April 23, 2012
Today's story on the defensive line is part of a series of University of New Mexico football position breakdowns. Other position stories include:
By Greg Archuleta
UNM Assistant Athletic Director of Communications
At first glance, it seems like an odd marriage. Then again, it goes with the odd-man front.
The defensive line on the University of New Mexico football team has the most experienced set of players on the team heading into the 2012 season. With a group that includes six seniors, the expectation would be to give the players more intricate instruction.
Defensive line coach Archie McDaniel, however, says the key to their effectiveness in the fall lies in his ability to simplify their assignments and their ability to play full speed on every down. That task should be easier as UNM makes the transition from a 4-3 scheme to a 3-4 alignment because it requires fewer bodies to perform.
"The style of play we're going to use, we're going to be a penetrating front, eliminate all the thinking and just put them in one-on-one battles and not to have to do so much reading," says McDaniel, the first-year defensive line coach who came to New Mexico from Tulsa in the offseason. "I think it's going to help us be effective pass-rushers and control the line of scrimmage."
Which the Lobos have not done the past couple of seasons. UNM recorded just 10 sacks, intercepted just three passes and 10 fumble recoveries as an entire defensive unit in 2011. Those numbers were a decrease from a subpar 2010 season that included 11 sacks, four interceptions and 15 fumble recoveries.
"Our pass rush and ability to control the line of scrimmage is what's going to make us not a good defensive line but a great defensive line," the first-year coach from Tulsa says. "The major part of that is understanding what we want to do and continuing to hone our technique and playing with great fanatical effort."
The line is by no means a finished product, but McDaniel says the unit has showed him how coachable it is.
"I'm not saying what's right or what's wrong, but culturally, everything we're doing, everything we're instilling is completely different," McDaniel says. "They're still adapting to that."
Which is the reason behind simplifying the assignments, right down to the line's alignment. Despite using one fewer lineman in the base defense, McDaniel says UNM's nose guards typically still will lineup in the same gaps as they would in a 4-3.
2012 Lobo Spring Defensive Line:
"I have confidence in knowing that I have two guys that have played a lot of ball," McDaniel says. "For big guys, both have some quick-twitch (skill) and some suddenness to them that are going to help them going into the season.
"Reggie does a good job understanding what we're trying to do," McDaniel says. "A lot of guys can ask Reggie, `What am I doing here?' and he can give them a pretty good answer. He does a good job coaching on the field."
"Ugo is probably our best guy from the standpoint of a guy that has the combination of size with speed and quickness," McDaniel says. "From an athletic standpoint, he just gives you so much versatility. Fatu should be playing defensive end, but because of numbers is playing defensive tackle. He's a guy that pays attention to detail.
Senior Jake Carr and junior Jacori Greer are battling for playing time at the defensive end position. McDaniel calls Greer "one of the most coachable guys I've ever had the pleasure of coaching. He's locked in; he listens. He's always asking questions. However I tell him to do it, if I ask Jacori to tell me what I just said, he can reciprocate it back to me exactly the way I said it."
Carr, who is listed at 6-foot-3, 248 pounds, is the smallest among the linemen, and McDaniel says his technique must be flawless for him to compete.
"That has to be a big part of his game when he's up against 310-pound (offensive linemen), McDaniel says. "The thing we need to do is get his weight up, but he expect him to make plays for us."
McDaniel says he won't go more than two-deep at any position on the line in the fall, but wants to have eight to 10 players ready to play. Some of the players have defined their roles during spring, but when the team reconvenes in August for fall camp and four freshmen linemen arrive (Darian Allen, Gerron Borne, Paytron Hightower and Dominic Twitty), the competition begins all over.
"The biggest thing is we have to take pride in just our effort," McDaniel says. "That's the part we have to instill in ourselves that's going to set us apart. Our effort on the field on every snap is to go 100 miles per hour to the whistle.
"They have to take pride in themselves in their effort as players, and I have to do the same thing as a coach. Once they're prepared, it's their responsibility to execute, and it's going to start with fanatical effort."
Which doesn't seem so odd after all.