon its exit from spring practice on Saturday.
Today: Offensive/defensive lines
Wednesday: Tight ends/outside linebackers
Thursday: Running backs/inside linebackers
Friday: Wide receivers/defensive backs
Saturday: Quarterbacks/special teams
Questions coming into camp: Replacing departing right tackle Korian Chambers, finding suitable players to fill in for Adcock.
What happened during camp: The Lobos remained a solid group up front, led by Farrell, who was elected a team captain, Bratton and Johnson. Sophomore Vizcaino, who returned to the team in the spring after a four-month absence, filled in for Adcock and did a nice job. Senior McDowney also had his moments as he battles for playing time in the fall. A lot of his success originated in the classroom, which offensive line coach Jason Lenzmeier preaches is significant to a student-athletes success on the field.
"We've done a much better job in the classroom," Lenzmeier said. "I tell those guys everyday that what you do in class spills over out here. That's where you learn about accountability."
Lenzmeier said this year's spring had a greater emphasis on pass-protection, which the line didn't get a whole lot of experience doing last season. But his greatest challenge was to make sure his unit understood it still had strides to make in the running game, even though UNM was fifth in the country in rushing offense at 301.3 yard per game.
"I put pressure on them every day," Lenzmeier said. "That's the only way you're going to get results. Almost the hardest thing to motivate is a kid who's had success. They think they can just rest on what they've done in the past."
Lenzmeier lauded the efforts of younger players Baggett, who added guard to his center duties, and Jack Lamm, who added center to his guard duties. Junior Jamal Price manned the first-team right tackle spot for most of the spring, but Lenzmeier said he needs to work on his consistency.
Help on the way: The Lobos have junior college transfers Solomon Normore and Reno Henderson joining the team in the fall, along with incoming freshman Draven Taylor, to create more competition within the group.
Coach Lenzmeier wisdom: "I think we worked hard. We had a little bit of success last year. They liked that. We're trying to build on that, but we've got a long way to go."
Starters returning: DE/NT Jacori Greer
Also in camp: DE Brett Bowers, DT Paytron Hightower (out for more than half of camp with a knee injury), DE Randy Williams, DT Christopher Smalls (out with a knee injury), NT Dominic Twitty, DT K.J. Atkins, NT/DT Gerron Borne, NT Darian Allen, DT Fatu Ulale.
Questions coming into camp: Defensive line coach Archie McDaniel wanted to find out if the unit could establish an identity - in terms of leadership and toughness. He also put an emphasis on the players becoming great technicians.
What happened during camp: Injuries to some of the players - Hightower, Smalls, Twitty and Atkins missed parts or all of camp with ailments - forced McDaniel to scramble and switch positions around a bit. Greer moved from his normal defensive end position to nose tackle. Bowers, who had been slated to play outside linebacker, moved to defensive end.
"We started to see some flashes of that attitude," McDaniel said. "But that's the issue; we only saw flashes. We've got to have the consistency in our attitude, the way we approach practice and the way we play."
Greer, Ulale and Bowers established themselves on the first unit, but the backup spots are in flux and competition for playing time should continue well into the fall. McDaniel said the biggest pleasant surprise during spring was the development of sophomore walk-on Randy Williams from Volcano Vista High School.
"He has been one of our most consistent defensive linemen across the board - whether it's young guys or older guys," McDaniel said.
The coach said he would have to rely on the leadership abilities of Greer and Ulale to get the players in the group to continue to improve over the summer on their conditioning and technique so that the unit isn't behind when it gets ready to go off to Ruidoso for fall camp.
Help on the way: Incoming freshmen Nic D'Avanzo, Samuel Mabany and William Udeh will hit the ground running in August and try to compete for playing time.
Coach McDaniel wisdom: My biggest emphasis to them (in approaching offseason workouts) was that the next time they put a helmet on, we'll have a game in a month."