New Mexico Football: Three Questions For Spring Practice

New Mexico Football: Three Questions For Spring Practice

Mountain West Football

New Mexico Football: Three Questions For Spring Practice


New Mexico Football: Three Questions For Spring Practice

Danny Gonzales’s Lobos didn’t progress as they’d hoped and things only get tougher next fall. What are UNM’s biggest concerns right now?

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The pressure is on.

The New Mexico Lobos will begin their spring football practice schedule on Tuesday with plenty to address after an early off-season chock full of transition.

Defensive coordinator Rocky Long is gone, as are A.J. Haulcy, Jerrick Reed II, Cody Moon, Geordon Porter, and many others from both sides of the ball. For a team that regressed from three wins in 2021 to two last fall, it’s not the best situation in which to find oneself, but with some many positions to fill, what might take precedence over the next month?

Which young defenders could take a leap forward within the remade unit?

According to Pro Football Focus, 17 different Lobos played at least 200 snaps on defense in 2022. Headed into this spring, New Mexico returns roughly half of that group with departures like Haulcy, Reed II, Ronald Wilson, and Jake Saltonstall punching a big hole in that unit’s overall depth.

The cupboard isn’t totally bare, however, and Gonzales has demonstrated a propensity for thrusting young athletes into action, meaning the returners should provide more intrigue than the slew of incoming transfers. Safety Jer’Marius Lewis, for instance, made four starts in the secondary and returned punts, while Bryson Taylor started two games in Donte Martin’s stead. Defensive end Kyler Drake started the final three games, too, while Ray Leutele and Alec Marenco should factor in if they’re recovered from injury. Expect plenty of new faces to contribute at each level of Troy Reffett’s defense, but keep an eye on UNM’s young veterans.

How broad will the quarterback competition be, really?

Miles Kendrick didn’t end up being the answer at quarterback for which Lobos fans hoped, so the team went back to the drawing board on that front and have three or four potential options who could earn the inside track this spring.

Among the incumbents, Justin Holaday probably deserves a second audition after being thrown into the fire against defenses like Fresno State and Air Force while Isaiah Chavez could play his way into a “Swiss army knife” role according to Sean Reider of the Albuquerque Journal. They’ll be joined by true freshman Devon Dampier, who won Arizona’s Ed Doherty Award as a high school senior last year, and transfers D.C. Tabscott and Dylan Hopkins, the latter of whom started for two years under new offensive coordinator Bryant Vincent at UAB.

Hopkins seems like the safest bet to start camp as QB1 but, much like last year, this is a competition which may require the next six months to sort out.

How much progress can the offensive line make?

Despite relative good health in the trenches, the Lobos offensive line struggled mightily in 2022, finishing 130th in sack rate allowed, 116th in stuff rate allowed, and 115th in line yards per carry allowed. If you believe ESPN’s Bill Connelly, however, continuity on the line matters and New Mexico should have it.

New arrivals like Sam Telesa and Ikani Tuiono come in with previous starting experience, but most of the onus will be on returners like J.C. Davis, who graded out as the team’s best lineman per PFF, Tavien Ford, and Shannco Matautia to develop as a group. Given the influx of talent nearly everywhere else on offense, having four potential starters back in the mix here could be a boon for Vincent as he begins to assess his options.



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