clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Bob Davie has led New Mexico out of the college football wasteland. Now what?

New, comments

"Now that New Mexico is back to sea level, we'll have a whole new set of questions. Can Davie move the program further forward?"

Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.

1. The Chasm Period is over

When your program is in free fall, you have no idea how or when it's going to end. You think you've hit a low point, and then you keep falling. You don't know it's over until the rebound has begun.

New Mexico's was a three-year fall. Rocky Long created a level of strange consistency during his 11-year tenure in Albuquerque, winning between six and eight games for six straight seasons (2001-06). Even when the results went up (9-4 in 2007) and down (4-8 in 2008), the product was basically the same. In his last four seasons, New Mexico ranked 72nd, 67th, 63rd, and 64th in S&P+.

Long unexpectedly resigned after 2008, explaining that he had done what he could within the restraints of a tricky job.

In Long's absence, New Mexico found new depths. Ace recruiter Mike Locksley was brought in as a sort of anti-Long, but he wasn't ready to take on a job with this difficulty level. He signed some strong recruits, but the product collapsed. From 2009-11, New Mexico won three games. Three!

In six years of writing New Mexico previews, I've touched on these points before. You are probably familiar with them. But I thought it was important to lay that out so I could also say this: The chasm is over.

After years in the broadcasting booth, former Notre Dame head coach Bob Davie must have had one hell of a coaching itch. Not only did he return to the profession, he took on a really hard job. New Mexico ranked 119th out of 120 in each of the two years before he arrived, and it took him four years to dig New Mexico out.

In 2015, New Mexico basically had the same team it did when the Lobos went 4-8 in 2014. In fact, from an S&P+ perspective, they fell a bit, from 91st to 10st. But with an easier schedule and a couple more breaks, New Mexico returned to the postseason for the first time since 2007.

Now that New Mexico is back to sea level, we'll have a whole new set of questions. Can Davie move the program further forward, or is he just a reclamation artist, setting the table for the next guy?

For now, that Davie has brought respectability back is a massive accomplishment. With a minimal recruiting base and only so much fan support, this is always going to be a hard job, but it was nearly impossible when he moved to town.

If Davie is capable of pushing New Mexico to actual heights, we'll begin to know in 2016. The Lobos return a good portion of last year's offensive cast and almost all of a defense that has grown slowly enough to drive Davie, a former ace defensive coordinator, crazy.

2015 Schedule & Results

Record: 7-6 | Adj. Record: 4-9 | Final F/+ Rk: 99 | Final S&P+ Rk: 101
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Percentile
Performance
Win
Expectancy
vs. S&P+ Performance
vs. Vegas
5-Sep Miss. Valley State N/A 66-0 W 97% 100% +48.0
12-Sep Tulsa 95 21-40 L 10% 6% -18.6 -23.0
18-Sep at Arizona State 50 10-34 L 4% 0% +2.5 +4.0
26-Sep at Wyoming 115 38-28 W 54% 95% +4.2 +7.0
3-Oct New Mexico State 118 38-29 W 23% 48% -0.1 -3.5
10-Oct at Nevada 97 17-35 L 3% 0% -12.5 -13.0
17-Oct Hawaii 120 28-27 W 14% 26% +2.5 -5.0
24-Oct at San Jose State 89 21-31 L 32% 42% -3.8 -2.5
7-Nov Utah State 53 14-13 W 18% 10% +16.6 +15.5
14-Nov at Boise State 37 31-24 W 72% 86% +32.5 +37.0
21-Nov Colorado State 86 21-28 L 17% 8% +1.3 -5.0
28-Nov Air Force 63 47-35 W 65% 83% +26.8 +21.5
19-Dec vs. Arizona 77 37-45 L 10% 4% +0.1 0.0

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 24.5 94 35.1 107
Points Per Game 29.9 58 28.4 82

2. The next step: consistency

Last year, I suggested New Mexico was ready for a minor breakthrough.

Davie has done the hard part -- building the foundation, creating depth, figuring out how to recruit solid athletes to Albuquerque -- and now here comes the hard part: winning. No matter what kind of wreckage the last guy left you, you're going to have to get back to .500 and beyond at some point.

New Mexico returns an exciting young quarterback, a loaded backfield, four players with starting experience on the offensive line, three of its top five tacklers on the defensive line, five of seven at linebacker, and five of seven at defensive back. This will be the deepest, most interesting New Mexico team to take the field since 2007, and the schedule features six teams that ranked 111th or worse in the F/+ rankings last year, not to mention big home win opportunities against teams like Utah State, Colorado State, and Air Force.

The schedule indeed eased up, and since the team didn't improve much, that was key. Despite only a few names on the schedule changing, plenty of 2015 opponents got worse -- Arizona State, Wyoming, Utah State, Boise State, Colorado State -- and it gave the Lobos opportunities for wins.

Because of inconsistency, UNM didn't take full advantage. The Lobos looked dreadful in losses to Tulsa and Nevada and let games slip away against San Jose State and Arizona. But they countered the bad with good, beating all three of the MWC Mountain's top teams. (Going by win expectancy, they were lucky to beat Utah State, but they were very much the better team against Boise State and Air Force.)

The ups and downs were in some way exhilarating, but there was plenty of frustration to go with the excitement. And in 2016, the goal will be maintaining a steadier form. The schedule again features plenty of potential wins -- nine opponents are projected 87th or worse in S&P+, and only one is projected higher than 70th -- and a more mature team could top seven wins.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.36 23 IsoPPP+ 88.8 107
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 39.0% 97 Succ. Rt. + 90.7 108
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 28.6 43 Def. FP+ 31.1 96
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity 4.4 63 Redzone S&P+ 98.8 77
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 17.1 ACTUAL 21 +3.9
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 70 94 108 107
RUSHING 9 85 87 72
PASSING 122 109 120 92
Standard Downs 89 79 85
Passing Downs 119 122 112
Q1 Rk 73 1st Down Rk 106
Q2 Rk 98 2nd Down Rk 68
Q3 Rk 80 3rd Down Rk 109
Q4 Rk 120

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2016 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Lamar Jordan 5'10, 190 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7993 61 118 1045 5 8 51.7% 6 4.8% 7.8
Austin Apodaca 6'2, 207 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8148 57 109 723 1 6 52.3% 4 3.5% 6.0
JaJuan Lawson 6'0, 205 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8177
Kameron Miller 6'2, 185 Fr. NR 0.7806
Tevaka Tuioti 6'0, 177 Fr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7819

3. Lamar Jordan as a young Collin Klein

In 2010, Bill Snyder attempted an awkward quarterback balance at Kansas State. He didn't think sophomore Collin Klein was ready for a full load at quarterback, so he used Klein sparingly and in obvious-run situations and let senior Carson Coffman take on a lot of the obvious passing. That put a lot of pressure on Coffman, who threw 24 percent of his passes on third-and-4 or more (Klein, meanwhile, threw just 18 total passes), but it helped get KSU to a bowl game.

Klein didn't emerge as an option until midway through the 2010 season, so the parallels between him and New Mexico's Lamar Jordan in 2015 aren't perfect. But offensive coordinator Bob DeBesse attempted a similar balance with two Lobo QBs. Jordan was a strong choice to run the option portion of the UNM offense; he rushed for 888 yards (not including sacks) and provided an explosive complement to running backs Teriyon Gipson and Jhurell Pressley.

He wasn't much of a passer, though; in a lot of ways, he was like a more old-school KSU option guy: Michael Bishop. On first downs, when play action was a distinct threat, Jordan averaged more than 20 yards per completion, but he completed only 16 of 32 passes with three interceptions. And in a lot of passing or comeback situations, UNM inserted Washington State transfer Austin Apodaca into the game.

This was an awkward arrangement, and Apodaca didn't fare incredibly well. Throwing a good percentage of his passes on passing downs, he was often staring into the face of a strong pass rush, and on third-and-7 or more, he completed just 12 of 23 passes with three picks. No matter who was in the game, when UNM slid into a passing down, the drive ended soon after.

We'll see what changes with this arrangement in 2016. The best-case scenario would be that, as with Klein in 2011, Jordan's passing develops to a point where he isn't a passing downs liability. But that's not guaranteed.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Opp.
Opp.
Rate
Fumbles Fum.
Lost
Teriyon Gipson TB 5'8, 182 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8067 150 855 6 5.7 6.0 38.0% 2 1
Jhurell Pressley RB 149 926 11 6.2 9.8 33.6% 0 0
Lamar Jordan QB 5'10, 190 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7993 141 888 9 6.3 8.0 42.6% 3 1
Richard McQuarley RB 5'11, 218 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7683 52 230 7 4.4 7.7 23.1% 0 0
Austin Apodaca QB 6'2, 207 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8148 29 84 1 2.9 2.0 34.5% 3 1
Tyrone Owens RB 5'9, 185 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7893 23 121 3 5.3 13.7 21.7% 1 0
David Anaya TB 19 65 1 3.4 2.9 31.6% 0 0
Daryl Chestnut RB 5'8, 188 Jr. 3 stars 0.7800 16 129 2 8.1 18.4 31.3% 1 0
Romell Jordan RB 5'8, 182 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.8183 16 61 0 3.8 2.1 43.8% 1 0
Dameon Gamblin WR 5'10, 174 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7600 9 51 0 5.7 3.7 55.6% 2 2
Diquon Woodhouse RB 5'9, 195 So. 2 stars NR 7 12 1 1.7 2.7 14.3% 1 0
Carlos Wiggins WR 6 59 0 9.8 5.0 83.3% 2 1
Daevon Vigilant RB 5'7, 184 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8383







4. One-half of a two-headed monster is gone

Whether Jordan's ready for the full-time job or not, New Mexico should still be pretty strong on standard downs. Jhurell Pressley is gone, which deprives the Lobos of an explosive weapon, but senior Teriyon Gipson is back, and the return of juniors Richard McQuarley and Daryl Chestnut and sophomore Tyron Owens gives UNM quite a few potential Pressley imitators; like Pressley, all three were inefficient but explosive.

Only 34 percent of Pressley's carries gained five or more yards, but the ones that did gained a lot more than five. Because of passing downs issues, New Mexico could probably benefit from trading a big gain or two for a few more five-yarders, and we'll see if that happens.

The line should be about the same as last year -- three starters are gone, but in a way, three return (Garrett Adcock started only once last year after starting 19 games the two previous years). Plus, Davie signed three JUCO transfers up front to plump up the depth of options a bit. And if or when Jordan continues to develop his option timing, the run game should again be a strength.

So that leaves the passing game.

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
Yds/
Target
%SD Success
Rate
IsoPPP
Dameon Gamblin WR-H 5'10, 174 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7600 48 35 418 72.9% 22.3% 8.7 47.9% 52.1% 1.50
Carlos Wiggins WR-Y 32 12 233 37.5% 14.9% 7.3 43.8% 28.1% 2.37
Delane Hart-Johnson WR-Y 6'4, 210 Jr. NR 0.8000 26 11 327 42.3% 12.1% 12.6 30.8% 26.9% 4.35
Teriyon Gipson RB 5'8, 182 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8067 26 17 185 65.4% 12.1% 7.1 26.9% 26.9% 2.24
Reece White TE 25 14 273 56.0% 11.6% 10.9 64.0% 52.0% 1.83
Marquis Bundy WR-X 16 8 133 50.0% 7.4% 8.3 31.3% 43.8% 1.44
Chris Davis, Jr. WR-H 5'6, 171 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7667 8 6 65 75.0% 3.7% 8.1 62.5% 75.0% 0.69
Romell Jordan RB 5'8, 182 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.8183 5 4 33 80.0% 2.3% 6.6 40.0% 60.0% 0.99
Ridge Jones WR 5'10, 171 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7893 5 4 31 80.0% 2.3% 6.2 100.0% 60.0% 0.92
Daryl Chestnut RB 5'8, 188 Jr. 3 stars 0.7800 4 2 32 50.0% 1.9% 8.0 75.0% 25.0% 3.52
Matt Quarells WR-X 6'1, 192 So. 2 stars 0.8268 4 2 23 50.0% 1.9% 5.8 75.0% 50.0% 1.04
Patrick Reed WR 6'2, 186 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7859 3 1 1 33.3% 1.4% 0.3 33.3% 0.0% 0.00
Cole Gautsche TE 6'4, 260 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8162
Q' Drennan WR 6'1, 183 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7893
Dyson Chmura TE 6'3, 230 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7826
Anu Somoye WR 6'2, 185 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7706
Emmanuel Harris WR 5'9, 196 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8041
Jay Griffin IV WR 5'10, 158 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8148

5. Go long

When Bishop and Kansas State were terrorizing opposing defenses in 1998, the passing game basically featured three targets: speedy deep threats Darnell McDonald and Aaron Lockett (combined: 119 catches, 2,010 yards) and tight end Justin Swift (23 catches, 342 yards).

In Delane Hart-Johnson, UNM has a lovely play-action deep threat. He caught barely 40 percent of his passes, but the ones he caught were devastating; he averaged nearly 30 yards per catch. As the year went on, however, he became completely all-or-nothing. After catching eight passes for 68 yards in the first six games, he caught only three passes in the last seven. They went for 86, 81, and 92 yards.

Inconsistent or not, Hart-Johnson was the Lockett in the equation. Dameon Gamblin, meanwhile, was the McDonald, not nearly as explosive but potentially more reliable. He averaged under 12 yards per catch but actually caught 73 percent of his passes. His emergence was helpful, but he might need one more complement.

Is there another possession man in the mix? Converted quarterback Cole Gautsche, who redshirted and bulked up a bit in 2015, could be an intriguing weapon. So, too, could redshirt freshman Dyson Chmura, son of former Pro Bowl tight end Mark. If another efficiency option emerges (and Jordan and/or Apodaca get a little bit better), then New Mexico might have the pieces it needs for when it does decide to throw the ball.

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 93 2.84 2.42 36.0% 68.9% 20.2% 109.9 4.4% 5.8%
Rank 105 72 116 100 43 83 46 55 34
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. 2015 Starts Career Starts Honors/Notes
Reno Henderson LT 6'4, 275 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7683 13 26
Eden Mahina C 13 26
Garrett Adcock LT 6'2, 291 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7963 1 20
Aaron Jenkins RG 6'1, 312 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8081 13 13
Bryan Oldenkamp LG 12 12
Dillon Romine RT 11 11
Chris Lewis LG 6'3, 301 Sr. NR 0.8083 1 1
Tevita Fonua C 6'2, 308 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7533 1 1
Jack Lamm OL 6'3, 278 Sr. NR NR 0 0
Jack Ziltz OL 6'2, 275 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7519 0 0
Beau Hott OL 6'2, 287 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8051

Charlie Grammel OL 6'2, 308 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7826

Avery Jordan OL 6'4, 285 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8115

Raymond Baylor III OL 6'1, 299 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7900

Blaise Fountain OL 6'0, 280 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7785

Kameron Smith OL 6'7, 317 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7967

SIGN UP FOR OUR COLLEGE FOOTBALL NEWSLETTER

Get all kinds of college football stories, rumors, game coverage, and Jim Harbaugh oddity in your inbox every day.

Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.43 115 IsoPPP+ 85.1 117
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 42.1% 70 Succ. Rt. + 92.7 94
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 30.9 46 Off. FP+ 28.1 98
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity 4.1 43 Redzone S&P+ 102.2 64
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 19.8 ACTUAL 25.0 +5.2
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 97 107 94 117
RUSHING 93 84 75 85
PASSING 93 116 108 117
Standard Downs 102 84 107
Passing Downs 114 96 118
Q1 Rk 110 1st Down Rk 108
Q2 Rk 115 2nd Down Rk 108
Q3 Rk 89 3rd Down Rk 97
Q4 Rk 46

6. Still looking for defensive footing

Davie cut his teeth coaching for two famed defensive coordinators -- Jackie Sherrill at Pitt and R.C. Slocum at Texas A&M. When Slocum took the head coaching job at A&M, Davie moved up to the coordinator slot and thrived, eventually taking on the same role at Notre Dame.

Davie's name became synonymous with swarming, attacking defenses. He was so renowned at Notre Dame that he took the head coaching job when Lou Holtz retired.

Granted, the Notre Dame gig didn't work out incredibly well, but Davie's defense-happy reputation remained intact. Imagine, then, how frustrating these last few years have been for him.

His New Mexico defenses have been mostly awful. The Lobos have allowed at least 35 points 24 times in four years despite running an offense designed to control the ball and work the clock. In 2015, they "improved" by ranking only 107th in Def. S&P+ (they were 119th in 2014).

New Mexico seems to want to attack, and in basically running a 3-3-5, Davie and defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove are attempting to get as much speed on the field as possible. But strangely, despite an alignment that would seem to favor pass defense at the expense of run defense, UNM did a decent job of attacking in the front seven but gave up too much through the air.

With basically the top seven linemen and four of the top five linebackers returning, UNM should be able to do an even better job of attacking near the line of scrimmage. But it's unclear if anything will improve in the back.

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 98.6 3.00 2.80 36.0% 60.8% 21.3% 105.6 5.8% 8.4%
Rank 73 84 30 39 33 48 52 39 44
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Nik D'Avanzo DE 6'3, 281 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7894 13 43.5 6.1% 8.5 0.5 0 2 0 0
Cody Baker DE 6'3, 246 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7826 13 22.5 3.2% 2.5 1.0 0 0 0 0
William Udeh NT 6'0, 294 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8289 13 13.0 1.8% 2.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Garrett Hughes DE 6'1, 267 Jr. 3 stars 0.8241 12 11.0 1.5% 5.5 2.0 0 1 0 0
Taylor Timmons NT 6'0, 291 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8200 12 9.0 1.3% 5.0 3.5 0 0 0 0
Kene Okonkwo DE 6'3, 270 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7544 6 3.5 0.5% 1.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Sam Mabany DE
5 1.5 0.2% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Ewing Simmons DE 6'2, 265 Sr. 2 stars 0.7900
Johnny Williams NT 6'2, 280 Jr. NR NR
Teton Saltes DE 6'4, 250 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8516
Nahje Flowers DE 6'3, 259 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.7889








Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Dakota Cox MLB 6'0, 231 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8001 13 73.5 10.4% 11.0 5.0 1 1 0 0
Kimmie Carson WLB 6'0, 213 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8000 13 60.0 8.5% 8.0 3.5 0 0 1 0
Ryan Langford WLB 13 38.5 5.4% 6.5 2.0 1 2 0 0
Maurice Daniels RUSH 6'4, 219 Sr. NR NR 13 34.5 4.9% 12.5 5.5 0 4 1 0
Donnie White RUSH 6'1, 240 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8141 13 29.5 4.2% 4.5 3.0 0 0 0 0
Michael Arredondo MLB 13 4.5 0.6% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Kenya Donaldson LB 6'1, 218 Sr. NR NR 9 3.0 0.4% 0.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Alex Hart LB 6'2, 220 So. NR 0.7883 9 1.5 0.2% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Geoff Smelser LB 6'1, 235 Jr. NR NR
Austin Ocasio LB 6'1, 226 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7533
Rhashaun Epting LB 6'2, 220 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8281








7. Depth of attackers

New Mexico tried to attack from a lot of different angles; eight members of the front six logged at least 4.5 tackles for loss, and seven of them return this fall. Davie and his staff have recruited pretty well here -- six returnees were three-star signees per the 247Sports Composite, and two more three-star freshmen join the roster soon -- and they have a pretty good set of play-makers to show for it.

Still, there were leaks. UNM allowed 199 gains of 10-plus yards (102nd in FBS) and 50 passes of 20-plus (105th), and against a pretty weak schedule, that's egregious. Sacrificing a few big plays in the name of aggressiveness can pay off handsomely, but the balance isn't quite there yet. And while a lot of that has to do with the secondary, a lot of plays also MADE it to the secondary, which was at least partially the fault of the guys up front.

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Daniel Henry FS 6'1, 196 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7833 13 59.0 8.3% 3 1 0 4 2 0
Lee Crosby LOCK 5'11, 201 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7593 12 44.5 6.3% 6.5 2 2 3 1 0
Ryan Santos SS 5'10, 190 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7800 13 41.0 5.8% 0 0 1 3 0 0
Markel Byrd FS NR 12 39.0 5.5% 2.5 1 3 2 0 0
Nias Martin CB 5'10, 175 Sr. NR NR 13 33.5 4.7% 2 0 0 6 0 1
Donnie Duncan CB 13 28.5 4.0% 1 0 1 2 0 0
Cranston Jones CB 13 27.5 3.9% 2 0 4 4 0 0
Jake Rothschiller LOCK 5'7, 190 Jr. NR NR 13 21.5 3.0% 3 0 0 1 0 0
Isaiah Brown CB 5'11, 187 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8322 7 12.5 1.8% 0 0 0 3 0 0
Ricky Bennett S 6'0, 213 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7444 10 11.0 1.5% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Kenneth Maxwell SS 6'0, 193 Sr. NR NR 9 6.0 0.8% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Travis Green S 13 5.0 0.7% 0 0 1 0 0 0
John Russo S 5'11, 192 Sr. NR NR 13 4.0 0.6% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Bijon Parker CB 6'0, 188 So. NR NR 5 2.0 0.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Marquez Mackey CB 5'9, 172 Jr. NR 0.7600
Blair Manly CB 6'1, 182 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8064
Stanley Barnwell Jr. DB 6'1, 185 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7726
Patrick Peek CB 5'11, 193 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8113
Corey Hightower CB 5'11, 171 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8059

8. Now the secondary has to produce

The good news: On third-and-4 or more, opponents completed just 50 percent of their passes and threw eight interceptions among 105 passes in the face of a pretty good pass rush.

The bad news: Opponents' 53 completions on third-and-4 or more gained 823 yards, 15.5 per completion. New Mexico went for big plays on big downs and basically succeeded every time. The problem was that half the big plays belonged to the opponent.

Senior safeties Daniel Henry, Lee Crosby, and Ryan Santos all return, which is good, but the cornerback position could be problematic. Two of last year's top three tacklers at the position are gone, and the third, Nias Martin, might be in a little bit of trouble.

Senior Isaiah Brown is a solid option when healthy, but he's rarely healthy, and that means youngsters like redshirt freshman Blair Manly and true freshmen Patrick Peek and Corey Hightower could play roles sooner than later. All three were 247 three-stars, but experience tends to matter quite a bit in the secondary, and the cornerback position might not have much of it.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Zack Rogers 68 41.8 2 25 20 66.2%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Jason Sanders 5'11, 186 Jr. 72 63.9 50 1 69.4%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2016
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Zack Rogers 27-27 3-5 60.0% 2-3 66.7%
Jason Sanders 5'11, 186 Jr. 22-22 3-5 60.0% 0-2 0.0%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Carlos Wiggins KR 24 27.6 1
Daryl Chestnut KR 5'8, 188 Jr. 6 18.2 0
Carlos Wiggins PR 10 5.8 0
Category Rk
Special Teams S&P+ 88
Field Goal Efficiency 124
Punt Return Success Rate 108
Kick Return Success Rate 24
Punt Success Rate 40
Kickoff Success Rate 5

9. If Sanders can control his cannon...

Like much of the team itself, New Mexico's special teams unit was all-or-nothing in 2015. Carlos Wiggins was a fantastic kick returner and an inefficient punt returner. Jason Sanders boasted booming kickoffs but was scattershot on field goals.

Wiggins and punter Zack Rogers are gone, which is scary, but if Sanders can harness his big leg a little bit more accurately, UNM could at least produce mediocre special teams numbers.

2016 Schedule & Projection Factors

2016 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. S&P+ Rk Proj. Margin Win Probability
3-Sep South Dakota NR 14.8 80%
10-Sep at New Mexico State 117 1.5 54%
17-Sep at Rutgers 87 -8.8 31%
1-Oct San Jose State 92 0.0 50%
8-Oct Boise State 36 -13.2 22%
15-Oct at Air Force 80 -7.7 33%
22-Oct UL-Monroe 125 11.5 75%
29-Oct at Hawaii 118 1.6 54%
5-Nov Nevada 91 -0.6 49%
12-Nov at Utah State 73 -12.6 23%
19-Nov at Colorado State 96 -5.5 38%
26-Nov Wyoming 110 6.7 65%
Projected wins: 5.7
Five-Year F/+ Rk -36.8% (123)
2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk 106 / 104
2015 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin* 4 / 2.7
2015 TO Luck/Game +0.6
Returning Production (Off. / Def.) 78% (76%, 80%)
2015 Second-order wins (difference) 5.1 (1.9)

10. A fast start is mandatory

The combination of returning experience and an improving product (plus middle-of-the-pack recruiting in the MWC) gives New Mexico a projection of No. 102 in S&P+, about where the Lobos ranked last year. It's not hard to see them exceeding that if experience at quarterback and on defense lead to steadier play, but it's a projection that will give them a shot at a second straight bowl game.

But unless they plan on pulling off the "lose to bad teams, then beat some good ones" act again -- and that's hard enough to do once -- it's likely UNM will need a strong start to reach six wins. The first four games feature two (at NMSU, SJSU at home) that are, by the numbers, complete tossups. Two more (at Hawaii, Nevada) show up later, but one figures UNM will need to be at least 2-2, preferably 3-1, when Boise State comes to town on October 8.