The Lobo football team’s offense improved mightily last season, but its defensive side was still a cause for concern.
UNM sought to address the problem by signing 15 defensive players during National Signing Day on Wednesday. The Lobos signed 24 players, including eight offensive players and two players whose positions have yet to be determined on either the offensive or defensive side.
Five of the incoming defensive players are defensive backs, and head football coach Bob Davie said he hopes they can come in and improve a defense that ranked 103rd in the nation in passing defense. Davie also said junior wide receiver SaQwan Edwards will switch to defensive back to help out the secondary.
“Obviously he could be a starting receiver on this team next year so that’s a big move, with a lot of thought put in to that decision by us, SaQwan, and his parents,” Davie said. “But the defensive back position is critical, and I think we got some good athletes that will hopefully come in (and contribute).”
The defensive line was another issue the Lobos looked to resolve.
UNM signed four defensive linemen: junior Brett Bowers, a junior college transfer from Mendocino Community College; and high school students Nik D’Avanzo, Sam Mabany and William Udeh.
Davie said Mabany has the most potential among the defensive linemen.
“We were on him last spring, and I’m just curious to see how it all plays out with him,” Davie said. “The upside is as high as any player I’ve been around, but it’s just going to take time because he’s so young and so raw.”
Before signing day, UNM had only two quarterbacks on the roster: sophomore Cole Gautsche and junior Quinton McCown. In response, the Lobos signed three quarterbacks: junior college transfer Clayton Mitchem, and high school students Lamar Jordan and Caleb Kimbro.
Mitchem started 12 games for Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College, completing 58.3 percent of his passes for 2,435 yards, while throwing 27 touchdowns to 10 interceptions.
“We have a junior college quarterback that’s here on campus, which I thought was really critical; and then we have two other quarterbacks coming in, both from the state of Texas and both we’re really excited about because of their style of play,” Davie said. “So we addressed the quarterback situation. There’s going to be a lot of competition there.”
Eleven of the 24 players UNM signed are from Texas, while only one, Romell Jordan, is from New Mexico. Between Davie’s first two recruiting classes, the Lobos have signed 23 players from the Lone Star State.
According to ESPN, the Lobos signed four three-star recruits and two two-star recruits. Davie said older players have become a major factor in recruiting.
“You look at (what schools) we beat to get some of these players, and … who beat us to get some of those players we didn’t get,” he said. “I think we’ve raised that bar, and I think that’s only going to get better.”