Filling in the pieces of the puzzle. According to New Mexico head football coach Bob Davie, that was the focus for him and his staff during the 2018 recruiting class.
The University of New Mexico football program announced the signings of 22 new players on Wednesday as part of National Signing Day, the first day when athletes are able to sign letters of intent, binding them to the school that they previously committed to. Because of the new early signing period, 12 members of this year’s recruiting class signed their letters of intent in December.
“This one a little bit different of a dynamic with the early signing period, as you guys know, we had eight players sign early that are already enrolled,” Davie said on Wednesday. “...Overall just the early signing date. I was skeptical about it, but now after having gone through it, I must put in there, as disappointed as we were with the season and not going to a bowl game, by not being in a bowl game, with the early signing date, that probably helped. Not that we want to do that again. A year from now hopefully I’ll have a different context on the early signing date having been in a bowl game.”
The positions of emphasis for Davie and co. on the recruiting trail this year was in the trenches, with both the offensive and defensive lines as they signed a total of seven lineman. Another area the Lobos emphasized was specialists, as both punter Corey Bojorquez and kicker Jason Sanders graduated.
To replace them, the Lobos brought in sophomore punter Tyson Dyer, an Australian who spent last season at Palomar College in California. Dyer, who stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 198 pounds, averaged 39.9 yards per punt last season. He set a career high with a 70-yard punt in the final game of the season. Dyer will compete with redshirt freshman John Mitchell and walk on Gabe Dunkle when he arrives in June.
Stephen Ruiz out of Naperville, Illinois will become the only scholarship kicker on the team when he enrolls in school after graduation. Ruiz is one of seven high school players in this year’s recruiting class, and an impressive student in addition to his athletic abilities. He carries a 4.1 GPA at Neuqua Valley High School, and Davie says that his choice came down to UNM and the Ivy League.
“Punter and kicker, probably before anything,” Davie said of their priorities for the class. “We’re excited about our punter, he’s a unique guy. 26 or 27 years old. Tyson Dyer, he’s Australian which is another rage around the country right now, lots of Australian punters. Also the kicker that we signed, Stephen Ruiz out of Chicago, has a very, very strong leg. Big strong guy.”
One of the biggest challenges for the coaching staff, especially during the early signing period in December, was the absence of an offensive coordinator and a linebackers coach. In order to help the athletic department financially, Davie says that he left those positions open until the calendar flipped to 2018.
“That meant the other coaches had to hump it pretty good because we were down two coaches all through that early signing period,” Davie said.
In addition to filling those two vacancies, Davie also hired a tenth coach for the upcoming season. The addition of a tenth on-field coach was approved by the NCAA Division I council last April in an effort to decrease the number of players per coach.
This year’s class doesn’t include any in-state players, with all four who received an offer from UNM according to 247Sports choosing to go elsewhere. Monroe Young of Onate, the highest rated recruit in the state, signed with Cal. Jordan Byrd of Manzano and Keshawn Banks or Rio Rancho signed with former UNM head coach Rocky Long at San Diego State and Evan Tafoya-Vallo of Rio Rancho chose to attend New Mexico State.
The Lobos jump right in to spring practice now as meetings began on Wednesday and the first practice taking place on Friday.
Cameron Goeldner is a sports beat reporter and photographer for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers men’s soccer and softball, but also contributes content for baseball, basketball, football and track and field. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter