New Mexico Lobos Football – 2014 Season
1st practice: Thursday (July 31) at Lobo Practice Fields
1st Practice in Ruidoso: Tuesday (Aug. 5)
1st Game: Aug. 30 (Saturday), Branch Field at University Stadium
By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
The evolution of the Bob Davie era of Lobo football raises the curtain of scrutiny Thursday afternoon on Season Three and Davie expects a season of “many twists and turns.”
Yeah, there is still some rebuilding going on and this is still a baby-faced football team with only 15 seniors on the roster.
But there also is Lobo talent and Lobo numbers that have Davie entering his third season at the University of New Mexico with guarded but real optimism. His Lobos are growing. His Lobos are getting better.
“There is one more year of transition in building that foundation in the roster,” said Davie, whose Lobos open practice Thursday at the UNM practice fields. “But we have some legitimate guys in this program. We have some talent.
“I’m excited about where we are. There are a lot more positives than negatives. We have done a lot. We are in a position for the first time to gain some traction and gain some momentum in this program that will continue to multiply over the years.”
The numbers thing is important especially since the talent factor in those numbers has improved. Davie’s Lobos are bigger, faster and stronger. But there is still a gap that UNM needs to shorten and ultimately that proof comes via the scoreboard.
A huge key for that scoreboard is seeing smaller numbers on the opponents’ side.
“They (defense) stepped their game up,” said quarterback Cole Gautsche, one of 102 Lobos who begin fall drills on Thursday. “We’re making strides in the right direction on the defensive side of the ball.”
Said DB Cranston Jones: “I think we’ll be a whole lot better.”
The Lobos don’t dodge the obvious entering the 2014 season. The 2013 UNM defense gave up too many yards, gave up too many points, and spent too much time on the field allowing teams to march. That needs to change.
Davie restructured his defensive staff in the off-season and one emphasis under first-year defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove is to structure a unit with a junkyard dog identity – with a growl-and-bite attitude. Jones says it’s a unit that will “play with more intensity.”
Intensity is good. Tackles are good, too. Davie said he won’t go into the season necessarily looking for “three-and-outs,” from his UNM defenders. He is more interested in just getting the “outs” part: get the defense off the field and get the UNM pistol back on the field.
The Lobos’ identity on offense is not questioned. They run the ball with smash-mouth intensity and expect to do exactly that again in 2014. Maybe with some added aerial stuff. Maybe.
“We can do just what we’re doing (option) and win,” said Davie. “I think we are very progressive on offense. I think we are ahead of the curve on offense.”
Davie says the Lobos will pass “only if it helps us, only if we can do it.” Of course, Davie is hoping his Lobos can do it. The evolution of the UNM running game has been amazing considering the youth that Davie has leaned on to construct this run-fueled attack. But the running game doesn’t work 100 percent of the time. A tool belt is more intimidating when there are more tools handy and effective.
“We are in an offense that we can throw it,” he says. “I want to be balanced.”
That balance also applies to a Davie team that can be effective on both sides of the football. Davie has a few holes to fill on the offensive side especially on the O-line and in the backfield. But there is no reason to think this unit won’t move the football and put numbers on the scoreboard.
The UNM defense needs to make dramatic improvements and Davie knows the proof of that improvement doesn’t come from words tossed out in a press conference, but will be found “on the field.”
“On defense,” he said, “we have a lot of players. There are some guys there. But will they do it? We have a lot of depth, but is there that much difference between them? And who is going to separate themselves (from the pack)?”
Said Gautsche: “There are always people who emerge every year.”
In a simplistic way, that is one of the keys to UNM’s 2014 season. UNM needs execution, consistency, effort, attitude, a kicking game, some good fortune -- and a lot of other football stuff.
The Lobos also need some guys to emerge. The cocoons begin to crack open on Thursday.