By Greg Archuleta
UNM Assistant Director of Communications
The next step for the University of New Mexico football program began shortly before 4 p.m. on Tuesday.
About two minutes into the first spring practice of 2014, the Lobo coaches already were demanding more of the players – finishing drills at full speed, paying attention to detail, know what to do without having to be reminded.
The Lobos have spent the last two seasons changing the culture of a program that had won just three of 36 games prior to coach Bob Davie’s arrival – laying a foundation that involved restoring scholarship numbers and implementing the “Outwork, Outhit, Out-discipline” edict coach Bob Davie demanded.
As they enter spring practice, the program now is on a mission to implement the next phase of the culture change.
“Good first day,” Davie said at the end of the two-hour session on the Lobo practice football fields, “but it should be a good first day. As I told these players, it’s personal. It’s not like we won 10 games last year or went to a bowl game or had a winning season. It’s personal, everything we do. There’s such an urgency and I think you can really sense that.
“That’s the No. 1 thing I take from today; there is an urgency in all of us to get this right. We’re unscored and undefeated so life’s good right now.”
Close to 100 players suited up for the first of 15 practices that will run through April 26 – about 20 more than Davie and the coaching staff had in 2012 when they held their first spring practice. Greater competition across the board is taking shape, and the coaching staff can begin to focus on strategy to move the program forward, rather than figure out how to merely survive.
Instead of three quarterbacks in camp (as they had in 2012), the Lobos had six. Instead of eight offensive linemen practicing, 15 were available, even though redshirt freshman Devon Bennett is out while recovering from an injury.
“I think it’s obviously night and day (from his first spring practice) and it should be,” Davie said. “And that doesn’t mean we’ve done anything out of the ordinary, it should be that way.”
Davie’s teams in 2012 and 2013 combined for seven wins – equaling the amount of wins the programs earned during its previous four seasons combined (2008-11). But the man who has engineered the program back from the abyss also remains the program’s harshest critic.
“It’s time for us now to take the next step and start to play the game the way it’s supposed to be played,” Davie said. “And such a big part of it is getting guys to just play hard and let it rip. That’s something I’ve always taken great pride in as a coach, and it’s something we’ve not accomplished yet.
“We have not done that yet where we just consistently go out there and everybody watching us play walk away and say, “You know, that team just really, really plays hard. That’s something I take personal. That’s our thing right now. It’s all about getting guys from point A to point B, playing the way you’re supposed to play and that’s a huge challenge right there, trust me.”
In that blunt assessment, optimism abounds because for the first time in three seasons, the Lobos are in a position to do something about their situation, rather than just trying to figure out how to live through it.