April 15, 2009
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
It had to be a weird day for Doug Mallory. It was his first day as a full-fledged, full-time football coach. He had been hired at West Point to teach the Black Knights' secondary because, well, that's what Doug Mallory knew best.
He had been an All-Big Ten defender at Michigan, a four-year letterman. But in 1989 -- two seasons out of college ball -- Mallory was marched over to the other side of the ball and told that he was now in charge of a bunch of tackles and guards. On the offensive line. Trench hogs!
It probably was one of the turning points in a career whose background screams defense, from his playing days in the Michigan secondary to his current gig as New Mexico's defensive coordinator.
"I went to West Point to work with the secondary," said Mallory. "But right before spring practice a coach quit and I got put on the offensive line. It was at that point that I realized I didn't know that much about football."
It makes sense that the more you know about Xs and Os and technique on the offensive side of the ball, the better it makes you on the defensive side. So Mallory put in his time with the trench hogs at West Point and became a better football coach.
It was a good thing, too, because Mallory probably never really had a choice but to become a football coach. His father, Bill Mallory, is the winningest football coach in Indiana football history and also coached at Colorado and Miami (Ohio). His brothers, Curt and Mike, are football coaches.
"I've been around the game my whole life," said Mallory. "When we were younger, we would go over to practice and serve as ball boys. We did that because it was one of the few times we could be around dad. He was traveling so much in those days because they didn't have the same restrictions on recruiting.
"When my playing days were over, it was a pretty easy decision to go into coaching."
Mallory comes to New Mexico and to Mike Locksley's staff with 21 years experience coaching: 20 seasons on the defensive side, one on the offensive side.
His last stop was 2005-08 at LSU where he was the co-defensive coordinator in 2008. He also coached at Oklahoma State, Maryland, Indiana and Western Kentucky -- after his start at Army.
The seat he inherits at UNM might not be as hot as the one Locksley sits in, but there surely will be much attention focused on Mallory's defense because of the focus placed on defense by UNM's former head man, Rocky Long.
But while Mallory is moving his Lobos into a 4-3 front, the philosophy of the defense is pretty much what Lobo fans have seen for the past 10 years: stop the run, attack the ball, get physical with quarterbacks, running backs and receivers, create turnovers.
"The first thing you have to stop is the run," said Mallory. "You play aggressive and you try to make an offense one dimensional.
"We'll put pressure on the quarterback and we'll be physical with the wide receivers. We'll get numbers to the ball and we'll work hard to create turnovers."
Mallory said his 4-3 defense will have a variety of looks besides the 4-3 front, especially on third-down situations that might dictate a defensive adjustment.
He also is quick to note that this standard defense of football is not a Doug Mallory creation at UNM. It is the defense of the entire UNM defensive staff which includes George Barlow, Toby Neinas and Rubin Carter, the former Denver Bronco great.
"We are all 4-3 guys and all my assistants are great coaches with great ideas," said Mallory. "It's not my system. It's not my scheme.
"I just think the 4-3 is easier to adjust to all the spreads and all the multiple formations you see these days. And I'd rather have four big butts up front than three big butts."
Long's defense went with a three-man front and often used speed and quickness to attack the O-line at various angles. Mallory is hoping to build more of a power front at UNM, but that might take time -- and a few more big butts.
"We don't have the numbers, the depth in the D-line, that you want," said Mallory. "The front is the first line of defense and you can't get worn down there. We might have to get some immediate help from the freshmen coming in."
Mallory said he has been impressed with the type of football players the current Lobo staff inherited from the previous regime.
"The kids you are dealing with here are blue collar," said Mallory. "Football is important to them. They are tough, hard-nosed kids that give you effort. You got kids here playing for the right reason and they are the kind of kid you want to be associated with."
Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous articles are available at The Richard Stevens Corner