Wide receiver, defensive back groups both young but talented
UNM's senior defensive lineman should see action at D-end and nose-guard positions
Lobo quarterbacks look good throwing the football on Saturday
New Mexico and Air Force both have grind-it-out elements in their option attacks
The Falcons are No. 2 in the nation in rushing and No. 1 in yards per completion
Jeff Mills begins his second season as defensive coordinator and secondary coach at New Mexico, which began the journey back to respectability in 2012 during his first year after finishing as one of the worst units in 2011. The Lobos allowed 11.5 fewer points per game in 2012 (30.2) than it did in 2011 when it gave up 41.7 points per game. UNM had the sixth-best improvement in the nation in scoring defense.
The Lobos also yielded 47.7 fewer yards per game in 2012 than it did in 2011, prior to Mills' arrival. The 2011 UNM defense ranked 119th in the country in rushing yards allowed at 246.8 yards per game. Mills guided the team to a No. 77 ranking in 2012 at 174.9 yards allowed.
The 2012 Lobos recorded 25 turnovers and 21 sacks, up from 13 turnovers forced and 10 sacks in 2011. Mills pupil and senior strong safety Matt Raymer was nominated for the Burlsworth Trophy, which goes to the nation's best player who began his career as a walk-on, in 2012. Raymer ranked tied for sixth in the nation with four forced fumbles and was eighth in the Mountain West with an average of 7.5 tackles per game.
Mills came to the University of New Mexico from Washington, where he coached the secondary/safeties from 2009-11. Mills, who played his college football at Western Washington, was a graduate assistant for the Huskies under Don James in 1990 and 1991.
The 2011 season was his third in charge of the UW safeties.
In 2010, Mills oversaw a solid unit, comprised mainly of starters Nate Williams and Nate Fellner. Williams was among the Pac-10's top tacklers, finishing his senior season ranked third in the conference. Fellner was 21st in the league in tackles, and was also third in the league with five interceptions. Williams earned second-team All-Pac-10 and picked up an invitation to play in the East-West Shrine Game and also went to the NFL Combine. Those safeties also played a key role in the Huskies finishing the year second in the Pac-10 in pass defense.
In 2009, Mills was part of a defensive coaching staff that led the team to vast improvements over the previous season as Washington held opponents to 62 fewer yards and 12 fewer points per game than its 2008 averages.
Prior to returning to Washington, Mills was either an assistant head coach or defensive coordinator for 10 consecutive years. He spent three seasons as the defensive coordinator and secondary coach at FCS (Division I-AA) power Youngstown State.
Mills spent three years on the coaching staff at Idaho from 2004-06. He worked two seasons as assistant head coach and safeties coach for Nick Holt, who was the Vandals' head coach in 2004 and 2005, before spending one season with Dennis Erickson in 2006, when he was defensive coordinator and safeties coach.
He worked at Nevada from 2000 through 2003, coaching the linebackers while also serving as defensive coordinator under Chris Tormey, who was the Wolf Pack's head coach those four seasons. During his time in Reno, Mills helped the team increase its wins total each year.
Mills also worked for Tormey as an assistant coach at Idaho, spending all five seasons of Tormey's tenure on the staff. During that time, the Vandals made the jump from the I-AA level to I-A. In his first four seasons in Moscow, he was the secondary coach before taking over the defensive line in his final season. He was also the defensive coordinator in 1998 and 1999.
In 1998, Idaho went 9-3, won the Big West Conference title and won the Humanitarian Bowl. Under Mills, the defense led the conference in scoring defense and sacks.
Before joining the Idaho staff, Mills spent three years (1992-94) as the secondary coach at Montana State. The Bobcats led the Big Sky in total interceptions and pass efficiency defense his second year; they led I-AA in turnover margin and the conference in total interceptions in 1992.
Mills was a graduate assistant at Washington in 1990 and 1991. The Huskies won the Pac-10 championship and the Rose Bowl in both of those seasons, and went 12-0 on the way to a co-National Championship in 1991.
Prior to his two seasons at Washington, he was an assistant coach for one season each at Drake and Western Washington.
A native of Urbandale, Iowa, Mills played quarterback and outside linebacker at Western Washington, where he earned a bachelor's degree in broadcast communication in 1988.
He and his wife Karmen are the parents of two children, Amanda and Tyler.
The Mills File
Hometown: Urbandale, Iowa
Bowl Games:2011 Alamo Bowl. 2010 Holiday Bowl, 1998 Humanitarian Bowl, 1991 Rose Bowl, 1990 Rose Bowl