April 26, 2012
Today's story on the wide receivers 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
Taylor Stubblefield doesn't want incompletions.
The term has a different mean now from when he was a prolific wide receiver at Purdue University, where left with a then-NCAA record 316 career receptions from 2001-04.
As a first-year wide receivers coach at the University of New Mexico, Stubblefield now has broadened the definition in referring to his position group.
"They need to be complete receivers," he says. "When I talk to these guys, I'm not talking to them about being a great blocker and being just OK in the pass concepts or being a great pass-catcher and just OK in the blocking game. I'm trying to develop complete receivers.
"If we have to package things around, it's because you're not becoming a complete receiver. That's the one thing about this position that sometimes gets a bad rap - that we're just a bunch of pretty boys who don't like to get dirty."
Fortunately, Stubblefield has a strong group to mold toward that end. The Lobos have a mix of experience and youth with ability being the common theme for both.
Senior Ty Kirk is No. 10 all-time on the UNM career receptions list. Senior Quintell Solomon is coming off a career-best 18 receptions for 184 yards in 2011. Senior Lamaar Thomas, a transfer from Ohio State is finally ready to show the world why the Buckeyes originally signed him.
"I've been impressed with the three seniors," Stubblefield says. "I did not expect them to be as far along as they are."
2012 Lobo Spring Wide Receivers:
Thomas, as he was when he first arrived in 2010 for spring practice, was one of the stars on the team. He's starting at the H or inside wide receiver position, which is designed for a shiftier player who has to catch the ball in traffic as well as block the occasional linebacker.
"For Lamaar, this is probably the first time since he's really been able to show what he can do," Stubblefield says. "Along with that comes the responsibility of being a senior leader. The guys are ready to listen to somebody, and hopefully that's him. He's getting better at it. But he competes and competes and competes, and that's probably his strong suit."
Kirk plays at the X position, which along with the Z, is the taller wide receiver whose job it is to stretch the field. Stubblefield strives to get Kirk, who tied for the team lead with 47 receptions but had just 376 yards, to stretch his play to another level.
"Kirk is someone who his whole career - whether it's high school or college - it's come easy for him," Stubblefield says. "If you look at his career, he's been good. If you look at his track career, it's been good. Now, it's time for him to focus and be more competitive to be great."
Solomon is at the Z position, which also stretches the field. Though he's always had a slender build, Stubblefield wants him to become more physical.
"He needs to continue to work hard," Stubblefield says. "What I mean by work hard is in the run game, in the blocking game. I like Q; his attitude has changed. His body language has changed."
Behind them is a promising group of underclassmen still trying to find how they fit with the team.
Sophomore Daniel Adams looks the part of a star-in-the-making at the X position, but he has to work on his consistency.
"I'm impressed with the talent level of (sophomore) Daniel Adams," Stubblefield says. "He has tremendous upside to him. (During Monday's practice), we saw glimpses of what he could be, which is an absolute, big-time, prime-time Sunday-type player. His competitiveness needs to rise up a little bit; his focus needs to get up a little bit."
Sophomore Donnie Duncan and redshirt freshman walk-on Jason Sandoval are backing up Thomas inside.
"Donnie is young, has a lot to learn and has a ton of ability," Stubblefield says. "His biggest deal is he's got to get in the play book, trust himself and trust his coaches. Once he does that, the sky's the limit."
Sandoval, a 2011 graduate of Onate, tried out for the team in February, made the squad and started to see his role increase toward the end of the spring.
"The thing he's done is competed and learned," Stubblefield says. "He adds an element of quickness. He's busting his butt on special teams. I'm excited about the progress he's made, and it's going to light a fire under some of the other guys."
Sophomore Jeric Magnant, from Rio Rancho High School, was pressed into service last season because of injuries to others at the position, and he has benefited from that experience as he looks to back up at the Z position.
"Jeric is the best technician of the group," Stubblefield says. "Jeric has a place to contribute on this team, but he needs to feel confident in what we do as an offense and what his responsibilities are. If he continues to learn his plays and understand what he's doing, he will play considerably this fall."
Stubblefield admits he's a demanding coach, just trying to get the best out of his players. He understands their mentality, having played the part himself in college. Despite his success at Purdue, he says there's more to his career that his protégés can learn.
"There are some things to learn from my story," Stubblefield says. "I wasn't the best guy in the weight room; I blocked when I wanted to. When I was challenged, I blocked my butt off; other times I didn't. So when I reflect back and look at what I was, I want these guys to be better than me."
Which may be why Stubblefield is making such an investment into his wide receivers - because he has unfinished business dealing with incompletions.