ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. --- If you come to visit Lobo Athletics and the University of New Mexico’s South Campus, you might need a hard hat. Pretty much everywhere you look, there is a construction project going on, from the just completed McKinnon Family Tennis Stadium to the Stadium West parking lot, there’s construction.
In fact, the list of current construction projects is well ... quite the list.
*The McKinnon Family Tennis Center
*The resurfacing and new infrastructure of a large portion of the Stadium West parking lot.
*A new Olympic Sports Weight Room, located on what was formerly the Linda Estes Stadium Court
*A reconstructed Lobo Football Weight Room, specific to the needs of the program
However, there is a bigger construction project going on, and that’s what head coach Bob Davie and his staff are cooking up with Lobo Football. Unlike the new football weight room project, which is blocked off so that only the finished product can be seen, Bob Davie’s reconstruction project has been very visible, and it will be live and on display starting August 30.
The project is in year three, and much like any construction project, day two is different than day one. Day one of construction is ceremonial shovels in the ground and day two is when the hard hats get to work. Not saying the first day of practice was ceremonial, but there was a definite feel of “get to work” in a crisp practice that spanned the better part of two hours of a picture perfect morning.
“I really like the feel of this team, just with the personnel that we have, the numbers that we have, and with our coaching staff,” said Davie, the project manager if you will.
The reconstruction of Lobo football under Davie has certainly seen a rise on the offensive side of the football, as UNM is one of four programs that has seen its scoring increase by 20 or more points from 2011 to 2013. The other three programs are Marshall, Ohio State and Florida State, and being mentioned with OSU and FSU is certainly a good thing.
Coach Davie hasn’t shied away from the fact that UNM has to get better defensively, and when it comes up with the media, his general answers have started with the some form of the phrase “no question”.
However, when you are in a construction project, you need tools. It could be argued in his first two years Davie went about rebuilding the team with a couple of hammers and a shovel. But three years of recruiting have him in a much better place. He certainly has a tractor or two to work with potentially.
If the players are your tools, UNM finally has a full compliment. The locker room certainly seems more crowded than in 2012, Davie’s first season. In camp is a full complement of players, and the roster is fairly stuffed, as the numbers indicate:
*Offensively there are 51 players (seven quarterbacks, 10 running backs, 13 receivers, six tight ends and 15 offensive linemen) and defensively there are 52 (19 defensive backs and 19 linebackers along with 14 defensive lineman). You can almost detect a grin when the coaches call for the “threes” to enter the field and they watch as 11 guys on the third team for each unit come off the field. In addition there are five specialists on the roster.
Davie reminisced about the numbers on media day, noting that UNM had such few numbers in his first go round that wide receiver Lamaar Thomas twice had to take regular reps at quarterback in close games due to injuries. He also noted that in his opening spring camp he had just five offensive linemen. Now he can wholesale line change them like a hockey coach.
In just his first two seasons, not only has Davie and his staff rebuilt a roster, but he has managed to end UNM’s winless streak in non-conference games, in games in Texas, and he owns a pair of Rio Grande Rivalry wins over New Mexico State. His seven wins in two seasons and 25 games more than double the total from the previous 40 games.
His construction project will probably never end (because let’s face it…you never stop building), but certainly he feels that energy with this team. “You know we have a lot of exciting things going on,” said Davie. “You look at that weight room project that’s going to be open when we come back from Ruidoso, you come out on these practice fields and this is as good a facility as there is.”
All of that excitement is building up towards the season opener on August 30 against UTEP at Branch Field at University Stadium, with kickoff slated for 6 p.m.
---written and photos by Frank Mercogliano, Asst. A.D. for Communications