By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
It’s not that a day goes by without Bob Davie and his staff teaching something to the New Mexico Lobos. This Xs and Os thing is really an A to Z thing and then back again. There are a lot of formations, techniques, schemes, rules, etc., to learn about football.
There are 22 players out on field and each player has a specific role or assignment to carry out. The 11 on defense try to react to what the 11 on offense are doing. The 11 on offense have their jobs to carry out. There also are one-on-one reactions.
It’s a complicated game.
Wednesday at Camp Ruidoso was a day carved out with a heavy lean to pure instruction. The Lobos took to the White Mountain Sports Complex in jerseys, shorts and cleats for a walk-through that didn’t include pads, helmets, blocking or tackling.
In some ways, it’s one of the more interesting days to watch Lobo practice because it exposes the intricacies of the game. There is a lot of detail that goes into placing a polished offense and a polished defense on the field.
A football walk-through is similar to a walk-through for a play or any major production. The Lobo coaches give a thorough explanation of what a player is expected to do on a certain play, in a specific situation or alignment. The Lobos learn this stuff in meeting rooms and in film sessions, but it’s also necessary to take the teaching to the turf.
The Lobo defense was stacked up against a variety of offensive sets. It’s not as simple as lining up here when the offense lines up there.
The offense can move, shift, go in motion, and give you a variety of looks in the backfield. The offensive line can line up tight or with space between the linemen. You might have three receivers to one side.
The defense has to know its shape as well as its assignments.
Kevin Cosgrove, UNM’s first-year defensive coordinator, threw a lot of offensive looks at his defense in anticipation of what his Lobos might see during the season and also during New Mexico’s season-opener on Aug. 30 vs. the UTEP Miners.
Cosgrove would give his defensive front and his linebackers a variety of looks and make sure they knew the correct way to respond. Ditto for the defensive backs.
Over on an adjacent field, Bob DeBesse, UNM’s offensive coordinator, was doing similar things with his offense, but there was more emphasis on execution and timing for an obvious reason. The offensive shape usually dictates the defensive shape.
But not always.
The offense has blocking assignments that can change based on how a defense choses to lineup. An offense might be looking at four down linemen on one play and three the next play. Who do you block? An offense might be looking at three down linemen and four linebackers. Who do you block if the linebackers move and pinch the corners? Assignments change if you have a tight end on the line.
And here comes a safety blitz. Who has that guy?
DeBesse spent time Wednesday on UNM’s hurry-up offense because it’s extremely important that a hurry-up offense runs smoothly. If you are trying to come from behind in a game, or score with a clock fading away, it’s critical that you don’t shoot yourself in the foot with a penalty.
And if you get yourself in position for a last-second field goal, you have to make sure the right people are on the field – and quickly.
The Lobos will take to the practice fields on Thursday in full gear. The teaching will continue. The learning will continue.
But there will be hitting.