April 29, 2012
This is the seventh story in a spring series on University of New Mexico football position breakdowns. Today, the offensive line; Next, the tight ends. Other position stories are:
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
It's been called "The Pit," "The Hole," "The Dungeon." It's a sunken area on the west side of the University of New Mexico Lobos' practice fields where Coach Jason Lenzmeier drags his offensive linemen for some isolated pounding.
It's not exactly a dungeon out of an Edgar Allen Poe horror story, but it's also not an easy place in which to descent.
You don't go into Lenzmeier's Lair unless you are tough. The idea is that you come out even tougher - with a bit of technique thrown in for good measure.
"We have a little dungeon off to the side," said Dillon Farrell, one of UNM's do-it-all offensive linemen. "We moved the cage to the bottom and we have our own little area."
If you have stood above this cavity and watched Lenz's Hitmen at work, you have heard the voice of Lenzmeier rifling over his troops in a blend of positive encouragement, technical input, and high demand. And sometimes he yells.
Coach Lenz is a motivator seeking perfection and his expectations for change and success come from roots that grew strong and passionate as a four-year starter at UNM. Lenzmeier talks a walk he has made in the same colors.
Said Lenz: "It's good to be home."
"He cares so much," said Farrell. "That makes us care even more. He cares about us, too, but it's not all just happy times with him. He likes to scream and he likes to get on you, but he is pushing you to be your best and that's what we need. Effort and passion is so important on the line."
The cage that Coach Lenz drags into his hole is one designed for Lobos to crawl under and pound on each other. The cage has a low roof which keeps the linemen low - shoulders and head down, butt down.
There is really only one way out of the cage. You knock your way through the guy in front of you. If you don't do it right, you stay in the cage a bit longer -- and Lenzmeier's voice rifles a bit longer.
"Coach Lenz keeps us in the cage for about 20 minutes hitting on each other," said Farrell. "We're making a tremendous effort to get better and so much of that is Coach Lenz pushing us. He has such a desire for us to get better.
2012 Lobo Spring
"You go out there and think about the team and your brothers next to you." - Dillon Farrell
One thing you can say about "Spring Ball 2012" is that the Lobo offensive linemen have had plenty of snaps to help with improvement.
In fact, Farrell and LaMar Bratton have taken every offensive snap when it's offense vs. defense. "It was tough. I won't sugarcoat it," said Farrell. These two massive Lobos will either start at center or at another spot on the line.
"I think our offensive line is tough, very tough," said Joseph Harris, a Lobo linebacker. "They lack in depth so they have been getting a lot of reps. It seems they are always out there.
"I have three guys backing me up and I know that sometimes I just need a break. I know that I can go my hardest every play because I'm going to get a break. They (O-line) have to go hard every snap and don't get much rest. I think that is really making them mentally tough."
Coach Bob Davie wrapped up his first spring as a Lobo in front of the media this past Thursday and when asked to point out positions that pleased him, he first went to the offensive line.
"I thought they had a good spring," said Davie. "For our offensive line to get through spring with as few bodies as we had, that's a testament right there."
Lenzmeier worked out eight offensive linemen in spring ball. That's about half of what a team prefers to have during a season. The Lobos' 2012 season might have been penciled out by Poe. It's a hill. UNM has 13 games with no "bye" week.
That makes two things critical for the fall of 2012: 1. Stay healthy. 2. Find a few freshmen bodies who can compete on what probably is the most demanding position for first-year football players.
The Lobo offensive line might be shallow in numbers, but because of the youth on that unit, a few Lobos picked up a lot of playing time in the 1-11 season of 2011.
Bratton had 12 starts at center, Chambers had 10 starts at tackle, Farrell had nine starts at tackle and Johnson had seven starts at tackle. The Lobos graduated guards Mike Muniz and Jon Washington off last year's team.
Lenzmeier obviously has some talent to work with, but the grind of a season is much more demanding than spring ball. Lenz needs to develop some young bodies - and quickly.
"The depth is in the back of your mind, but you can't think about it that much," said Farrell. "You go out there and think about the team and your brothers next to you."
Farrell said he is happy with the Lobo brothers he has next to him. However, he wouldn't mind adding to the family come fall.