The message was clear: it’s time for the New Mexico football team to move on.
After two years of rebuilding, UNM head football coach Bob Davie said its time the program starts looking toward the future and stop dwelling on the past.
A couple of the Lobos main problems in Davie’s first two seasons were a lack of depth and inexperience but those problems appear to be resolved. Unlike the past two years, the Lobos have depth at every position, specifically at the offensive and defensive line. The roster is also rich with players who have in-game experience.
During Davie’s three-year tenure, he’s talked about the unique situation at UNM: a program in shambles after scholarship reductions and player retention rate fell dramatically. That unique situation is now in the past, Davie said.
“I’ve talked a lot about the past – it’s really time to just totally talk about the future,” Davie said. “At the bottom of my heart, I think we’re in a position for the first time to gain some traction and some momentum in this program. I really believe that.”
Now the Lobos must find players who will step up and contribute so the team can move forward. Outside of a few big names – quarterback Cole Gautsche, linebacker Dakota Cox and defensive end Brett Bowers to name a few – the Lobos are mostly unknown.
Davie insisted more household names will emerge the fall.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been excited to see guys to emerge that you don’t know much about, that you haven’t heard much about but we got them,” he said. “We got some legitimate guys in this program now that have made an investment.”
For UNM, it’s not only a matter of which players will stand out but also if the defense can improve from being one of the worst in the nation. The Lobos ranked 119th out of 125 Division I football teams in terms of total defense.
Davie first started talking about the defense by not mentioning any player, but the almost entirely new defensive coaching staff. Inside linebackers Kevin Cosgrove became the new defensive coordinator, defensive line coach Archie McDaniel’s took over as inside linebackers coach, Charles McMillian, who came from Prairie View A&M, became the new defensive backs coach and former California defensive line coach Bob Sacks took the same position at UNM over the offseason.
“First of all the coaching staff – again that puzzle fitting,” Davie said. “First of all from an experience standpoint, but maybe more importantly from the standpoint of saying things the same way, being very relatable to the players.”
However, Davie pointed out that the Mountain West in general struggled on defense last season. Half of the league ranked 103rd or worse in total defense last season, including San Jose State, Wyoming, Air Force, Hawaii, Nevada and UNM.
Defense is the major concern for the Lobos but there are a couple of key questions about UNM’s offense heading into fall camp.
When running back Crusoe Gongbay was suspended after being arrested on rape charges, the Lobos lost their most experienced tailback. Gongbay’s charges were dismissed in June. Instead UNM will look to tailbacks David Anaya, Jhurell Pressley and Teriyon Gipson to carry the load this season.
Davie said it’s another situation where someone must want to take over the position.
“It’s a little scary. Obviously without Crusoe it’s scary,” Davie said. “He’s the guy that if you had to hand the ball to somebody today he would be the first guy to get it based on maturity and consistency.”
The offense took another blow when Davie announced that right guard Jamal Price was suspended from the team after getting arrested on Monday for breaking and entering charges. Redshirt freshman Toye Adewon will be the most likely candidate to replace Price at right guard.
Special teams may be the biggest question mark of the team heading into fall camp. Junior Zack Rogers is listed as the kicker and punter but he’s never attempted a kick in his career.
“Kicking game is a major concern,” Davie said. “The guy who punts, the guy who kickoffs and the guy who kicks field goals will be the first time he’s ever done it in a game. Zack Rogers might be doing all three.”
Thomas Romero-Salas is the sports editor of the Daily Lobo. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ThomasRomeroS.