Stevens: Springtime for Lobo Football Means Footballs in The Air

March 28, 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

Does Cole Gautsche have a twin brother playing for the Lobos? Did Coach Bob Davie clone his talented sophomore quarterback over the winter break, but made Clone Cole a righty instead of a lefty?

Who exactly is this No. 14 and shouldn't Davie put all this muscle in a linebacker spot?

"I called Ben Hilgart up at the end of practice and said, `Coach Hilgart, everyone want to know who this number 14 is in the program," said Davie. "I hate to (single) out guys, but Quinton McCown compared to where he was a year ago ...

"He is just bigger. He's stronger. He throws the ball with more velocity. It shows what an off-season can do. He looks like a different guy out there."

Springtime is in the air over Albuquerque and footballs are in the air over at the New Mexico Lobos' spring practice as Davie tries to toughen up his "Pistol" offense with the addition of a potent passing attack.

The Lobos averaged 301.3 rushing yards per game in 2012. They averaged 68.8 yards passing.

The returning Lobo arms that probably will get the most looks in spring ball are Gautsche and McCown because they finished the 2012 season No. 1 and No 2 on the UNM depth chart. B.R. Holbrook, hurt for the last game, has graduated. The most intriguing addition is Clayton Mitchem, who comes to UNM from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College.

When a program brings in a JC player, it usually is because that player has the potential to contribute right away. So, a lot of eyes will be turned on Gautsche, the new-look McCown and Mitchem.





"We actually completed a few passes so that was encouraging. Of course, we throw with the wind all day. If you want the offense to have confidence, you put their back to the wind and let them go with the wind."
Lobo Coach Bob Davie


Mitchem is a nice addition. He is an agile athlete with quick feet and a pop to his throw. He was the Southwestern Junior College Player of the Year in 2012 throwing for 2,435 yards and 27 touchdowns at a 58.3 percentage. The Lobos threw for 895 yards in 2012 and five passing scores.

Mitchem also ran for 728 yards and 13 scores. He is dual-threat. This is what you want from your quarterback in the "Pistol."

There is one obvious question mark about Mitchem. Can he stand up to the pounding at the D-I level? If the 6-foot-1, 180-pound Mitchem stands behind the 6-4, 227-pound Gautsche or the 6-4, 210-pound McCown, Mitchem disappears. Mitchem is a willow.

"He has an extremely quick release and he throws the ball with really good velocity," said Davie. "But this is all foreign to him ... just calling the play in the huddle, getting up to the line of scrimmage with the snap count.

"You can really see he's kind of tippy toeing. I'm sure his head is swimming right now, but there is no question he is talented. You can see that. If we can get (him) up over 180 pounds, he's going to be OK."

It's early in spring ball and UNM will add two freshmen hurlers - Lamar Jordan and Caleb Kimbro -- in the fall. The spring drills also include Sam Gentry, who redshirted in 2012, plus David Vega and Jacob Bronowski.

There will be lots of quarterbacks fighting for snaps in the fall, but already you can see improvement in Gautsche and McCown and the possibility of that dual threat in Mitchem.

"I'm a student of the game right now," said Mitchem referring to his adaptation to UNM's Pistol offense. "I like to pass first, but I can run the ball. I'm kind of a run-pass quarterback, dual threat.

"Obviously they recruited me to throw the ball a little bit more and hopefully I'll get on the field and do that."

The emphasis in the UNM passing game didn't hit Tuesday when the Lobos opened spring drills. There was a lot of off-season throwing by both Gautsche and McCown as they worked on that needed aspect of the game.

"I've been getting with the receivers and trying to do a better job of throwing," said Gautsche. "They (receivers) have been really helping me with reps and that's what I really needed - more and more practice at it (passing).

For a freshman, Gautsche was exceptional running the option out of the pistol and he ran for 760 yards in 2012 for a 7.0 average on 109 carries. He completed 13 passes out of 31 thrown for an average of 20.2 yards per game. If there was a certain passing situation, UNM preferred to bring in Holbrook. Holbrook won't be around in 2013.

McCown threw 11 passes last season completing four of them for 26 yards and one score. He played in only six games in 2012. Holbrook missed three games last year and Gautsche missed two games. The physical nature of football often provides opportunities for backups.

Davie has said that Cole is the guy to beat for ownership of the Lobo huddle in 2013, but Davie also has said that no starting positions are etched in stone. There will be a battle for this huddle.

"I just look at it that the spot is open and I have to go out there and do my best to earn it," said Gautsche. "Everybody is going at it and that adds a competitive edge to it. It's good to have more people out there."

Said Davie: "It's not going to be a day-to-day depth chart situation where we come in every day and say, `Well, Cole is first, this guy is second, this guy is third'. There is so much work to do."

And there are so many more footballs to fill the Lobos' springtime air.

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.