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Stevens: New Mexico Lobo Football Spring Preview Of Positions
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  03/22/2011
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

March 22, 2011

LOBO FOOTBALL -- 2011 SPRING PREVIEW

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

Mike Locksley has never had a problem accepting accountability. It comes with the job, comes with the hot seat of being the head guy for a marquee athletic program. He gets it.

This spring the New Mexico coach is emphasizing to a pack of Lobos that accountability also applies to scholarship athletes.

Or to throw out an old cliché: Do you talk the talk, or walk the walk?

"The big thing for us is to quit talking about what we want to do on the football field and go out there and take the action necessary to produce our beliefs and wants," said the third-year Lobo coach.

"Everybody on this team needs to be accountable in putting out the action that can produce the consequences and the results we believe we can obtain."

To be fair to Locksley, he hasn't had the horses to produce the results he was hired to produce. There has been a shortage of talent and depth that can be linked back to the previous regime and NCAA sanctions inherited. Locksley won't talk much about that.

But Locksley will throw out a harsh truth in shouldering the burden of accountability. "We have underachieved, too," he said. "We need to change that."

There are still a few holes and a lot of youth on the 2011 Lobos, but things are better. There is more talent, more depth, and young Lobos thrown into the fire of D-I competition are more seasoned. Now, they have to take a step up.

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"Everybody on this team needs to be accountable in putting out the action that can produce the consequences and the results we believe we can obtain."
Lobo Coach Mike Locksley
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"One of the toughest ingredients to develop in a young team is to get players to understand the level of action needed to produce the results they want," said Locksley. "If the action is just coming from your mouth, you aren't going to get those results.

"It takes guys time to understand the level of actions needed to produce a champion. Part of that is to have a blue-collar mentality."

The Lobos are a few recruiting classes away from talking about championships. However, improvement is within reach and even expected. Senior linebacker Carmen Messina sees one goal within this team's grasp. "I want to go to a bowl game and I want to get a bowl win," said Messina.

Said Locksley: "I'll be very disappointed if we don't put a product on the field that doesn't see us in a bowl game at the end of the year. Anything less than six wins for me, will be a disappointment."

The Lobos were 1-11 in 2009 and 1-11 in 2010, so the jump to six wins will be somewhat dramatic. Locksley believes the talent is there to make that jump, but that also means his Lobos need to perform - and work - at a higher level.

"All of our players have to embrace the urgency of getting better," said Locksley. "In the spring, that includes honing your skills fundamentally and technically."

Here is a look at the offense and defense heading into Locksley's third spring as a Lobo.

LOBO OFFENSE PREVIEW

Overview: The Lobos aren't changing anything here. It's still a no-huddle, quick-strike philosophy emphasizing balance in both the run and pass. The Lobos' biggest question mark is up front with an offensive line that still lacks depth. "We have lost a lot of players up front over the past few seasons and that means we have to develop that depth quickly," said Locksley.

The quarterback race looks like a dogfight between Stump Godfrey, Tarean Austin and B.R. Holbrook. The receiving corp. is impressive on paper, but needs to show it can make big catches and big plays between the lines. The running game also needs to take a step up and put the Lobos into better situations on second and third down.

The Quarterbacks

Things were looking pretty good in the huddle last season until the injury bug that bit this young team in most areas took a chuck out of B.R. Holbrook. Locksley then threw freshman Tarean Austin into the D-I fire and when he hurt an ankle, Stump Godfrey was pulled off redshirt status and handed the ball.

B.R. Holbrook will sit out spring after off-season knee surgery


The bad news was that UNM had to wade into one of the toughest schedules in D-I football hurting at arguably the most important position in the game. The good news is the young pups gained invaluable experience and Holbrook is expected to return healthy for fall ball.

For spring ball, Austin and Godfrey will get a lot of snaps trying to reduce the gap between them and Holbrook. There also is freshman Dustin Walton of Raton, N.M.

"Because of what B.R. has done for us, he has earned the right to be looked at as the No. 1 guy and compete to keep his spot," said Locksley. "Now, that doesn't mean he doesn't have to go out and prove he still our starter. It's just been our rule that a guy doesn't lose his position because of injury.

"I don't think either of the freshmen played at a higher level than where B.R was when he went down. But we will let the process run its course and see who emerges. The guy who gives us the best chance to win will be in the huddle. Everything is based on production."

The Running Backs:

The two standout returnees are Kasey Carrier and James Wright. Carrier is more the burst of speed while Wright is stomp and muscle. Carrier ran for 373 yards on 104 carries for a 3.6 average. Wright churned for 304 yards on 89 carries for a 3.4 average. Godfrey was the No. 3 rusher with 287 yards on 107 carries. His numbers were hurt by a minus yardage of 146.

RB Kasey Carrier


"Kasey and James have been in our system for three years and they know what is expected," said Locksley. "I think there is a sense of urgency on James' part. He is senior, who has the ability to be a big-time player."

The Lobos lost Demond Dennis (155 yards, 3.7 average) at that spot, but there is depth in Demarcus Rogers (5-11, 185), Brandon Lewis (5-11, 190) and fullback Chris Biren.

"We still need to improve production on the ground," said Locksley "Running the ball opens up our throwing game. If we expect to have success throwing the ball, we have to have success running the ball.

"I'm a big believer in balance and that means being able to do both efficiently. We need to lessen the number of times we are in second-and-long or third-and-long situations. We need to produce a percentage of situations that favor the offense converting the first down. You do that by running the football."

The Wide Receivers / Tight Ends

The "hands" department on the Lobo football team is a paradox, of sorts. The Lobos appear to be loaded here, but several of the "hands" expected to have big seasons in 2011 are unproven as Lobos. Their talent is indisputable.

"This is an area that should be a position of strength for us," said Locksley.

The Lobos return some good hands people in Ty Kirk (38 for 477 yards) and tight end Lucas Reed (33 for 459). These are go-to receivers. Andrew Aho also is improving at the tight end spot behind Reed.

The Lobos also are expecting big things from a few first-year Lobos: Donnie Duncan, Lamaar Thomas, Martize Barr, Deon Long and Detchauz Wray. UNM also has talent coming back in Michael Scarlett and Quintell Solomon. The big loss is Chris Hernandez (35 for 246).

The Offensive Linemen

The obvious big loss is 6-5, 325-pound Byron Bell, but the Lobo Hitmen also are minus Karlin Givens, Mike Cannon and Maurice Mears. That's why one of Locksley's keys this spring is to develop depth on the O-line.

There is some talent and size here. Dillon Farrell has the size (6-5, 290) and the smarts to be one of the top centers in the Mountain West. Calvin McDowney (6-3, 340), if he makes a quick adjustment from JC ball to D-I ball, should be a good pickup at a guard spot. Ditto for transfer Korian Chambers (6-6, 322) at a tackle spot.

The Lobos return Michael Muniz (6-4, 284), Darryl Johnson (6-4, 305, out for spring ball), LaMar Bratton (6-2, 275 redshirt), J.V. Mason (6-4, 299) and Earl Johnson (6-4, 250 redshirt). UNM also will look for depth in Jon Washington (6-5, 303) and freshman Austin Weatherford (6-3, 295).

LOBO DEFENSE PREVIEW

The Lobos are switching to a 4-2-5 defense and changing their philosophy a bit up front and in the secondary. The Lobos need to be more physical on the line and put teams in bad second and third-down situations. UNM needs more sacks and the Lobos have to cut down on the number of big plays allowed in the secondary.

UNM also needs a few defensive linemen to step up and have breakthrough seasons. An emphasis in recruiting this season was to improve the speed and athleticism in the secondary - a necessity in the 4-2-5, which eliminates a linebacker and adds a DB.

"We see so many spread offenses that the days of needing a third linebacker on the field are limited," said Locksley. "A hybrid position has been created where you need a player who has a linebacker's toughness and mentally to play the run, but who also has the speed and the skills of a DB. "

The Defensive Backs

There is some good experience returning in DeShawn Mills, Anthony Hooks, Emmanuel McPhearson, A.J. Butler and Bubba Forrest. But Locksley is hoping these 2010 starters are looking over at all the talent waiting to jump into that secondary.

DB Bubba Forrest


"The quickest place to get beat is in the secondary," said Locksley. "We had too many breakdowns and there were times we weren't athletic enough to catch people. We had to improve our production on the backside. There is competition now, and if a guy isn't getting the job done, there is a guy in his hip pocket ready to play."

The influx of talent in UNM's receiving corps and in the secondary is impressive. At both positions, the Lobos might see some new starters in the fall of 2011. The athleticism takes a huge bump behind transfers Destry Berry and DeShon Marman and freshman Devonta Tabannah.

There also is some depth provided by returnees Carmeiris Stewart, Freddy Young, Dante Caro, Jamarr Lyles, Chance Aven and redshirt freshman Chase Clayton.

"We have the talent and the depth in the secondary to create competition and demand production and efficiency," said Locksley. The Lobos' five-man secondary will include two corners, a safety, a wolf and a Lobo.

The Defensive Line

"We will be more aggressive," said Locksley. "We will attack more and put more pressure on the offense and have less gap control."

It has been said that if you are the meanest, the baddest (cq) and the toughest, you can get by with a read & react, gap-control defense. If you aren't Ohio State or Florida, you had better beat the massive lineman across the way before he beats on you.

The Lobos plan to "charge" in 2011, using their quickness to confuse slower offensive linemen before they can read and react.

The Lobos were expecting to make a huge impact on games in 2011 with an impressive array of talent on the D-line. It didn't happen. Locksley is expecting that impact to hit in a smash-mouth way in 2011.

"I think defensively we underachieved in a lot of areas," said Locksley. "This year we are turning our guys loose. Our line will be given the chance to use its quickness and get up the field (attack)."

The Lobos return a solid crop of talent up front on defense: Jaymar Latchison, Ugo Uzodinma, Brett Kennedy, Reggie Ellis, J.J. Hugine, Calvin Smith, Omar Castillo, Jake Carr, Jacori Greer and Joe Harris (moved from LB). The major loss is the tough Peter Gardner (DT) and maybe Johnathan Rainey (DE), who is still sitting out evaluating a neck injury.

There are lots of talented bodies there, but Locksley is demanding that a few of these linemen have breakout seasons and become impact players up front. That means get to quarterbacks, get to running backs. The UNM D-line returns only one player, who made UNM's Top Ten tackling chart in 2010 - Latchison, with 44 tackles.

"This is a big year for Jaymar," said Locksley. "He needs to step out of the shadows and make this a statement season for him. Ugo and Reggie came here as transfers after redshirting a year. They hadn't played football in two years and at times it showed. They need to make an impact for us up front, too."

The Linebackers

The competition for playing time at this position intensifies for two obvious reasons: Javarie Johnson and the loss of one linebacker spot in the switch to the 4-2-5.

Johnson was good enough to make an impact in 2010, but had to sit out a season as a transfer from Maryland. The 6-3, 210 pounder is impressive and won't be kept off the field in 2011. He had talent in front of him in senior Carmen Messina (6-2, 240) and Joe Stoner (5-10, 224).

Messina battled through injuries most of 2010, but still ended up as UNM's No. 1 tackler with 115. Stoner had a breakout season with 67 tackles. That trio alone gives UNM front-line talent and depth in the two positions, but there is more talent chomping on the bit to take the field.

Spencer Merritt (6-2, 220) and Dallas Bollema (6-2, 225) had a solid year with 63 and 39 tackles, respectively. Zach Daugherty (6-foot, 205), a redshirt freshman also adds to the talent and depth.

Saturday, November 01
3:30 PM - 
Football
at UNLV
Saturday, November 08
5:00 PM - 
Football
vs. Boise State
Saturday, November 15
TBA - 
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at Utah State
Saturday, November 22
11:30 AM - 
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at Colorado State
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