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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Football: Skilled running backs on hand for new season

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By Aaron Sweet / New Mexico Daily Lobo

UNM running back David Anaya runs drills during spring practice at the UNM Lobo practice field. Anaya is one of several running backs this year who have spent substantial time in the Lobos triple option offense.

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If there was one consistent offensive option for the New Mexico football team for the past two seasons, it was running back Kasey Carrier.

The last two years, Carrier rushed for 2,591 yards, scored 25 touchdowns and set the UNM and conference single-season rushing record in 2012 with 1,469 yards.

Now it’s time for the Lobos to find a new feature back as Carrier exhausted his eligibility this past season. UNM did play the final two games of 2013 without Carrier, who was sidelined due to concussion symptoms.

Offensive coordinator Bob DeBesse said it’s unfair to ask the other running backs to try and replace Carrier.

“I don’t know if you do but I don’t think that’s our concern right now. We’re thankful for what he (Carrier) did for us,” DeBesse said. “We have some guys who have played that have gotten some significant yards over the last couple of years. They’ve had a significant amount of experience in this offense. I do think we’ll be fine there.”

There are several running backs that have spent substantial time in the Lobos triple option offense: Crusoe Gongbay, Jhurell Pressley, Teriyon Gipson and David Anaya. Romell Jordan is also back for UNM since he was redshirted last season.

Head coach Bob Davie said having a stable full of veteran backs does help the transition from Carrier.

“Without a doubt. A lot of these guys have (experience) and I love that,” Davie said. “A lot of these guys we trust enough and they’ve earned the right to touch it. It’s kind of a neat combination. I’m kind of anxious to see it. I think we have a pretty good core of backs.”

Gongbay lead the Lobos in rushing in 2011 with 500 yards but skipped the 2012 spring practice because he contemplated transferring to another school. He decided against leaving and stayed at UNM.

Last season, Gongbay had 97 rushing attempts and 592 yards for a 6.1 yard-per-carry average.

“I’m really excited about Crusoe,” Davie said. “He’s kind of an inspiring football player. The way he runs, I think he motivates people around him because he plays so hard and runs so hard.”

Pressley only ran the ball 29 times in 2013 but gained 273 yards and had an average of 9.4 yards per rush. Gipson managed 220 rushing yards on 38 attempts, while Anaya attempted 11 runs for 103 yards.

Davie said Pressley is being held out of spring practice because he got a blood clot removed during the offseason.

“We don’t have a whole lot of depth because Pressley is not out there,” Davie said. “I don’t think we’ll have a setback. If we can stay healthy, I think we have a chance to be just as good.”

It also helps that starting quarterback Cole Gautsche, a master of the triple option, will be back to offset some, if any loss of production the Lobo running backs have.

A primary back is not a necessity for the offense, but Davie said it doesn’t hurt to have one.

“I don’t think so. I wish that was the case,” Davie said. “I think maybe the first year we were here when people weren’t prepared enough for us, maybe that was the case a little bit. As we evolve and more people become more familiar with us, you need a big time running back, but I think we have some guys, we really do.”