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The big 2014 New Mexico football preview: Finally, some depth

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

New Mexico has one of the best running games in the country and finally has some depth on defense. Can the Lobos' defense improve enough to get out of the offense's way in Bob Davie's third season in charge?

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1. Growth is slow

Bob Davie worked for Jackie Sherrill at Pittsburgh and Texas A&M. He was R.C. Slocum's Linebacker U defensive coordinator at Texas A&M. He was Lou Holtz's defensive coordinator at Notre Dame. His view of football starts on the defensive side.

Imagine, then, how much watching his own team has driven him crazy over the last two years. In 2012, his first year as New Mexico's head coach after a long tenure as a broadcaster, his Lobos gained 5.7 yards per play but allowed 6.8. In 2013, his offense improved to 6.5 yards per play and his defense allowed 7.4. Despite injuries at the quarterback position, New Mexico ranked a healthy 59th in Off. F/+ ... and 125th, dead last, in Def. F/+.

New Mexico allowed at least 6.3 yards per play in nine of its final 10 games last year; Pittsburgh gained 527 yards in just 52 plays; Fresno State gained 822 in 83. It didn't really matter the style of offense -- New Mexico was outmanned no matter what.

The Lobos' 3-9 season in 2013 proved that Davie still has a ways to go when it comes to restoring a program that went to five bowls in six years from 2002-07. Still, he's won seven games in two years after the Lobos won seven in the four before his arrival. New Mexico may have only ranked 114th and 110th in F/+ in his first two years, but that's still better than 119th (in 2010) and 120th (in 2011).

Thanks to sanctions incurred during the end of Rocky Long's tenure and massive attrition during and after Mike Locksley's horrendous tenure (UNM went 3-33 from 2009-11), New Mexico might actually have a full 85-man roster of scholarship players this fall for the first time since 2008. But still, there are only two fifth-year seniors on the squad; Davie inherited the thinnest roster in the country, and while he has made some improvements, especially on offense, he knew from the start that this was a long-term rebuild.

He'll still have a young roster, but it's older than what he had. He'll still have depth issues in certain units, but there's more depth than he's had.

Growth is slow, but there's reason to believe this team could be ready for a pretty solid step forward in 2014.

2013 Schedule & Results

Record: 3-9 | Adj. Record: 2-10 | Final F/+ Rk: 110
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L 5-gm Adj. Avg.
31-Aug UTSA 67 13-21 L 22.2 - 28.8 L
7-Sep at UTEP 119 42-35 W 35.3 - 45.7 L
14-Sep at Pittsburgh 54 27-49 L 18.2 - 63.1 L
28-Sep UNLV 96 42-56 L 46.0 - 43.9 W
5-Oct New Mexico State 122 66-17 W 37.8 - 33.0 W -11.0
12-Oct at Wyoming 102 31-38 L 23.9 - 32.2 L -11.3
19-Oct Utah State 32 10-45 L 28.0 - 43.1 L -12.3
2-Nov at San Diego State 89 30-35 L 40.8 - 41.8 L -3.5
8-Nov Air Force 113 45-37 W 33.0 - 37.6 L -4.8
16-Nov Colorado State 66 42-66 L 46.0 - 48.0 L -6.2
23-Nov at Fresno State 49 28-69 L 28.5 - 48.1 L -8.5
30-Nov at Boise State 45 17-45 L 25.7 - 29.9 L -6.3
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk Spec. Tms. Rk
F/+ +0.6% 59 -26.2% 125 +1.8% 32
Points Per Game 32.8 42 42.8 120
Adj. Points Per Game 32.1 40 41.3 121

2. The offense was getting somewhere

Offensive coordinator Bob DeBesse has been around. He was a hot young coordinator two decades ago at TCU and Minnesota, and he became Southwest Texas State's head coach in 1997. He was on Joe Tiller's Purdue staff from 2003-05, and he was on Dennis Franchione's in 2006-07.

By the time he became Sam Houston State's offensive coordinator in 2010, he had experienced success and a decent amount of failure, and he had served as an offensive assistant on both run- and pass-heavy offenses. So naturally, he crafted a pistol-based, option-heavy offense at SHSU and ran roughshod on most of FCS. When Davie came to Albuquerque, he brought DeBesse along, and the same offense has had a lot of the same results.

The offense was especially getting somewhere when Cole Gautsche was healthy last fall. But he missed the final two games of the year, and while the defense certainly assured that UNM was not going to threaten to win at Fresno State or Boise State, the offense took a step backwards.

Adj. Points Per Game (first 3 games): Opponent 45.9, UNM 25.2 (minus-20.7)
Adj. Points Per Game (next 7 games): Opponent 39.9, UNM 36.5 (minus-3.4)
Adj. Points Per Game (last 2 games): Opponent 39.0, UNM 27.1 (minus-11.9)

No matter who is at quarterback, DeBesse's recent history suggests he'll lead a pretty good offense. But until that defense improves, the offense doesn't really matter.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.26 15 IsoPPP+ 106.2 35
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 44.9% 49 Succ. Rt. + 98.5 68
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 29.5 58 Def. FP+ 98.4 76
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.9 16 Redzone S&P+ 115.9 17
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 14.3 ACTUAL 14 -0.3
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 53 56 69 72
RUSHING 4 12 30 3
PASSING 122 106 125 124
Standard Downs 62 67 62
Passing Downs 42 55 12
Q1 Rk 68 1st Down Rk 62
Q2 Rk 70 2nd Down Rk 16
Q3 Rk 27 3rd Down Rk 103
Q4 Rk 29

3. The big plays were really big

The offense really has come together in a short amount of time. Despite minimal passing threat and only two recruiting classes to make a pretty significant shift in offensive philosophy, the personnel Davie and DeBesse put on the field last year was well-equipped to both execute UNM's deceptive offense and take full advantage when the deception worked. New Mexico was one of five teams with at least 125 rushes of 10+ yards, one of four with 40 rushes of 20+ yards, and one of five with 21 rushes of 30+ yards. They gouged you with three different quarterbacks, five different running backs, and, again, no passing game whatsoever.

With a little more play-action effectiveness, this already dangerous running game could be devastating.

Kasey Carrier rushed for nearly 2,600 yards and 24 touchdowns in two years in DeBesse's system, and we probably shouldn't just gloss over his absence. But four other backs who rushed for at least 100 yards and at least 5.8 yards per carry do return. Crusoe Gongbay and Jhurell Pressley bring both fantastic names and solid explosiveness to the table, and junior David Anaya might do the same if small samples are worth anything. Plus, three-star sophomore Teriyon Gipson provided some lovely efficiency, even if his explosiveness wasn't quite as high.

Add in a line that returns four players with starting experience (68 total starts) and ranked 27th in Adj. Line Yards last year, and you're looking at pretty good odds that UNM can overcome Carrier's absence.

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2014 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Clayton Mitchem 6'1, 180 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 48 81 670 1 1 59.3% 19 19.0% 5.5
Cole Gautsche 6'4, 227 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 35 78 639 7 4 44.9% 3 3.7% 6.7
David Vega 6'1, 193 Sr. NR 6 13 63 1 0 46.2% 2 13.3% 2.7
Lamar Jordan 5'10, 177 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
JaJuan Lawson 6'0, 200 Fr. 3 stars (5.5)
Patrick Reed 6'1, 180 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)

4. Gautsche is a keeper

Still limited as a passer, the big, mobile Cole Gautsche rushed for at least 100 yards five times in 2013; he rushed 32 times for 267 yards in wins over New Mexico State and Air Force, and while his completion rate was still subpar (45 percent), he showed decent play-action potential.

Gautsche also missed three games with concussion issues, including each of the last two, after missing one in 2012 as well. He is healthy this spring and has the full go-ahead, but last fall proved both that Gautsche has a load of potential, and that New Mexico better have some backup options.

It appears that UNM has just that. Davie has professed a desire to pass more (and more effectively), and while Gautsche very much improved his passing from 2012 to 2013, he still completed only 45 percent of his passes. Clayton Mitchem threw the ball better than Gautsche but took a ton of sacks in the process; still, he and David Vega both got decent on-field experience last year, and if they're not ready, any number of youngsters could take over. JaJuan Lawson is perhaps Davie's biggest get in recruiting so far, and redshirt freshman Lamar Jordan has athleticism to burn.

Gautsche has to be considered a far-and-away No. 1 option if healthy, but we'll see if that's possible. If not, the running game should be able to thrive anyway. The passing game will still be limited.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
Opp.
Rate
Kasey Carrier RB 189 1119 9 5.9 6.0 41.3%
Cole Gautsche QB 6'4, 227 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 115 872 8 7.6 6.4 54.8%
Crusoe Gongbay RB 6'0, 205 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 97 592 6 6.1 8.8 35.1%
Clayton Mitchem QB 6'1, 180 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 45 257 3 5.7 5.0 53.3%
Teriyon Gipson RB 5'7, 167 So. 3 stars (5.5) 38 220 5 5.8 3.3 55.3%
Jhurell Pressley RB 5'11, 198 Jr. NR 29 273 6 9.4 13.6 44.8%
David Vega QB 6'1, 193 Sr. NR 18 140 0 7.8 7.0 55.6%
Carlos Wiggins WR 5'8, 157 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 13 161 2 12.4 12.1 61.5%
David Anaya RB 5'11, 192 Jr. NR 11 103 0 9.4 14.0 45.5%
Romell Jordan RB 5'8, 166 RSFr. 2 stars (5.2) 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 0.0%
Jakari Johnson RB 5'10, 190 So. 2 stars (5.3)
Tyrone Owens RB 5'9, 190 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Marquis Bundy WR 6'4, 200 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 36 19 261 52.8% 21.4% 58.6% 7.3 5 7.1 32.1
Jeric Magnant WR 6'0, 180 Sr. NR 34 19 294 55.9% 20.2% 38.1% 8.6 46 9.9 36.2
Carlos Wiggins WR 5'8, 157 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 21 13 163 61.9% 12.5% 88.9% 7.8 2 6.5 20.1
Andrew Aho TE 17 9 179 52.9% 10.1% 58.8% 10.5 58 10.4 22.0
Reece White TE 6'2, 202 Jr. NR 12 4 100 33.3% 7.1% 75.0% 8.3 29 13.8 12.3
Dameon Gamblin WR 5'9, 160 So. 2 stars (5.2) 10 1 -3 10.0% 6.0% N/A -0.3 -48 0.0 -0.4
Kasey Carrier RB 9 3 43 33.3% 5.4% 25.0% 4.8 -10 8.1 5.3
Jhurell Pressley RB 5'11, 198 Jr. NR 8 6 68 75.0% 4.8% 50.0% 8.5 1 16.0 8.4
David Anaya RB 5'11, 192 Jr. NR 6 3 82 50.0% 3.6% 100.0% 13.7 40 6.7 10.1
Tyler Duncan WR 6'2, 193 Sr. NR 6 5 131 83.3% 3.6% 40.0% 21.8 77 24.9 16.1
Crusoe Gongbay RB 6'0, 205 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 3 3 23 100.0% 1.8% 0.0% 7.7 -7 5.3 2.8
Ridge Jones WR 5'10, 157 So. 2 stars (5.4) 3 3 23 100.0% 1.8% 33.3% 7.7 -7 10.1 2.8
Chris Edling TE 6'3, 223 Jr. 2 stars (5.2)
Jalyn Judkins WR 6'2, 212 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Emanuel Simpson TE 6'1, 235 Jr. 2 stars (5.4)
Nick Lehman TE 6'3, 240 So. 2 stars (5.3)
Chris Davis WR 5'8, 180 Fr. 3 stars (5.5)

4. Throw it to Jeric

In a run-first offense like this one, you're going to sacrifice a little bit of efficiency in the passing game for big gains downfield. When your running game is this good, the play-action potential is high. And sure enough, of the seven players to catch at least four passes last year, four averaged at least 15.5 yards per catch and six averaged at least 12.5.

But there was a little too much sacrificing when it came to efficiency. Four of the seven had a catch rate lower than 56 percent, and none of the top three were better than 62 percent. (And poor Dameon Gamblin caught just one of 10 passes for minus-3 yards.)

There were no high-efficiency options here -- even tight ends managed only a 45 percent catch rate -- but Jeric Magnant seemed to best combine decent efficiency with big-play ability. UNM is never going to ask a receiver to become a 1,000-yard threat, but if the Lobos get more out of the passing game in 2014, Magnant is probably why.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 110.3 3.39 3.51 46.5% 75.0% 17.8% 46.6 5.3% 17.8%
Rank 27 11 41 9 26 45 124 83 124
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Career Starts Honors/Notes
Dillon Farrell C 46
Darryl Johnson LT 38
LaMar Bratton LG 6'2, 281 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 37
Calvin McDowney RG 17
Jamal Price RG 6'6, 330 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 13
Johnny Vizcaino RT 6'3, 288 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 10
Garrett Adcock C 6'2, 281 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 8
Dillon Romine LT 6'7, 290 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0
Jack Lamm C 6'3, 272 So. NR 0
Toye Adewon C 6'3, 327 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0
Josh Baggett OL 6'2, 308 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0
Reno Henderson OL 6'4, 268 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0
Draven Taylor OL 6'2, 306 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3)
Eden Mahina OL 6'3, 300 Jr. 2 stars

5. Why don't more underdogs run the option?

An up-tempo spread has become an Underdog Strategy of choice for a lot of FBS head coaches, but one has to wonder why there isn't more triple-option at the lower levels of this subdivision. It is great for finishing drives, and it allows you to move the ball efficiently without extreme athleticism. DeBesse has figured out ways to marry old-school triple option with new-school tactics (pistol, etc.), and it is working. I figure we're going to see more of this in the coming years, which is good -- this is a fun style of play.

(Kudos to Bob Davie, by the way, for figuring out a way to move the ball in an effective, semi-modern way after professing hatred for the spread offense on television for a number of years. He always complained that teams weren't running enough. Well ... New Mexico definitely runs enough.)

Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.28 114 IsoPPP+ 86.9 118
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 51.8% 122 Succ. Rt. + 81.2 119
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 30.8 55 Off. FP+ 101.5 44
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 5.7 124 Redzone S&P+ 84.1 109
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 15.1 ACTUAL 10.0 -5.1
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 121 121 119 119
RUSHING 122 120 118 121
PASSING 103 119 118 99
Standard Downs 118 113 115
Passing Downs 123 125 111
Q1 Rk 123 1st Down Rk 122
Q2 Rk 119 2nd Down Rk 124
Q3 Rk 118 3rd Down Rk 83
Q4 Rk 125

6. Depth! Beautiful, glorious, completely unproven depth!

Only four defensive linemen and four linebackers recorded more than 15.0 tackles in 2013. The secondary (seven) was a little bit deeper, but only marginally so. It was hard to find an adequate second string (well, first string, too, if we're being mean), and that kind of thinness on the roster will catch up to you. New Mexico didn't really have a good quarter, but the fourth quarter was definitely the Lobos' worst.

It's understandable, then, to see that Davie both made some staff changes and loaded up on JUCOs. He added three JUCO defensive tackles to a line bereft of size, and he added one to the linebacking corps and two to the secondary.

JUCOs are not a fix-all. As we've discussed before, there's equal risk for the reward (you lose them after a short amount of time, and if some don't pan out, you're extending your depth issues over a longer period), and if they were a guaranteed success, more teams would be raiding JUCOs. Still, it made some sense here. UNM desperately needed an upgrade in terms of both talent and the number of warm bodies available; the Lobos got the latter with this recruiting class, but we'll have to wait to see about the former.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 85 3.52 3.82 44.6% 83.0% 13.3% 95.4 6.2% 4.1%
Rank 119 120 113 112 124 123 68 25 112
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Brett Bowers DE 6'3, 260 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 11 30.0 4.5% 9.0 6.0 0 0 3 0
Fatu Ulale DE 12 25.5 3.8% 3.0 1.5 0 3 1 0
Jacori Greer NT 12 24.5 3.6% 3.0 2.0 0 2 1 0
Nik D'Avanzo NT 6'2, 307 So. 2 stars (5.3) 12 23.0 3.4% 3.0 1.0 0 0 1 0
Randy Williams DE 6'2, 230 Jr. NR 10 11.0 1.6% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
William Udeh DE 6'0, 256 So. 3 stars (5.5) 10 5.5 0.8% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Dominic Twitty (2012) NT 6'2, 288 So. 2 stars (5.4) 13 3.5 0.6% 0.0 0.0 0 3 0 0
Paytron Hightower DE 6'4, 260 Jr. 2 stars (5.4)
Sam Mabany DE 6'7, 252 RSFr. 2 stars (5.2)
Christopher Smalls DL 6'1, 253 Jr. NR
Taylor Timmons NT 6'0, 295 Jr. 3 stars (5.5)
Jack Ziltz NT 6'2, 315 So. 2 stars (5.3)
Cole Juarez NT 6'2, 310 So. 2 stars (5.3)
Garrett Hughes DE 6'2, 280 Fr. 3 stars (5.5)
Aaron Jenkins NT 6'2, 310 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)
Desmond Branch DE 6'2, 245 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)






8. A heaping helping of beef

Brett Bowers was basically a one-man pass rush -- he had six sacks in 2013, and the rest of the team had 10 -- but because of Bowers, UNM was able to get respectable pressure on the quarterback. The problem came in standing up to run blocking. UNM couldn't do it, and opponents had no problem deciding to run as frequently as possible. With the loss of two starters up front and two more at linebacker, New Mexico will be forced to lean on either newcomers or untested backups to fill most of the two-deep in the front seven in 2014. That might not be a bad thing considering last season's results (new blood is only scary if the old blood was worth something), but there's no guarantee for improvement here.

What IS guaranteed is that UNM will come closer to passing the eyeball test. Thanks to some newcomers, UNM will have size it just didn't have a year ago. The three incoming JUCO tackles average 6'1, 307. Redshirt freshman end Sam Mabany is 6'7, 252. Three-star freshman steal Garrett Hughes is 6'2, 280. Some smaller linebackers (like three-star sophomore Donnie White) will still factor into the equation, but UNM has more size where you need it this fall. That's one of 10 hurdles cleared, but it's still a hurdle cleared.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Dallas Bollema WLB 12 75.5 11.2% 5.0 0.5 1 1 0 0
Dakota Cox MLB 6'0, 235 So. 3 stars (5.5) 12 74.5 11.1% 1.0 0.0 0 1 0 0
Rashad Rainey OLB 11 31.5 4.7% 5.5 0.0 0 0 1 0
Javarie Johnson RUSH 6'3, 240 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 12 31.0 4.6% 3.5 1.0 0 0 2 0
Toby Ball MLB 5'11, 233 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 7 14.0 2.1% 1.0 0.0 0 0 1 0
Tevin Newman LB 6'0, 202 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 10 12.0 1.8% 1.0 0.0 1 1 0 0
Donnie White RUSH 6'1, 218 So. 3 stars (5.5) 10 11.5 1.7% 0.0 0.0 0 1 0 0
David Orvick LB 9 11.5 1.7% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Richard Winston OLB 6'4, 220 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 11 5.5 0.8% 0.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Michael Arredondo MLB 6'2, 223 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 10 2.5 0.4% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Trajuan Briggs LB 5'11, 224 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 6 2.0 0.3% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Ryan Langford LB 6'3, 225 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 1 1.5 0.2% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Kimmie Carson LB 6'0, 230 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5)
Trevon Roy LB 6'0, 196 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Chris Lee LB 6'1, 255 Jr. 2 stars
Juwan Jones DB 6'2, 190 Fr. 3 stars (5.5)

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
David Guthrie SS 5'10, 198 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 12 53.5 8.0% 4.5 2 0 5 0 0
Dante Caro FS 12 38.5 5.7% 0 0 1 1 0 0
Cranston Jones CB 5'9, 167 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 12 37.0 5.5% 2.5 0 0 5 0 0
SaQwan Edwards CB 6'1, 188 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 11 34.0 5.1% 2 2 1 4 0 1
Brandon Branch FS 5'11, 187 Jr. NR 12 22.5 3.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Devonta Tabannah S 5'10, 170 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 12 19.0 2.8% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ryan Santos FS 5'9, 179 So. 3 stars (5.5) 11 17.0 2.5% 1 0 0 0 1 0
Jamal Merritt (2012) S 6'0, 188 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 6 12.5 2.0% 0 0 0 2 0 0
Tim Foley CB


12 11.5 1.7% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Donnie Duncan CB 5'11, 190 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 12 10.5 1.6% 0 0 0 1 0 0
Jadon Boatright CB 5'10, 172 So. 2 stars (5.3) 12 6.5 1.0% 0 0 0 1 0 0
Isaiah Brown CB 5'10, 180 So. 3 stars (5.5) 10 5.5 0.8% 0.5 0 0 1 0 1
Darien Brunson SS 6'1, 180 Jr. NR
Ricky Bennett DB 6'0, 208 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3)
Lee Crosby DB 5'11, 190 Jr. 2 stars (5.4)
Daniel Henry DB 6'0, 175 Jr. 2 stars (5.4)

8. With help, the secondary could thrive

It all comes down to the front seven, and not only are newcomers going to be prevalent on the field, but they're also going to be found on the sideline. Kevin Cosgrove is the new defensive coordinator (he spent the last two years coaching inside linebackers for Davie), and Barry Sacks, a longtime Chris Ault assistant at Nevada, comes in to coach the defensive line. There might be a little more diversity in terms of alignment up front, but the defense's success will be determined by whether these new pieces can instill improvement.

With better run support and pass rushing, the secondary might have enough depth and experience to succeed. Six of last year's top seven return, including safety David Guthrie, who proved to be a threat both close to and far from the line of scrimmage. Both returning corners recorded a pair of tackles of loss and at least five passes defensed, and there are some former three-star recruits lingering on the second string.

The secondary is probably the most proven unit on the defense. Now give it some help.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Ben Skaer 47 45.8 4 11 20 66.0%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Justus Adams 70 61.9 19 1 27.1%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Justus Adams 49-50 7-8 87.5% 1-4 25.0%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Carlos Wiggins KR 5'8, 157 Jr. 44 29.9 3
David Anaya KR 5'11, 192 Jr. 11 15.5 0
Dameon Gamblin PR 5'9, 160 So. 7 4.9 0
Tim Foley PR

6 4.3 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 32
Field Goal Efficiency 97
Punt Return Efficiency 105
Kick Return Efficiency 2
Punt Efficiency 14
Kickoff Efficiency 52
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 119

9. Goodbye, field position

Carlos Wiggins was perhaps the best kick return man in the country, and lord knows he got plenty of opportunities to return kicks. Thanks to Wiggins alone, UNM's field position game won't be completely awful. But with the loss of punter Ben Skaer and his 46-yard average, plus a decent kickoffs guy in Justus Adams (also an automatic place-kicker under 40 yards), the losses here outnumber the gains. Skaer was almost certainly the defense's biggest asset in 2013, so his loss is scary. (Or Skaery. Sorry.)

2014 Schedule & Projection Factors

2014 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
30-Aug UTEP 117
6-Sep Arizona State 28
20-Sep at New Mexico State 124
27-Sep Fresno State 46
4-Oct at UTSA 75
11-Oct San Diego State 83
18-Oct at Air Force 105
1-Nov at UNLV 109
8-Nov Boise State 18
15-Nov at Utah State 69
22-Nov at Colorado State 85
29-Nov Wyoming 100
Five-Year F/+ Rk -29.8% (122)
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 97
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* -4 / 0.8
TO Luck/Game -2.0
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 12 (6, 6)

10. New Mexico will improve in 2014

New Mexico will have a stout run game. No matter who is in the backfield at any given time, we know the Lobos will be just fine on the ground. And that's pretty much all we know. I am willing to bet that improved experience and depth result in decent improvement for Davie's Lobos as a whole, but there are so many question marks that it's hard to say how much improvement is in store.

Can Gautsche improve more as a passer? Can he stay healthy? Will the newcomers on the line fix the sieve up front? Will the new defensive assistants bring a clearer plan of attack to the table? Does punting become a problem without Ben Skaer?

The schedule is not particularly conducive to a major increase in wins; of the five opponents projected 100th or worse, UNM must visit three of them. The Lobos probably aren't ready to beat an Arizona State or Boise State at home (then again, they almost did just that to Boise two years ago), which means the path to bowl eligibility doesn't have much margin for error.

We'll say that UNM improves back to the 4-5 win range in 2014. With significant gains in the front seven, six is a possibility, but the MWC is pretty deep and exciting, and the Lobos probably aren't ready to pass too many bigger names just yet.

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