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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Football: Defense scrimmage-hardened from spring ball

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By Sergio Jiménez / New Mexico Daily Lobo

New Mexico quarterback Clayton Mitchem, left, hands o the ball during a team practice on Friday. The Lobos finished their 15th and final practice for this spring that day.

sports@dailylobo.com
@ThomasRomeroS

A physical presence on the field is something the New Mexico football team has lacked the past two seasons.

But thanks to more full-contact drills in this spring’s practices, the Lobos are beginning to form a more aggressive mentality.

“It’s something that we’ve been working on all spring, to be more of a physical team and have that ‘smash-mouth’ mentality,” said David Guthrie, starting safety.

The new forceful attitude was evident in UNM’s scrimmage on April 19, when the defense shut down the Lobos’ triple option offense.

Several UNM defenders set the tone with big hits throughout the scrimmage to ignite the defenders on the sideline.

“We’re showing improvement every day,” said defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove. “I like the physicality right now. Coach Davie has allowed us that opportunity with a lot of scrimmage situations. We still have to get better — we have to be a better tackling defense, a more physical defense in terms of turnovers. I like the direction we’re heading right now.”

UNM’s defense has stifled the team’s offense in both of the live scrimmages the team conducted over spring practice.

Head coach Bob Davie said the defense had a distinct advantage by being familiar with the Lobo offense.

“I think we’re better; I think we’re more explosive,” he said. “I think there’s more of an aggressive attitude; I think kids enjoy playing; I think our coaching staff has done a really good job of just putting their personalities on this.”

Davie credited the four defensive coaches on the team for shifting the team’s mentality during the spring: Outside Linebackers coach Archie McDaniel, Defensive Backs coach Charles McMillian, Defensive Line coach Barry Sacks and Cosgrove. This is both Sacks’ and McMillian’s first year at UNM and it’s Cosgrove’s first season as defensive coordinator.

Guthrie said the defensive players trust each other more than ever, in part because Cosgrove believes in them.

“It’s a huge improvement from last year. It’s the best our defense has looked in my two years here,” Guthrie said. “It’s exciting to see, and we’ve improved a ton and that’s something really exciting to all of us.”

Spring Practice ends

The Lobos finished up their 15th and final spring practice Friday night.

Davie said his third spring session with the team has easily been the most productive. This spring UNM was able to partake in full-contact scrimmages thanks to its added depth.

“Our third spring should be the best spring and we should be making progress,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any question that we are. It is our best spring, particularly on defense. I think we’ve started to show signs that we’re coming out of this long-time funk of New Mexico football on defense.”

Over the five weeks of practice UNM suffered only two major injuries. Backup quarterback Caleb Kimbro will have surgery on his knee after being injured during the team’s final full-contact scrimmage, while offensive linemen Jared Francisco fractured his ankle during the same practice.