New Mexico Gears Up For Spring Football
Danny Gonzales gets ready for Year 2.
UNM Football held their first full-padded practice on Saturday morning
Saturday afternoon at University Stadium in Albuquerque, the Lobo football team took to the field in front of a sizeable crowd.
For a Lobo spring practice, this was one of the larger crowds in many years; make no mistake about it, Lobo fans are thrilled to have sports back.
If the number of fans indicates the support that second-year head coach Danny Gonzales will have in the fall, this is an excellent sign.
There is still a buzz among the Lobo faithful about Danny Gonzales’s hiring as head coach and former head coach Rocky Long’s return as the Lobos Defensive Coordinator.
In the eyes of the Lobo faithful, when head AD Eddie Nunez hired then DC from Arizona State Danny Gonzales, he hit paydirt.
— Coach Gonzales (@CoachGonzUNM) March 5, 2021
When “Coach G,” as the staff and players affectionally call him, lured former Lobo head Coach Rocky Long out of his short retirement from SDSU to coach the Lobo Defense, this was huge among Lobo fans.
Rocky Long is in his element coaching the Lobo Defense and Danny Gonzales as the head coach for anyone at the practice.
Gonzales, like Long, has a very similar style of coaching athletes in being brutally honest in their communication to athletes in their performance on the practice field.
Gonzales, who describes himself as a “glass half full” kind of guy, full of positive optimism, will also tell his players straight up when they are not living up to his performance expectations.
This kind of straight talk is not for the faint of heart but has worked well in getting the most out of the athletes he has coached in the past.
Three things to watch for
1. Who will be the starting Quarterback?
Both local Isaiah Chavez and Trae Hall shared playing duties with both the starting and second-string offenses in Saturday’s scrimmage.
Offensive Coordinator Derek Warehime commented, “Trae had a solid day. He threw the ball really well. He made some plays with his feet and threw one interception.”
“Isaiah started off slow but played much better in the second half.”
I enjoyed writing this story about UNM football coach Danny Gonzales, who went through a wild and challenging season in his first year. He was candid and opened up for this story. It will be interesting and fascinating what he does in the future.https://t.co/RfmsOH0K22
— Steve Virgen (@SteveVirgen) March 7, 2021
Warehime will be watching both these very athletic Quarterbacks closely to see how they excel in this Lobo offense and move the chains to score points.
If there is one significant advantage this Warehime offense has in getting ready for the fall schedule, it’s getting to go against an outstanding Rocky Long 3-3-5 defense.
With this defense in its ability to bring pressure from many different looks, the offense has to anticipate the blitz and have their blocking assignments down.
The Lobos are just four days into the spring practice schedule and looked rusty in spots on both sides of the ball, but this is expected with such a short time frame in practice.
“As a team, I thought it was pretty solid. You know, it’s our fourth practice, I mean the O-lineman are banging so it’s really up to the skill guys. It’s up to us to just turn up the level a little bit.
Obviously, we got stuff to work on, but it was pretty solid for our fourth day,” said UNM QB Isaiah Chavez.”
2. How the Offensive line develops
The Lobos picked up ten players on offense in December three receivers, three offensive linemen, two quarterbacks, one running back, and one tight end.
So the fact that they picked up the three offensive linemen shows where they have needs to be filled.
The Lobos must fill some big shoes in developing this offensive line with the very talented running backs they currently have on the roster.
Both Teton Sales 6’6 312lb, and Kyle Stapley spearheaded the offensive line last year. Saltes is now preparing for the NFL draft and chooses not to come back again his senior year.
The NCAA is allowing seniors to return next year because of the Covid virus and does not count against a sport’s roster or scholarship limits.
And while the NCAA is giving back the eligibility, no athlete is guaranteed financial aid or a scholarship. Those decisions are left to the schools.
Kyle Stapley, 6’3 98 is one of 14 Seniors of 30 who choose to come back to play another year for the Lobos.
Head coach Danny Gonzales had expected to lose over 30 seniors and acknowledge if there was one positive to come out of Covid, it was for seniors to be allowed to play another year.
Offensive Line Coach Jason Lenzmeier’s focus will be to develop this line to play big and physical upfront.
Lenzmeier has a history of next man up and has a way of getting these big guys to dominate physically defensive linemen.
3. How the team meshes with new players to create culture
The great thing about team sports is that every year, the team changes, and so do the dynamics of new players to the current team.
Some of the new players this year that Coach Gonzales has mentioned should have a positive impact on the team this year would be: Aaron Dumas (RB),
Alec Morenco (LB) and Bear Milacek (QB), CJ Montes (QB)
It never ceases to amaze me how a particular player added to a team can change a team’s dynamic for both good and sometimes bad.
The Lobos have added some new players to fill the players who have left to graduation or just natural attrition that every college team deals with each year.
So it’s a coach’s job to get everybody on the team headed in the same direction with the mentality of winning and building a culture to win football games.