SENIOR STRONG SAFETY Brandon Ratcliff
Senior Brandon Ratcliff was a first team all-Mountain West Conference selection in 2002 and was ranked No. 16 among the nation's strong safeties by The Sporting News in its 2003 preview. He began the 2003 season behind junior Josh Bazinet on the depth chart at wolf (strong) safety, but moved into the starting lineup at the lobo (free) safety spot, which is usually reserved for the best defensive athlete, at Texas Tech. He was the Mountain West co-Freshman of the Year along with Utah DE Jason Kaufusi in 2000. Ratcliff has 170 career tackles in 31 games, with 25 starts and brings a lot of passion and very good football instincts to the field. He is an excellent blitzer and real playmaker both at the line of scrimmage and in coverage, as well as a dangerous kick returner. This season Brandon has 26 tackles (18 solo) in his first 5 games of the season at both wolf (strong) and lobo (free) safety. H e has recorded 25 stops in 4 games (6.3 avg.) since becoming the starting lobo safety. Against New Mexico State, he made 4 stops (3 solo) and one of the plays of the game midway through the 3rd quarter when he scooped up teammate Gabriel Fulbright's fumble (following Fulbright's INT) and went 40 yards down the sideline to set up the Lobos' go-ahead field goal. In the Washington State game he had a season-high 9 tackles, including 1 tackle for loss in all 86 defensive snaps. Against BYU, Ratcliff registered 5 solo tackles in 68 defensive plays, while at Texas Tech he had 7 tackles (4 solo) in 77 snaps in his first career start at the lobo position. In 2002, Ratcliff was voted second team all-MWC by the Las Vegas Review Journal. He was fourth on the team and led members of the secondary with 73 tackles (32 solo). Ratcliff was also tied for third on the team with 13 tackles for loss, including 3.5 sacks and tied for the team-lead and second place in the MWC with 3 interceptions for 50 yards. Finally he led the team with 266 yards on 12 kick returns (22.2 avg.).
Question: What are your personal goals on the field for the rest of the 2003 season?
Brandon Ratcliff: "Make plays that win the game pr help setup our team to win the game."
Q: What does it take to become a first team all-conference selection?
BR: "You have to be a game breaker. This means being consistent in making plays that change the game in your team's favor and give your full ability and effort every game."
Q: Which part of your game do you feel you need to continue to work on to become a more complete player?
BR: "My man coverage skills and wrapping my arms around the player with the ball better when I tackle."
Q: What do you enjoy about returning kicks?
BR: "I have the chance to run the football and put the game in my hands and knowing that a huge return is bound to happen."
Q: What non-football talents or hobbies do you have? Which hobbies would you like to pick-up or improve off the field?
BR: "Basketball and freestyle rap. I want to become more disciplined at writing lyrics and verses."
Q: Who is the best player you have played with or against?
BR: "Last year against North Carolina State it seemed like that Phillip Rivers kept making plays exactly when his team needed them against us."
Q: Where's the toughest place you've had to play on the road and why?
BR: "Las Cruces, it always seems like we are playing against the Aggies and the officials."
Q: What's the best class you've taken at UNM and why?
BR: "In 2000, I took weight training during the season. In the past I hated to lift weights, but I felt my strength increase and that helped me in the fourth quarter of games to be strong and not fatigued."
Q: What do you and your teammates need to do to accomplish your team goals this season?
BR: "We need to score more and cause turnovers by the opposing team."
Q: What made you choose UNM? What impressed you?
BR: "This was the only school that I took an official visit to. They showed the most interest and at the time I didn't want to go to college close to Dallas."
Q: What is the difference between playing the wolf safety and lobo safety? Which do you prefer and why?
BR: "Playing wolf puts you close to the traffic and on one side of the ball and you blitz all the time. Lobo puts you in the middle of the field and you get to run around close to the ball. I prefer lobo because I feel this position fits my talents better then wolf."
Q: What is the best part of Rocky Long's defense?
BR: "The pressure that we put on the opposing offense. They don't have much time to run plays against the blitzing defense making them uncomfortable and turnover prone."
Q: What do you look for from the quarterback or wide receiver to help you cover pass plays?
BR: "First I see what formation they are in and then I look at how many steps the quarterback takes when he drops back. The routes are then complimentary to the steps taken by the quarterback. These keys give me an edge and sometimes I beat the receiver to where they are going."