By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
The committee of New Mexico Lobo running backs has been called to order and given their orders: replace Kasey Carrier -- not his unique style, but his impressive numbers.
Simply put: the Lobos need to run the football.
The Lobos’ identity on offense in 2012 and 2013 was throwing out an option attack that produced gaudy numbers on the ground. Carrier had 2,591 yards in those two seasons. The Lobos likely will enter the 2014 season with a committee of running back that should confuse the enemy with a variety of different styles and strengths.
“When we throw somebody out there, you (opposing defense) don’t know exactly what we are doing,” said Apollo Wright, New Mexico’s running backs coach. “We can change those guys up and keep the defense off balance.
“Everybody wants to be out there on the field, but it’s a committee thing and they all do something different. They all have their strong points. We are trying to do some different things on offense to help them out.”
The Lobos have a workhorse type in Crusoe Gongbay, who might be the frontrunner to anchor the backfield hole left by Carrier’s graduation. “Crusoe is a different runner than what we’ve had in the past,” said Wright. “He kind of sets a tone we can build off of.”
That tone is physicality. Gongbay is part fullback, part tailback. He is tough to bring down especially when he goes North to South – on a straight line to the goal line.
“A hungry Crusoe Gongbay will run your butt over. He is physical,” said Lobo Coach Bob Davie.
Said Gongbay: “I’m kind of the hard-nosed runner and then we have some shifty runners and some speed guys. We have a lot of looks. We are all over the place.”
For sure, the multiple looks in the UNM option is a weapon. But often a team whose signature is running the football looks for a signature back like Carrier. “Once somebody gets in a rhythm or a groove, you feed that horse,” said Wright. “But we have people who can come in and do a lot of different things.”
If the Lobos don’t have a back that separates from the pack or the committee, the Lobos probably will be going with a one-two or one-two-three punch. That’s not so bad either.
“You can never have enough running backs particularly as much as we run the football and the physical style of football we play,” said Davie. “It’s kind of fun to see different guys with different skill sets and a bunch of hungry guys who want to get on that field.”
The Lobo committee of running backs is hungry and they know they will have to bring their hard hats and their lunch pails into the 2014 season. They will be put to work. The Lobos had 40 rushing TDs in 2013 which ranks second on the school’s all-time single-season list. New Mexico was No. 8 in the nation in rushing last season at 308.8 yards per game.
“That’s our identity right now on offense,” said Davie. “We have to run the football to be successful.”
Gongbay, Jhurell Pressley and Teriyon Gipson are the top returning backs. They combined for 885 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns in 2013. The Lobos also will use David Anaya, Romell Jordan and Dameon Gamblin in the backfield. The Lobos will have power runners, speed runners, quick-hitting runners and shifty runners.
“We take a lot of pride in our running game,” said Gipson. “There is no selfishness out there. I love when Crusoe scores and he loves it when I score.”
The Lobos likely will throw out formations with a single back and formations with two and three backs. And the UNM quarterbacks have good feet, too.
“It puts a little less pressure on me,” said Gongbay of UNM’s depth in the backfield. “I don’t feel I have to make a play every down. There are some other guys who can make plays. We are out there helping each other, working together.”
Gipson is a runner who will add some explosiveness to the backfield.
“He is the guy we saw on the high school tape,” said Davie, who said his coaching staff called Gipson “Magic Man,” while watching that tape. “He really made things happen in an electrifying way. He has been impressive out here. He has some elusiveness and he’s tough.”
The 5-foot-8, 165-pound Gipson can explode. He was the Texas Class 11-4A Offensive Player of the Year in 2012 running for 1,720 yards and 21 touchdowns. He only had 38 carries for UNM in 2013 as Carrier had 189 carries, Cole Gautsche had 118 carries and Gongbay had 97. The 2013 freshman also had some learning to do.
“Last year I was just out there running,” said Gipson. “This year I know where to go.
“We have a bunch of talented backs out here. I think we are going to get the job done. We have so many packages. An opponent won’t know who is getting the ball or where the ball is going.”
True. But there is one thing an opponent will know about UNM. The Lobos will be running it.