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Long signs players to squad

UNM head football coach Rocky Long seemed pleased when announcing the list of 26 signees for UNM's 2001 football squad.

Perhaps it was that 19 freshmen and seven junior-college transfers filled all available slots, or perhaps it was that the Lobos beat out some quality Division-I teams for recruits.

"We beat more quality teams on recruits this year than we have the first three years," Long said. "If that makes it a good recruiting class I don't know; you can decide in a year or two."

Long listed the University of Utah, Colorado State University, the University of Arizona, the University of Oregon and the University of Washington as programs trying to sway recruits from UNM.

"We're competing with the right people on recruiting and we're finally starting to win some battles," Long said. "What it means to me is that other people thought they were good too."

Five-foot-6-inch running back Tony Frazier, from Houston, Texas, and 6-foot-7-inch offensive lineman Terrance Pennington, from Compton, Calif., were two such recruits that UNM kept, Long said.

"Colorado and Texas A&M were after Frazier late, and Oregon, Washington and Colorado were after Pennington," Long said. "In fact, I talked to Pennington's mom and (Colorado coach Rick) Neuheisel called him four times in one day. He beat me four to one, but we got the kid, so that's okay."

Closer to home, UNM has signed two highly recruited New Mexicans - 6-foot-4-inch wide receiver Hank Baskett III from Clovis, and running back Dontrell Moore, a 5-foot-11-inch Roswell native. Moore, a Parade Magazine All-American, was being courted by the University of Notre Dame and Colorado State University, while top programs from around the country also recruited Baskett.

Long lauded both players and said they may see action this year, even though he planned to redshirt all, if not most, of the incoming freshman.

"We have good players at the running back position, but we don't have great depth, "Long said. "We had (Moore) in our camps here and he runs close to 4.5 (in the 100-yard dash) or even sub-4.5. When you watch him on tape, he breaks tackles and makes people miss. And he does it in a fashion that he sometimes takes over a game."

Long called Baskett a "great athlete" and said he could play even if it is just for goal-line situations.

"If you remember last year, we lost a couple of close games to teams because they had a 6-4 receiver outjump our 5-9 cornerback," Long said. "Well, Hank's 6-4, maybe even 6-5, and has high-jumped seven feet, so what do you think he can do?"

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UNM also addressed needs on the offensive line, signing junior college transfers Calvin McDonald and Danny Perez and three freshmen, Jorge Enriquez, Luke Horder and Pennington. All of them are 6-feet-3-inches or taller and weigh at or around 300 pounds.

"The most impressive thing about the offensive linemen on our list is their height," Long said. "I want to look like Colorado State and BYU and Utah when we walk out there. I'm tired of walking out there thinking we've got big guys, and all I see are shadows when the other team's on the other side."

Long also said that competition would be fierce for the quarterback position, with incumbent Rudy Caamano, Jeremy Denson, who was the starter at the beginning of the year but lost his job to Caamano, and sophomores Jeff Grady and Casey Kelly all competing for the job.

"All four quarterbacks are going to get shots," Long said. "The guy that can play the best and get us into the end zone the most - that is who's going to be out there."

Long said that when spring practice starts, he would change his philosophy of not allowing the quarterbacks to get hit in practice.

"Contrary to my philosophy, our quarterbacks are going to get knocked around this spring," Long said. "I think part of the reason they struggled some last year is that we didn't ever touch them the whole time they were here. And all of a sudden, we play a team like Texas Tech and someone whacks them a good one and they have trouble coming back from that sort of thing."

UNM's schedule for the upcoming season also was released Wednesday, which has the team facing four bowl teams from last year, beginning with the University of Texas at El Paso on Sept. 1. The Lobos will have only three Mountain West Conference games on the road, while playing four at home, including games against the University of Nevada at Las Vegas on Nov. 10 and Colorado State on Nov. 17 to end the season.

"It's very attractive for the fans," Long said of UNM's schedule. "We've got to start off pretty fast, fight through the middle part and make a run for it at the end. We play Colorado State the last game of the year here; if that's for a conference championship, that will be fun."

Long said that even through last year's shortcomings, he was pleased to sign what apparently are high-quality players to this year's squad.

"I don't think we were successful last year," Long said. "But I think they (recruits) saw a lot of us on TV and what they saw was a very competitive team that plays harder than the other team and that attracts good football players."


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