After the football team’s defensive struggles last season, it’s no surprise head coach Bob Davie spent much of spring practice trying to improve it.
Davie said coaching the defense is more of a challenge because of the changing offensives the team faces each week.
Davie said the defense is struggling with the transition of a 4-3 defensive scheme to a 3-4 scheme, but he said such struggles are expected, considering all the information the team has to soak in.
“I can tell we’re having a lot of trouble with a lot of things right now,” Davie said. “Playing defense is about being comfortable, not thinking too much, not being paralyzed because of all these checks and all these new things you’re being asked to do.”
A 3-4 has three defensive lineman and four linebackers on the field, while the 4-3 is the opposite.
Senior defensive end Joseph Harris said the 3-4 alteration puts the offense in a hard position.
“(It) is a lot more stunts and more people dropping back, and crisscrosses. Things like that,” he said.
Last season, UNM’s defense ranked 118th in the nation in total defense, out of 120 teams, and allowed 6.73 yards per play, and 70 offensive touchdowns and gave up 492 yards per game.
Harris said the defense must work more, but he said he is confident it will improve.
“I think we have a lot more corrections to do, but as far as the effort and things like that, we’re getting down the technique,” Harris said, “I think we’re looking at a good defense.”
The Lobos also struggled with turnovers, forcing only 13 last season. UNM recovered 10 fumbles and had three interceptions.
The passing defense fared a bit better, and ranked 86th overall.
The Lobos also ranked dead last in passing efficiency last year.
Sophomore defensive back Tim Foley said new defensive coordinator Jeff Mills is putting more of an ownership on the secondary to make plays and be the leaders of the defense.
“He brings a lot of passion to the defensive backs and he really wants us to lead this team,” Foley said, “He’s pushing us to do that.”
Foley said Mills brings passion everywhere he goes, which helps motivate the defense.
Harris said he notices progress in the defense, but the ultimate test will be when the season begins.
“I see a lot of improvement, but the only thing that will tell me that we’ve improved is when the season comes and we win more games,” he said.