New Mexico Football Looking To Bolster Its Defense This Spring

New Mexico Football Looking To Bolster Its Defense This Spring


New Mexico Football Looking To Bolster Its Defense This Spring


New Mexico Football Looking To Bolster Its Defense This Spring

What are the Lobos going to do on defense?

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There is a new defensive coordinator

Now it’s time to cover one hallmark of the New Mexico Lobos’s football team, the Defensive side of the ball for the spring for the UNM Program under Head Lobo Football Coach Danny Gonzales.  

If there is one thing that the UNM Lobos pride themselves on, it’s the Defense. Just ask Former Lobo Brian Urlacher, who led the nation in tackles his senior year with 178 under this Rocky Long 3-3-5 defense in 1998.

During the Rocky Long successful era, the Lobo defense had a reputation for being one of the most physical teams in the conference, despite the lack of enormous talent.

I knew the Lobo defense of being physical, flying to the ball, and being the wood “Sort of speak” on every play.

That was then, and this is now in 2023. Danny Gonzales Lobos are coming into the season without former Defensive coordinator and head Lobo coach Rocky Long as he took the defensive coordinator job at Syracuse.

This was after the Syracuse Defensive Coordinator Tony White took the defensive coordinator job at Nebraska after he joined the program in 2020.

Rocky Long is renowned for this very aggressive defense that Joe Lee Dunn invented in Memphis in the early 1990s, that proved very effective against high-powered offenses in FBS.

That is the same Defense Tony White had run as Syracuse’s defensive coordinator over the last three seasons before taking the job at Nebraska, which opened the door for Long.

 It was the perfect fit for Rocky Long as Tony White, who goes back with Rocky Long as a player, all the way back to the UCLA days when Long invited this player prospect out from El Paso in 1999 and ran Long’s 3-3-5 defense.

Syracuse successfully used Long’s system under White’s tutelage, finishing No. 29 in total Defense this season just a few years after clocking in at No. 115 in 2019. The Orange also finished No. 19 in passing yards allowed and No. 36 in scoring defense.

So Rocky left for the opportunity to coach at a Power 5 conference that is already running this defense, not so much as some have said, abandon the ship.

Long and his wife, Debbie, still call New Mexico home and have a home here as well. It was just an opportunity that he could not pass up to coach at a Power 5 school.

 He has a reputation for his gratitude as a player and coach and many lifelong (me being one of them) friends here in Albuquerque.

It’s a small world in the college football coaching circles, as Tony White was with Long and Gonzales in New Mexico. 

Both Tony White, now in Nebraska and Zac Barnett at Mississippi state, learned this defense from Long as well as head Lobo coach Danny Gonzales. 

 Later, Lobo head coach Danny Gonzales took Tony White to ASU when Herm Edwards was the head coach. Both are part of the Rocky Long coaching tree.

So in early January, Danny Gonzales named a long-time assistant Troy Reffett as the new Lobos Defensive Coordinator.

“I’m excited to have Coach Reffett serve as defensive coordinator because it will give us continuity in what we have been doing defensively,” said Gonzales.  “He has a tremendous track record of success, and he will be able to continue coaching the scheme that has proven successful for us over the past few years.”

Reffett rejoined the Lobos for a second stint with the program as a part of Gonzales’ first staff named in 2020. 

 Lobo corners have been terrific under his tutelage; last year marked another solid year despite many true freshmen breaking into the rotation. 

 Senior Donte Martin was the Lobo defensive group’s leader despite missing three games, leading all corners in PBUs and tackles. Martin is poised to break the long-standing Lobo record for pass breakups in a career.

Reffett also has had successful stints as a coordinator with North Texas as the Mean Green qualified for three bowl games, including the 2018 New Mexico Bowl. 

 He also has successful runs with ULM, including the second-best NCAA defensive turnaround in terms of yards per game allowed from 2008 to 2009, lowering that total by nearly 100 yards a game. 

 He also had a 14-year coaching run with UTEP, including the final two seasons as defensive coordinator in 2002 and 2003.

Defensive coordinator Troy Reffett has paid his college football dues if you look at his coaching resume and know the 3-3-5 Defense like no other on the defensive staff.

Danny Gonzales has stated that he will stick to signal calls from the sideline from Rocky Long, but this year will call the Defense with his defensive coach’s input, especially from Reffett.

The Lobo defense made considerable strides in 2021, ranking 44th overall in total Defense, a 57-spot improvement from 2020; it is becoming much more prevalent in FBS football in this era.

So there will be no letdown in the Defense that shot up 50 spots under Rocky Long when he took over. Now, Gonzales and the staff will work in tandem together with Gonzales, the final play caller, as the head coach.

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