Heading into 2014’s spring practice, UNM head football coach Bob Davie knows what issues his team faces.
They’re the same problems that have plagued the New Mexico football team for the past two seasons: inexperience and defense. The Lobos only have seven seniors who have been with the program four or more years, and last year’s defense ranked near the bottom of almost every statistical category.
Three years into one of the biggest reclamation projects in college football, Davie said it’s time to see some results on the field for UNM. Over the past five seasons the Lobos have gone 10-51; they’ve gone 7-18 in the last two years under Davie.
On Tuesday Davie began his quest with the first of 15 scheduled spring practices for UNM.
“Now it’s time for us to take the culture that we’ve developed, some of the behaviors that we’ve started to develop, and hopefully get some results,” he said at Monday’s spring football press conference. “Obviously that’s the next step, and a lot of times the most difficult step.”
The process began earlier in the offseason with the firing of former defensive coordinator/defensive backs coach Jeff Mills, who was replaced by inside linebackers coach Kevin Cosgrove. Charles McMillan took the open position at defensive backs coach and Barry Sacks became the new defensive line coach after Archie McDaniel moved to coach the outside linebackers.
Davie said both coaches are familiar with UNM’s defensive scheme, which will help smooth their transitions.
“As far as the staff, I’m interested to watch. I think their personalities will be put on this defense quickly,” Davie said. “I think it definitely upgrades our staff. I think both guys with their experience and what they do helps us so much. I think there’s a lot of confidence that’s been gained.”
The Lobos have six returning starters on the defensive side of the ball: defensive end Brett Bowers, linebackers Dakota Cox and Javarie Johnson, safety David Guthrie and cornerbacks SaQwan Edwards and Cranston Jones. Bowers was named an All-Mountain West honorable mention last year.
Davie said constructing a defense has been the number one priority for the Lobos since their last game against Boise State.
“We have to play defense to win — we just have to,” he said. “It’s been 100 percent of our full attention every day to build our defense into something that this city, this state and these people can be proud of.”
Offensively, UNM also has six starters coming back with quarterback Clayton Mitchem, wide receivers Marquis Bundy and Jeric Magnant, guards LaMar Bratton and Jamal Price and tackle Johnny Vizcaino. Signal-caller Cole Gautsche is returning as well for the Lobos.
No Spring Game
For the third consecutive year, Davie decided against scheduling a spring game.
Davie said he would like to have one, but he’s worried about injuries and depth issues. There are several players on the roster who are not cleared for full contact due to injuries.
“It’s hard to go out there and have enough guys to say ‘let’s turn it loose and scrimmage’ because there’s 22 of your guys going when you’re scrimmaging,” Davie said. “I’m not ruling it out, but we’ll do something.”