Aug. 20, 2010
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
RUIDOSO -- In many ways, it is already "mission accomplished" for what the Lobos wanted to do in this luscious, mountain resort better known for skiing, fishing and horse racing. It was two weeks of football, two weeks of Lobo bonding, and not much else.
"We eliminated all the distractions and concentrated solely on football," said Bubba Forrest, a University of New Mexico defensive back.
Said Lobo Coach Mike Locksley: "This camp has exceeded my expectations. It has been an exceptional team-building experience."
The team building stuff is good stuff, no doubt. Chemistry helps. But the camp that allowed Lobo players to take their football focus to another level also emphasized many of the game's basics that UNM needs to carry throughout the season.
The Lobos will throw those basics onto the football field in Ruidoso one final time Saturday at 5:30 p.m. in a controlled scrimmage emphasizing certain situations the Lobos expect to see time and time again during the 2010 season.
After the scrimmage, UNM will bus back to Albuquerque and add some more polish prior to their Sept. 4 opener at nationally-ranked Oregon. The Lobos have learned much. There is much more to learn.
One thing the Lobos learned is how to not think about thinking.
"Our guys are thinking a lot faster. They aren't thinking about thinking," said Darrell Dickey, UNM's offensive coordinator. "They know the system so much better. They still have to go up to the line and read things, think about things, but now it's almost a reaction. There is a lot of improvement and we are very pleased."
The Lobo offense has been particularly impressive in Ruidoso. UNM went into camp looking to improve the run game which in turn would improve the balance of this quick-strike, no-huddle attack. You run better, you pass better. You pass better, you run better.
"We are better in both areas," said Dickey. "The process of information is so much quicker and that allows for more efficiency. There is so much more retention with the guys. We are much better than a year ago."
Simply put, the Lobos are more familiar with the Locksley system and their roles within that system.
That's a much needed improvement based on a Lobo schedule that opens with Oregon, Texas Tech and Utah. You look across the line of scrimmage at Ducks, Red Raiders and Utes and you had better know what you are doing and then do it in a hurry - the right way.
One thing Dickey is hoping to see in Saturday's scrimmage is consistent efficiency. To put it another way: Dickey wants to eliminate drive killers - fumbles, dropped passes, penalties, and missed assignments.
"We need to eliminate the play or two where the consistency isn't there," he said. "We need to keep moving the football. That means we need to eliminate mistakes."
The Lobo defense hasn't exactly rolled over for the Lobo offense, but the offense, behind quarterback B.R. Holbrook, has been putting up some impressive numbers - on the ground, in the air. Locksley has been impressed with this positive movement of the football.
"I think the offense took a bigger step than I expected," said Locksley. "One area that has surprised me is the depth we are building up front on the offensive line. There have seen several guys step up. That's something we really needed.
"And B.R. Holbrook has a stranglehold on knowing our system. He is putting himself into position to be our No. 1 quarterback."
Said receiver Ty Kirk: "The offense is just more together this year. We are in the second year in the system and it just makes a big difference."
The Lobos surely will miss the cool mountain air of Ruidoso and the hospitality shown by the citizens of this special city. But school starts on Monday. Remember, these are student-athletes.
"It was nice up here, all business, all football," said Lobo Emmanuel McPhearson.
Said Coach Dickey: "I had never gone away to a fall camp before and I think this has been one of the greatest learning environments I've ever been around. The whole team has been able to concentrate entirely on football and it has been great for us."