Stevens: Spring Ball Is Lobos' Time For Lobos

March 27, 2013

New Mexico Lobos Football --- 2013 Spring Ball

Lobo Lettermen: Offense - 24 back, 7 lost. Defense - 23 back, 12 lost
Lobo Starters: Offense - 7 back, 6 lost. Defense - 3 back, 7 lost.
Starters Back (7 or more starts): Offense -- Kasey Carrier (RB), Dillon Farrell (C), Garrett Adcock (OG), LaMar Bratton (OG), Darryl Johnson (OT). Defense - Jacori Greer (DE), Dallas Bollema (LB), Rashad Rainey (LB
Special Team Starters Back: Ben Skaer (punter), Justus Adams (kicker)

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

If you want to know who the New Mexico Lobos open against on Aug. 31 on Branch Field, don't ask Lobo Coach Bob Davie.

Oh, Davie knows the UTSA Roadrunners will be in University Stadium the last day in August, but for now the Roadrunners are in a forgotten corner of Davie's mind. He sees only Lobos.

"This is the best time of the year," said Davie of UNM's spring ball which began on Tuesday and ends on Saturday, April 27.

"Just to get back out there and being able to coach without worrying about the opponent. Just trying to develop your guys and develop your team. I don't take these days for granted.

"(In spring ball) you are undefeated. There is no starting lineup etched in stone. The attitude is really good. Everybody is excited to be out of the weight room, out of the off-season conditioning and be out on the field."

Of course, just because the Lobos are slightly removed from the high-level strength and conditioning program of Ben Hilgart, that doesn't mean conditioning isn't a factor. A lot of Lobo took to the spring fields looking bigger and more fit. A few have some room for improvement.

UNM's Clayton Mitchem is a talented quarterback, who transferred in from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M. He joked with the media after practice about running and sprinting at mile-high elevation.

"It's a new adventure for me," said Mitchem. "The altitude is different. When I run, I get out of breath easy. The first time I ran (here), I almost died."

Kasey Carrier Says Lobos Know They Can Run, Baby, Run

In the spring of 2012, the Lobos were implementing a new offense and a new defense with a first-year coaching staff trying to evaluate Lobos they had seen only on film.

"You compare it to last year and it's pretty easy," Davie said of his second spring session as the Lobos' head man.

It's easier for the players, too.

"The team knows the plays now, so we aren't starting from scratch like we were last spring when the coaches were feeling us out and we were feeling the coaches out," said UNM running back Kasey Carrier.

An emphasis - and a question mark - in 2012 was how were the Lobos going to move the football. It was a huge question and UNM went into spring ball 2012 with only eight offensive linemen. The Lobos averaged more than 300 rushing yards last year.

The Lobos only lose one starting lineman (Korian Chambers) and return nine O-line players that were on the final two-man depth chart of 2012. The backfield returns its top three runners: Carrier (1,469 yards), Jhurell Pressley (462) and quarterback Cole Gautsche (760).

The Lobos are looking to put more air under the ball (passing) in 2013, but they already know they can run it. Carrier says that takes some pressure off the spring drills of 2013.

"To run the ball is definitely tough and hard and knowing that we can run the ball against team definitely boosts your confidence," he said.

Carrier, who had 1,469 yards rushing last year, says he doesn't mind giving up a few carries to an improved UNM passing game.

"It's (passing attack) going to take the heat off everybody, so hopefully it will do good," he said.

"We are all happy to be back on the field, competing, trying to win spots and getting ready for next season and going to a bowl game."

Lobo Defensive Brand in 2013 - Bring The Hit!

Lobo Coach Bob Davie says one goal this spring and in the fall is to improve the Lobo defense and give that unit more of an identity - a Lobo brand.

Lobo linebacker Dallas Bollema knows exactly what he wants that brand to be - smash mouth.

"We want to be able to bring the hit," said Bollema, a junior out of Artesia, N.M. "That's what we're going to be focusing on -- becoming a really physical defense. We hit hard last year, but we want to hit even harder."

The Lobo defense - like the UNM offense of 2012 - shifted to a new scheme, but didn't have the same success in establishing a style, an identity, a swagger. That unit gave up 30.2 points per game and 442.2 total yards. It did a good job in creating turnovers, but did a bad job in stopping opponents on third down - and in giving up big plays.

The Lobos plan to change that in 2013 which should give the UNM offense more chances to move the ball and score.

Still, this defensive unit has some challenges. It lost seven starters, returns three and has to retool the defensive front and the defensive backfield. Bollema says having one season in the rearview mirror makes a big difference heading toward season two.

"We are all familiar with each other now and it's not new to us this year," said Bollema of the 3-4 scheme. "Everybody had a little more personality out there (spring practice). It's just going to get better as time goes on.

"Last year it was quiet and a lot of people weren't speaking up. This year everyone is comfortable with each other and the camaraderie will create a better defense."

Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former award-winning Sports Columnist and Associate Sports Editor at The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at rstevens50@comcast.net.