ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. --- Lobo head football coach Bob Davie held his weekly press conference on Tuesday in the Zia Level of the football press facility as a part of UNM’s weekly fall sports media luncheon. Here is what the head coach had to say about this week’s game with UTEP on Saturday night at 6:06 p.m. at Branch Field at University Stadium.
Bob Davie: Well, next week’s press conference is a lot more important and a lot more accurate than this press conference. They are going on all over the country right now. (The) team is getting ready to play their first game of the year. I would say 100 percent, if I had to get out on a limb and make a guess, 100 percent of the coaches in these press conferences are encouraged. That’s the great thing about this game is that every year everybody is 0-0 starting out. A bunch of us trying to be 1-0. Fifty percent will be and 50 percent will be 0-1. So, you guys I’ve been doing this a long time. You’ve been doing it a long time. Nobody knows. The reality is that nobody knows and that’s what’s fun about it. That’s why people should buy tickets. People should come out and watch this game because there’s two really evenly matched teams.
It probably was less than an inch if we look closely at it from last year’s game. It is two programs that we like to think and we know that we’ve worked very hard. I promise you they’ve worked just as hard. Their coaches have grinded it, their coaches have recruited. Their strength coach does a great job. They had a good camp. We had a good camp. That’s why we go play the game. So I can stand up here and talk a lot about what I think is going to happen. We all try to control the environment. Coaches you know are control freaks. And you control it in practice, right? You make your own practice schedule. You make your own practice plan. Okay, we are going to scrimmage this on these days and focus this on this day. We’re going to work this against this. And all of a sudden you get in that game and it just (snaps fingers) it’s a bit of chaos. So I’m excited. I’m really looking forward to this. I hope all of you are. And again next we will know a lot more about this football team. They are so much like us. You look at them as they finish the season last year. They weren’t playing with their quarter back. Ours was out at the end of the year. They kind of faded off at the end of the season, like we did. You know they are going to line up on offense. You know their head coach is an offensive line coach. Played on the offensive line at UTEP. He coached in the NFL . And you see that personality with their team.
You know they’re not going to be a spread out team. They’re going to line up and run the ball right at us. They have two big offensive guards, one 320, one 315, both redshirt freshman. They have a center that actually was a teammate of Cole Juarez’s at Riverside community college. They have two tackles that played last year. One of them has been nicked up a little bit. They have a giant tight end. In that league not many teams play with tight ends. They have a tight end that is 6-foot-7 and about 255. Number 87 caught thirty-something balls last year. He is the preseason conference USA tight end pick. They got the quarterback (and he) is a good player. He was at Texas A&M … came down to Johnny Manzel or Showers and he went off to UTEP. Really played well early in the season then was injured. Big strong guy that can take off and run. He is a good player and I think their two tailbacks … really their three tail backs. They got a tailback number 29 that was a freshman last year and had 120 yards on us. Had 120-some against Louisiana Tech. He had 190 against Rice. Rice is a good football team. Kid ran for 190 yards against Rice. And the backup tailback I think he had 125 against FIU. Then the third tailback is the kick returner. Number 8. He is as good as there is in the country at that. So they’re really a talented big offensive football team. Their one receiver is a giant … he played a lot last year. On defense they are probably a lot like us. Its their second year in the scheme. Their defensive coordinator was on the staff with Bob DeBesse and Derek Wareheim for the entire time at Sam Houston.
It’s not a question if they understand our offense. They do. If they understand their defense . They do. It comes down to our guys against their guys. They will be a four man front. They’ll play a lot of man coverage and they’ll put the corners right up on you. Bump and run. They won’t be as running wide open on play action because they’re a man to man team. It’s not like a zone team that gets caught with their eyes caught up back in the back field. They’re going to make you earn what you get.
Kicking game. You know their punter is back. Their kicker is back. Their deep snapper is back. They were actually ahead of us in kickoff returns last year. They made a really big focus on special teams. They kind of rearranged their staff a little bit to do things a little bit different philosophically. So, man, it should be a really great game. It really should. It’s a great rivalry. I remember last year down there I was really impressed with their fan support, the atmosphere in that stadium. I expect us to have the same here. Its going to be a fight to see who comes out of it 1-0, and have some momentum going on early in the season. It’s a big game. I’m not going to minimize that, and stand here and say well every game here is important. The first game is really important. It’s important for them. It’s important for us.
So again your guess is as good as mine. I know as we stand here and function day-to-day. We are markedly improved and I’m sure UTEP would say the same thing. I can only judge it so far in what we’ve seen against ourselves. We’ve come along way. I can promise you that. And guys I’d be more than happy to answer anything. Who’s up first. Ricky you take it.
I talked to David Guthrie down on the practice field. And he was talking about what a good look you were getting from the scout team. Is that maybe a function of the depth and quality you are looking at.
Bob Davie: No question. We have 112 guys out there on the field. There is only nine of them that we didn’t bring into this program over the last three years. You know that statistic, which is really remarkable. Which for you guys, you probably don’t have much to compare it to unless you just go really do a search. Like, Fresno State how many guys they have in their program or Colorado State guys they have in their program where there’s third-year head coaches. But there’s no question about it. You can stand out there and look at the quality from top to bottom out there on that field. Now does that mean we are going to be good enough, fast enough as we approach this first week I don’t know. There’s no guarantees. The scout team look now is much improved and we are not in a situation where there has to be so much quantity. Our schemes are established now so we don’t have to have those mindless reps of quantity … of quantity … of quantity. We can do more just quality of work. A little bit shorter practices a little bit higher level of Xs and Os on the field. And you know it looks more like it’s supposed to look. So hopefully we’ll see that Saturday.
Coach do you expect another high scoring game like last year where like you said the defensives have improved but maybe not so much.
Bob Davie: I have no idea. Honestly, this day and age of college football most games seem to be high scoring. You look at the personnel on their offense and it’s pretty probably ahead of the defense because of the quarterback and the two running backs are back. I have no idea … it’s two defensive staffs that have a lot of expertise. Have a lot of experience. It’s two defensive staffs that have a lot of pride. There are players that have been beaten up in both programs from reading those statistics from last year. I don’t know how many articles we start off with every time New Mexico football’s mentioned its 119th in this and if I was writing the article I would say the same thing. But at some point you would think the defensive coaches and defensive players get tired of reading that the whole season and I hope both defenses respond and play to be honest.
Coach would you just talk about Carlos Wiggins after having such a great year last year and how much that has helped his confidence.
Bob Davie: Yeah, I think again, I don’t want to be the downer all the time. I think it’s important to be realistic. I guess he had a great year last year. You know he returned some kickoffs for touchdowns. We had Chase Clayton kind of do the same thing the year before to be quite honest. He did some good things. He touched the ball and had some good plays. I expect a lot more from Carlos Wiggins. And I’ll be disappointed if we don’t get a lot more. I think he’s matured, he’s stayed healthy through camp. I do think we have different ways to get him the ball a little bit more. But he has to go through it. Let’s not anoint him just yet. I know he’s one of the few guys we have that really are returning players that people really have seen success. But I get a little bit nervous when we start anointing guys. It’s just something that we will see. We will see. But I’m expecting some good things from Carlos.
Coach in my experience in covering sports I always thought that in football more than any other sport, the season opener meant more in terms of setting the tone for the season more than any other sport. Through your career when you look back on a lot of the seasons that you’ve had do you think about ‘if this could have happened or that could have happened in that season opener’ … how big is it compared to other sports.
Bob Davie: I can think of a lot of them. And I think you’re pretty accurate with that because in this game you only play 12 of them. You know I’m not sure Jeff Nelson (volleyball) or how many they play. Ray Birmingham (baseball) probably plays 60 of them. Basketball plays, what, 30 of them. We play 12 of them. And you divide it by 12 instead of 60 to see how big they are. And you know and I don’t know. I can think back. I remember, I guess, it was my second year at Notre Dame when I was a defense coordinator. We lost to Northwestern at home. It was the first game of the year. Northwestern with Gary Barnett came in there to South Bend and beat us. And that’s before Northwestern was the Northwestern everybody knows. And it was sort of the launching point of their program. And it certainly launched them. And I remember around that campus on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, it was like a funeral. It affected every professor. It affected every student. That one. That one lingers with me the most.
You know we’ve had some good ones. When I was at Texas A&M as the defensive coordinator we opened up with Stanford one year in the Big Kickoff Classic and it was Bill Walsh’s first game back into college football after all the years and success he had I think we held them to seven points and we jumped ahead and won that game. But I think you make a very valid point that it is 1/12th of your season. Certainly the mood of your fans is impacted by it, particularly when you are in a program that’s building. You know when you talk about being better and our 112 guys are better that they were and your future’s bright. At some point you got to show it to people and you got to prove it. So, yeah there’s a lot riding. And I do think you can rebound from it. You know they always say the most improvement you make is from the first game to the second game, that’s probably true. I just hope we are trying to make that improvement with a great attitude next week when we’re 1-0.
Coach, is there an expected surprise or a positive result of the spring and fall practices that’s now a big strength of your team?
Bob Davie: Well, Henry, there’s a lot of great stories out there. If the stories, potential, I would say great stories if the stories play out. You know Paytron Hightower, he’s a young man that came in here and played as a freshman. He had some medical situations last year and we redshirted him. He started out at the defensive end and he has a tremendous upside. We have two junior college players starting on defense that have never stepped on a Division I/FBS field before. You know Cole Juarez is starting at nose guard. He wasn’t even here in the spring. Ryan Langford is starting at inside linebacker and split time with Kimmie Carson. Kimmie Carson was a redshirt last year. We have two sophomore corners starting. I.B. Brown and Jadon Boatright … Reno Henderson his first game. He grew up in Florida and went to NMMI. NMMI is a tough place. He’s at NMMI, he comes here, he redshirted last year and he has three years of football. Lamar Jordan our little quarterback. I think he’ll probably play in the game, number 13. He was going to Arkansas. All of a sudden he didn’t go to Arkansas because they got a new coaching staff. He’s here now. He’s had a good camp. I expect to play a lot of guys. And there’s a lot of guys I’m really anxious to see play. And there’s a lot of guys you’re going to see playing around here for the next two or three or four years. I can keep going.
Sam Mabany is probably going to get in this football game. A guy that was in Sudan seven years ago. Garret Hughes is a true freshman defensive end that’s going to play in this game. Donnie White, Tevon Newman is a guy that hasn’t played in the game yet. Our kicker, Zack Rogers, from Rio Rancho-State Wrestling Champion. State Wrestling Champion is going to kick and punt for us and he’s never even stepped on a field yet. We got a true freshman kickoff guy, right. Quinton McCown is going to hold for us. He was out heer my first year when we had no quarterbacks and he looked like a baby lamb. He looked so weak kind of floating around. There’s a lot of great stories. Kevin Cosgrove … first game calling our defense for us after so many years doing that at other places. You know there’s a lot of neat stuff so I don’t know if I answered your question but I’m looking forward to it.
Coach, last year’s game was one of the one’s you said was the most exciting for the fans. What do you take away from last year’s game that you can actually apply?
Bob Davie: I take away they pounded us pretty good. We had a hard time stopping them. They had a hard time stopping us. We were hanging on by a thread by the end and we were able some how to get that spot at the end of the game. And we won the game. I can remember it like it was yesterday. There’s a fine line between winning and losing, right? There’s a fine, fine line between winning and losing.
Coach, you talk about a fine line. A lot of games are won by one, two or three points. And you mentioned this name earlier. Talk a little about your confidence level in Zach Rogers.
Bob Davie: I like him. He again, you know, I said this before. I like him because he hasn’t said a word in two years. He doesn’t say anything. And he is a competitive guy. You know we actually in the offseason do a lot of mat drills in our indoor facility … Where it’s just full on guys just letting it go, energy wise and competing. We were going to have Zack Rogers and David Anaya square off on the mats because they both were wrestling champions in the state of New Mexico. Rogers was all set to go. I was kind of joking and Rogers came in all set to go. He had his singlet his whole deal. He was ready to go. I said, Nah man, there’s liability issues. As a younger coach I would of squared their butts off and they’d be wrestling and somebody would of probably got hurt and they’d be calling Paul Krebs (lots of laughter in the room). Krebs would be getting a phone call. And I’ve learned over the years on some of your best ideas, hit pause a second and think some of this stuff through. Because you think you guys would have a field day if one of our guys got hurt in a wrestling match over in the indoor, right? (More laughter)I trust him and I’m really looking forward to see what he does. To be honest in practice there hasn’t been much of a drop off from Ben Scaer to Zack Rogers, and maybe an improvement from Justus Adams to Zack Rogers on field goals. Now, again, can he do it out there with the lights on? I got a feeling he will because that’s the kind of kid he is.
Coach, in the last two years you said don’t really measure us in wins and losses. At what point can you measure in wins and losses?
Bob Davie: Well you’ve guys held true to that suggestion, that, when I’ve asked you to do that; that’s what you’ve done. Nobody’s talked about it. I haven’t seen our record posted anywhere. 4-8 and 3-9. I’m just kidding. We all know what it is. Well probably if you, well not probably. Being a sincere as I can be, I know that we are a year or two away still. I know nobody wants to hear that and now is not the time to talk about that before the first game but it’s the truth. You know you go out there and look on that practice field. You look Saturday night at who is playing. You’ll see that we are still a year or two away. But, again I’ll be really disappointed if we don’t show improvement this year. I’m realistic enough to look at our schedule and I think we have a really, really tough schedule this year. That’s what it’s supposed to be. We are in the Mountain West Conference. We play good teams and we play most of the good teams at home, you know, so I don’t know. I never put like, how many we are going to win or how many we are going to lose. I’ll be disappointed if we don’t improve as the season goes on. I’ll be disappointed if we get ourselves in the situation we were in last year, where we just caved in at the end because we just ran out of gas. I would hope when we are having this press conference after the Wyoming game it’s just where I say you know what this is going to be a really good team. This is going to be a really good program. You know so if I had to say anything it would be that. I would hope by the end of this season I’m not the only one to say you know we’ve turned a corner here and I know we are going to be good. It is just a question of when. I hope you can see that when we settle this thing.
Coach, with that in mind what do the guys need to show you to where you go at the end of the season ‘we made a step forward’
Bob Davie: You will know the same time I do. You are going to know if it’s a team that is potentially stronger the next year … so-and so, so-and-so, so-and-so is back. How much energy we played with, how much confidence, did we grow, did we get better throughout the season … you guys will know that. That’s what you get paid those big bucks to write about.
How much does the fan support mean in terms of raw energy and atmosphere … how much does that mean?
Bob Davie: Oh it’s huge. I mean those kids … we are all cognizant of what’s going on around us. You know just as I mentioned I started this off last year at UTEP, and I was impressed. I walked out there in that stadium and it competed with a lot of the stadiums and a lot of the atmospheres that I’ve been (in) around the country. I mean that was a heck of an atmosphere down there so obviously we all feel it whether you are a player or a coach. So yeah it’s important but I also know again that we have to put a product out there that people want to come watch. I would think right now if I was going to be home this weekend in Albuquerque I would come out and watch us. I know how easy it is to get in and out of this stadium. I know the price that those tickets are which is unbelievably realistic. I know we have a bunch of guys that like football and like each other and you are going to see a lot of energy. You are going to see two evenly matched teams, I mean I can’t imagine what else you would want to do if you like college football than to come out and watch us. But, I know from that point on we need to give them a reason to come back.
Coach how does Javarie Johnson go from starting every game last year to he is not even second on the depth chart.
Bob Davie: That’s legit J.P. I mean Javarie is a great young man and I love Javarie Johnson. But the reality is right now Javarie is the third linebacker at both outside linebacker positions. Now he is going to play, and I know he is looking forward to an NFL opportunity. It won’t be because he didn’t get enough reps this season, it will be how did he do when he received those reps. He has a lot of competitons. He has Donnie White and Richard Winston ahead of him at rush, and they are all pretty close. At the Sam he has Tevin Newman and Tre’Von Roy and it’s pretty close. You know it’s what programs are and how programs evolve and he’s a great example of that. Cranston Jones started at corner last year. SaQwan Edwards started at corner last year. They are both backups to Jadon Boatright and Isaiah Brown. That’s what college football is. Now will they all play? You guys know they will all play because we will be doing this when it’s snowing outside, but we do have a few more players now and that’s what it is.
For our traditional final question, Marty
Bob Davie: Oh wait a second … here we go … how long have you been rehearing this question? Did this just come to you as this press conference went on our was this predetermined?
Coach with the addition of Juarez at nose guard, you finally have a true nose guard. Traditionally great defenses can rotate fresh bodies. Is this the year where the first time you have enough depth to rotate those players?
Bob Davie: And that is a great question and you will see a lot of players playing. Cole Juarez will start, Dom Twitty will play in there, and we are going to redshirt Taylor Timmons from NMMI, just because he just … he’s a great indication … two years ago, being honest, Taylor Timmons is starting for us at nose guard. And we’d be putting him out there with no spring practice. But yeah, Jack Ziltz may play in the game, he has three years left and doesn’t have a redshirt year, but on that defensive front you are going to see a lot of defensive players in there. And the same thing in the secondary. We are going to play a lot of players. Hey, you are 1-0…1-0.
Coach Davie then addressed at the podium on the topic of true freshman…
Bob Davie: Chris Davis is the back-up to Carlos Wiggins right now in the slot. Chris Davis, little number 22 out of Oaks Christian in California, a great program, is definitely going to play. Aaron Jenkins the offensive guard from Dallas will definitely play so we do have some true freshman that are going to play. And our kickoff guy is a true freshman.