Confused? Check out the glossary here.
1. Welcome back onto the grid
"We were No. 2 in the country in time of possession last year," says New Mexico coach Bob Davie. "Everybody's speeding the game up, but we have to slow it down. We had the lowest number of scholarship players in the country, and we played 13 straight weeks. We had to put our best players on special teams because we just didn't have enough players. Our identity was to outwork, outhit, and outdiscipline you. Slow the game down, run the ball, force turnovers."
Davie is describing Year 1 of his New Mexico reclamation project. The former Notre Dame coach and ESPN commentator inherited a team that could really do only two things well -- run the ball and return kickoffs -- and somehow came within a few eyelashes of bowl eligibility.
The scale for the chart above is off. Almost every team falls between the range of plus-40 percent and minus-40 percent in the F/+ ratings. But New Mexico was so horrendous in 2011 that the Lobos fell below that range. I could have corrected the range for the above image, but I like the story being told here instead.
In three years under Mike Locksley, New Mexico almost literally fell off the grid. He won just two of 28 games as the Lobos' head coach; when he was dumped a month into the 2011 season, his replacement, George Barlow, won just one of eight, and that represented a relatively significant improvement in win percentage. The program had begun to slip in Rocky Long's final season in Albuquerque (2008), but it cratered under Locksley, who is a strong recruiter but was evidently not ready for a head coaching position.
2. Building a full roster
In last year's New Mexico preview, I said this of Bob Davie:
His resume is what it is, and while quite a few college football fans were happy to get him out of the television booth, his disciplined, pragmatic (if less than flashy) style may be exactly what is needed to at least get New Mexico back on a competent path. This was not the most high-upside of hires, but in Albuquerque you have to focus on a higher floor before you can focus on a higher ceiling.
In 2012, the Lobos indeed had a higher floor. The defense still couldn't stop anybody, and the offense couldn't even pretend to pass competently, but Davie took his team's minimal strengths as far as they could go, and in 2012 New Mexico won more games (four) than it had in the previous three years combined (three). The Lobos were just lucky enough to be unlucky -- they probably shouldn't have stayed close in as many games as they did, but they were still a bit unlucky to go 0-5 in one-possession games.
In Year 2, New Mexico will probably have a rather similar identity as in Year 1; there is still no assurance that the passing game or the defense will improve, but the Lobos should be capable of running the ball even better than last year. But another full recruiting class should ensure that Davie has enough bodies to actually field a team that doesn't have to use its first stringers on special teams.
Despite facing the grind of a "13 games in 13 weeks" schedule with the thinnest roster in the country, New Mexico did stay salty and mostly competitive down the stretch. A little depth could go a long way for the Lobos.
2012 Schedule & Results
|Record: 4-9 | Adj. Record: 3-10 | Final F/+ Rk: 114|
|Date||Opponent||Score||W-L||Adj. Score||Adj. W-L|
|1-Sep||Southern U.||66-21||W||27.0 - 53.0||L|
|8-Sep||at Texas||0-45||L||13.7 - 31.9||L|
|15-Sep||at Texas Tech||14-49||L||12.0 - 39.2||L|
|22-Sep||at New Mexico State||27-14||W||22.3 - 37.8||L|
|29-Sep||Boise State||29-32||L||39.8 - 39.3||W|
|6-Oct||Texas State||35-14||W||26.3 - 16.8||W|
|13-Oct||at Hawaii||35-23||W||35.1 - 41.0||L|
|20-Oct||at Air Force||23-28||L||29.4 - 34.7||L|
|27-Oct||Fresno State||32-49||L||37.0 - 41.3||L|
|3-Nov||at UNLV||7-35||L||19.8 - 63.4||L|
|10-Nov||Wyoming||23-28||L||31.3 - 35.1||L|
|17-Nov||Nevada||24-31||L||28.7 - 28.6||W|
|24-Nov||at Colorado State||20-24||L||25.6 - 37.2||L|
|Points Per Game||25.8||80||30.2||79|
|Adj. Points Per Game||26.8||75||38.4||122|
3. The day Boise State came to town
For the first month of the 2012 season, New Mexico looked a lot like the New Mexico of the previous three years. Yes, the Lobos were 2-2, but the wins came over Southern (one of the worst FCS teams in the country) and New Mexico State (one of the worst FBS teams in the country). The Lobos were entirely non-competitive in losses to Texas and Texas Tech and faced a visit from Boise State with little hope of success; and sure enough, Boise State took a 25-0 lead into halftime.
But something happened in the third quarter against Boise State, and it carried on through most of the remaining season. The Lobos recovered a fumble on the second-half kickoff and scored six plays later. They stopped Boise State on fourth-and-1 at their 4-yard line, then drove 96 yards in seven plays to make it a 25-14 game. They gave up a touchdown, then drove 75 yards in 10 plays for another score. They forced a fumble, returned it to the Boise State 1, and score again. Suddenly, midway through the fourth quarter, it was a 32-29 ball game, and New Mexico hadn't attempted a single pass in the second half. The comeback fell short when New Mexico's only pass of the half fell short on fourth-and-4 with 2:05 remaining. But this was as clear a statement as possible that New Mexico could compete.
For most of the rest of the season, New Mexico indeed competed. The Lobos took out Texas State and Hawaii, lost by five at Air Force and finished the season with three consecutive tight losses. They weren't losing to great teams by any means, but they were in the games. There was a one-week glitch in Las Vegas, when they were routed by an awful UNLV squad, but as I like to say, improvement is never linear. As a whole, the New Mexico of October and November was interesting and competitive. That alone is a massive improvement.
Adj. Points Per Game (first 4 games): Opponent 40.5, New Mexico 18.8 (minus-21.7)
Adj. Points Per Game (last 8 games, sans UNLV): Opponent 34.3, New Mexico 31.7 (minus-2.6)
|Q1 Rk||88||1st Down Rk||63|
|Q2 Rk||118||2nd Down Rk||73|
|Q3 Rk||37||3rd Down Rk||115|
Note: players in bold below are 2013 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Cole Gautsche||6'4, 227||So.||*** (5.6)||13||31||222||41.9%||2||2||1||3.1%||6.9|
|Quinton McCown||6'4, 208||Jr.||NR||4||11||26||36.4%||1||1||0||0.0%||2.4|
|Clayton Mitchem||6'1, 180||Jr.||** (5.3)|
|Lamar Jordan||5'11, 180||Fr.||** (5.4)|
|Kasey Carrier||RB||5'9, 185||Sr.||** (5.2)||255||1,469||5.8||5.9||15||+12.2|
|Cole Gautsche||QB||6'4, 227||So.||*** (5.6)||108||762||7.1||8.5||7||+17.9|
|Jhurell Pressley||RB||5'11, 198||So.||NR||104||461||4.4||3.6||6||-0.5|
|Chase Clayton||WR||6'3, 202||Jr.||** (5.2)||32||209||6.5||4.8||0||+3.8|
|Crusoe Gongbay||RB||6'0, 205||Jr.||*** (5.5)||22||159||7.2||8.1||0||+4.5|
|Carlos Wiggins||WR-H||5'8, 157||So.||** (5.3)||18||141||7.8||4.5||2||+3.4|
|Demarcus Rogers||RB||5'11, 185||Sr.||** (4.9)||14||105||7.5||4.3||2||+2.3|
4. A complete run game
"You have to have your niche," Davie says. "You have to have something you do that gives you an identity schematically. We're kind of a triple-option team. We're running it out of the Pistol. My plan at Notre Dame wasn't a whole lot different -- it's forming your identity to the place you are at. That's how it's going to be sustainable. My plan has to be specific to the University of New Mexico."
He continues. "That's what I love about coaching -- take the hand that you're dealt, but be able to spin that into a positive. I've embraced the underdog mentality here. Small population, tough, hard-working people. New Mexico's kind of quirky, kind of different."
New Mexico was quirky and different on the field, too. The Lobos ran nearly all of the time on standard downs and two-thirds of the time on passing downs. Cole Gautsche took over more and more of the quarterback responsibilities as the season progressed -- he took over at halftime of the Boise State game and rushed 12 times for 183 yards in the wins over Texas State and Hawaii -- and while he wasn't much of a passer (despite the pro-style build), he formed a hellacious option combination with Kasey Carrier. Carrier took over as the primary runner when Demarcus Rogers was lost to injury two games into the season, and he had just about the best October imaginable: four games, 116 carries, 826 yards (7.1 per carry), 11 touchdowns. Beautifully-named Crusoe Gongbay also began showing potential late in the year as well.
Heading into 2013, then, all of the pieces are coming together. Gautsche and running back Jhurell Pressley are no longer freshmen, Gongbay is more of a known commodity, Rogers should be close to 100 percent in the fall, Carrier is Carrier, and an offensive line that didn't have enough healthy bodies to fill out a two-deep last year, returns six players with starting experience, most of whom are actually healthy.
The identity that Davie created out of necessity in 2012 could become a serious strength for the Lobos moving forward.
|Kasey Carrier||RB||5'9, 185||Sr.||** (5.2)||16||10||75||62.5%||4.7||10.8%||37.5%||5.5||11.4|
|Carlos Wiggins||WR-H||5'8, 157||So.||** (5.3)||13||9||83||69.2%||6.4||8.8%||46.2%||6.5||12.6|
|Jhurell Pressley||RB||5'11, 198||So.||NR||7||4||86||57.1%||12.3||4.7%||57.1%||12.4||13.1|
|Chase Clayton||WR||6'3, 202||Jr.||** (5.2)||7||4||43||57.1%||6.1||4.7%||71.4%||5.8||6.5|
|Jeric Magnant||WR-X||6'0, 180||Jr.||NR||6||3||23||50.0%||3.8||4.1%||50.0%||3.4||3.5|
|Andrew Aho||TE||6'3, 221||Sr.||NR||2||2||55||100.0%||27.5||1.4%||50.0%||31.8||8.4|
|Chris Edling||TE||6'3, 223||So.||** (5.2)||2||1||13||50.0%||6.5||1.4%||100.0%||3.9||2.0|
|Ridge Jones||WR||5'10, 157||RSFr.||** (5.4)|
|Jalyn Judkins||WR||6'3, 208||Fr.||** (5.4)|
5. Of course, you have to at least pretend to be able to pass
Georgia Tech won the ACC running the triple option in 2009, but the Yellow Jackets also had receiver Demaryius Thomas hitting homeruns in the passing game. Nebraska's mid-1990s I-formation option attack was devastating, but the play-action pass (often to a tight end) made the Huskers unstoppable. New Mexico should be able to run the ball well, but you are only going to be so effective when opponents have no fear of the pass.
That the Lobos were able to break off quite a few big runs was semi-miraculous considering how horrendous the passing game was. Of the five players targeted at least once per game, none averaged better than a mediocre 7.5 yards per target. And now, with SaQuan Edwards moving to defense, only one of the top six receivers and tight ends returns. Of course, a little bit of new blood might not be a bad thing. Andrew Aho could be interesting at tight end now that he's healthy, and converted running back Chase Clayton could have some potential.
But for UNM to have a better-than-mediocre offense, the Lobos will have to be able to throw at least a little bit.
|Dillon Farrell||C||6'5, 292||Sr.||** (5.1)||34 career starts|
|Darryl Johnson||LT||6'4, 208||Sr.||** (4.9)||26 career starts|
|LaMar Bratton||LG||6'2, 281||Jr.||** (5.4)||25 career starts|
|Korlan Chambers||RT||22 career starts|
|Calvin McDowney||LG||6'3, 346||Sr.||NR||12 career starts|
|Garrett Adcock||RG||6'2, 281||So.||*** (5.5)||8 career starts|
|Jamal Price||RG||6'6, 330||Jr.||** (5.4)||3 career starts|
|Dillon Romine||RT||6'7, 290||So.||** (5.3)|
|Johnny Vizcaino||RG||6'3, 288||So.||** (5.2)|
|Andrew Aqua||OT||6'5, 333||So.||NR|
|Bryan Oldenkamp||OL||6'5, 292||So.||** (5.4)|
|Solomon Normore||OL||6'4, 310||Jr.||** (5.2)|
|Q1 Rk||102||1st Down Rk||119|
|Q2 Rk||122||2nd Down Rk||117|
|Q3 Rk||124||3rd Down Rk||122|
6. When "four returning starters" isn't a bad thing
It is difficult to even know what to say about the 2012 New Mexico defense. The Lobos weren't a complete train wreck up front -- they were not good, but they weren't "worst in the country" bad, and out of Davie's patented 3-4 defense, they were able to generate a little bit of pressure on passing downs. But they couldn't stop the pass to save their lives, and despite a decent pass rush, they had the fourth-worst passing downs defense in the country. They were also the second-worst defense in the country when it came to giving up big plays, and they were a sieve in the red zone.
So when you see that the Lobos return just four starters on defense, refrain from thinking this is a bad thing. New blood is a good thing. And the New Mexico defense almost literally can't get any worse.
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Jacori Greer||DE||6'3, 272||Sr.||** (5.1)||13||25.5||4.0%||8||5||0||1||0||0|
|Dominic Twitty||DT||6'2, 288||So.||** (5.4)||13||3.5||0.6%||0||0||0||3||0||0|
|Paytron Hightower||DE||6'4, 260||So.||** (5.4)||5||1.5||0.2%||0.5||0||0||0||0||0|
|Gerron Borne||DT||6'2, 280||So.||*** (5.7)|
|Fatu Ulale||DT||6'2, 282||Sr.||** (5.2)|
|Darian Allen||DT||6'5, 275||RSFr.||** (5.4)|
|Brett Bowers||DE||6'3, 265||Jr.||** (5.2)|
|Donnie White, Jr.||DE||6'3, 215||Fr.||*** (5.5)|
|William Udeh||DE||6'2, 225||Fr.||*** (5.5)|
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Dallas Bollema||WLB||6'2, 230||Sr.||** (5.3)||13||73.0||11.6%||6.5||1||3||3||1||2|
|Rashad Rainey||SAM||6'2, 204||Sr.||** (5.3)||10||31.0||4.9%||5.5||2.5||0||3||0||0|
|Javarie Johnson||RUSH||6'3, 240||Jr.||**** (5.8)||13||20.5||3.2%||6.5||4.5||0||1||1||0|
|Tevin Newman||SAM||6'0, 202||Jr.||** (5.3)||11||9.0||1.4%||0||0||1||0||0||0|
|Toby Ball||MLB||5'11, 233||Jr.||** (5.4)||13||8.0||1.3%||1||0||0||0||1||0|
|David Orvick||WLB||6'3, 230||Sr.||** (5.3)||12||5.5||0.9%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Michael Arredondo||LB||6'2, 223||So.||** (5.2)|
|Kenya Donaldson||LB||6'2, 204||RSFr.||NR|
|Richard Winston||LB||6'4, 220||So.||** (5.3)|
|Kimmie Carson||LB||6'2, 210||Fr.||*** (5.5)|
|Dakota Cox||LB||6'1, 220||Fr.||*** (5.5)|
|Tre'von Roy||LB||6'2, 208||Fr.||** (5.4)|
7. Giving the front seven a boost
Davie isn't loading up on junior college transfers by any means (you'll find a few sprinkled in) but there will be quite a few three-star recruits entering the mix this fall. That probably won't mean great things in 2013, but there could be some potential for nice things in the 2014-15 range. New Mexico should be able to rush the passer again this fall -- the top three rushers from last year all return -- but really we're just looking for potential and hope here. It's probably not going to get worse, but it's probably not going to get better right away, either.
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Tim Foley||CB||5'7, 180||Jr.||NR||13||31.5||5.0%||0||0||0||2||1||1|
|Brandon Branch||FS||5'11, 187||So.||NR||9||13.0||2.1%||0||0||0||0||0||1|
|Jamal Merritt||S||6'0, 188||Jr.||*** (5.5)||6||12.5||2.0%||0||0||0||2||0||0|
|Dante Caro||SS||6'0, 182||Sr.||** (5.2)||12||9.5||1.5%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Cranston Jones||CB||5'7, 167||So.||*** (5.5)||13||7.5||1.2%||0||0||1||2||0||0|
|Rashad Jackson||CB||5'9, 175||So.||** (5.4)||6||5.0||0.8%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Vershad Jackson||CB||5'9, 165||So.||** (5.4)||7||4.5||0.7%||0||0||0||1||0||0|
|Devonta Tabannah||S||5'10, 170||Jr.||** (5.4)||4||4.5||0.7%||1||0||0||0||0||1|
|Saqwan Edwards||CB||6'1, 188||Jr.||NR|
|Ryan Santos||DB||5'9, 179||RSFr.||*** (5.5)|
|David Guthrie||DB||5'11, 200||Jr.||** (5.4)|
|Isaiah Brown||DB||5'11, 170||Fr.||*** (5.5)|
8. It probably won't get worse for the secondary, but...
In Destry Berry, New Mexico's awful pass defense did have one pretty active, interesting quarterback. Throw in an aggressive safety in Matt Rayer, and the Lobos were at least able to make a few big plays while allowing a ton of them.
But both are gone; of last year's top five defensive backs, only passive corner Tim Foley returns. There are some high-upside options like safety Jamaal Merritt (when healthy) and corners Cranston Jones and Rashad and Vershad Jackson. But the only production that existed is gone, so we'll just repeat what was said above: It's probably not going to get worse, but it's probably not going to get better right away.
|Ben Skaer||6'0, 197||Sr.||54||43.9||6||12||15||50.0%|
|Justus Adams||6'4, 200||Sr.||1||65||1||100.0%|
|Justus Adams||6'4, 200||Sr.||40-40||8-11||72.7%||1-2||50.0%|
|Chase Clayton||KR||6'3, 202||Jr.||20||30.4||2|
|Carlos Wiggins||KR||5'8, 157||So.||8||16.8||0|
|David Anaya||KR||5'11, 192||So.||7||23.1||0|
|Tim Foley||PR||5'7, 180||Jr.||9||6.4||0|
|Special Teams F/+||91|
|Field Goal Pct||73|
|Kick Returns Avg||26|
|Punt Returns Avg||98|
9. Don't kick to Chase Clayton
Chase Clayton returned kickoffs for touchdowns in two of his first four returns of the season, and while he didn't ever get a third score, he was still averaging 30+ yards per return at season's end. Combine that with strong-legged options at punter and place-kicker (with the thin air, UNM should never have a problem with long kicks), and you've got a potentially solid special teams unit. Punt returns might again be an issue, and Justus Adams could stand to be a little more accurate in the field goals department, but all in all special teams should be a net-plus for the Lobos.
2013 Schedule & Projection Factors
|5-Oct||New Mexico State||123|
|2-Nov||at San Diego State||53|
|23-Nov||at Fresno State||60|
|30-Nov||at Boise State||12|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||122|
|Two-Year Recruiting Rk||99|
|TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin*||+11 / +8.8|
|Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.)||9 (5, 4)|
10. Get hot early, Lobos
It is difficult to say New Mexico will improve too much in 2013. The Lobos should once again have a strong run game, an iffy passing game, decent special teams, and a non-existent defense. Davie has recruited pretty well, and depth should improve, but a lack of experience should still hold the team back quite a bit.
That said ... look at the schedule. If New Mexico plays at just a Top 105 level, the Lobos could be better than five of their first six opponents. They get UTSA, UNLV, New Mexico State, Air Force and Colorado State at home, and trips to UTEP and Wyoming are far from intimidating. Asking for six wins might be too much to ask, but it isn't entirely inconceivable.
Bob Davie still has quite a bit of work to do in Albuquerque. That much is obvious. But he indeed raised New Mexico's floor and gave the program an identity in 2012. The Lobos might need to wait another year or two to field a truly solid squad, but they are competitive and interesting again. They are back on the grid. That's a victory in and of itself.