Saturday, July 8, 2017

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: New Mexico Lobos

New Mexico Lobos
After a 2-3 start, it wasn't looking good for the Lobos, especially with one of those losses coming against state arch rival New Mexico State. Another of those losses came to one of the worst teams in the nation in Rutgers as well. after a 28 point loss to Boise State, the Lobos picked themselves up and took off on a five game winning streak, and ended up picking up a share of the Mountain Division title. New Mexico finished the season on a 7-1 run and won the New Mexico Bowl as well. Will this version of Lobos football have enough to make yet another run for a division title, or will they end up settling back down the chain again?
What To Be Excited About: Offense
The Lobos do lose Teriyon Gibson at RB, but they return junior Tyrone Owens, who rushed for 1097 yards and seven scores last season, and there should be no drop off, as Richard McQuarley also returns after rushing for 18 TDs. He is also the prime short yardage back.
Lamar Jordan is the starting QB, and will not be sharing the job in 2017. He rushed for 739 yards last season in the option oriented offense, and passed for 681 yards. His running skills are more important than his passing skills in this offense, as UNM loves to pound the rock and keep the football on the ground.
When the Lobos do need to throw the football, they have a decent set of receivers to go to in Patrick Reed and Matt Quarells. Delane Hart-Johnson, who redshirted last season because of injuries sustained in a car crash, also returns, and was the second best receiver on the team in 2015.
Jason Sanders was almost automatic on FG tries last season as he hit 12/13, and will be back to handle the job once again.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
The line is not a sure thing this fall, as only two starters return in C Blaise Fountain and RG Aaron Jenkins. A pair of sophomores seem set to start on the left side in LT Beau Hott and LG Charlie Grammel. Senior Avery Johnson is being given the shot to win the job at RT.
The Lobos will get young at TE as well, as sophomore Erik Beilman is set to start there as we head into fall camp.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
There is not a ton to be excited about on this defensive unit, as only two starters return from the final game of last season. DE Garrett Hughes is the returnee up front, and finished with 6.5 sacks last fall at DE. Kimmie Carson is back at LB as well after finishing with 58 tackles and 7.5 TFLs.
Corey Bojorquez is back at Punter, and had a solid season in 2016 while averaging 42.18 yards per punt. With a mostly new defensive lineup, his leg will be ever more important in 2017.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
The Lobos allowed 31.5 points per game last season, and that was an improvement over 2015. with nine starters missing from the team this fall, it is hard to see the Lobos continue the trend of improvement, and the offense may have to win in shootout mode.
Cody Baker is set to take over at the open DE spot, while senior Johnnie Williams takes over at NT. Hughes could also shift over to NT to open up yet another DE spot.
Austin Ocasio and Alex Hart are stepping into starting roles at LB to work with Carson.
The entire secondary must be replaced, and that means five spots in the 3-3-5 defense. Jordan Boatright and D'Angelo Ross look to be the CBs, while Jake Rothschiller, Jacob Girgle, and Kenneth Maxwell are in line for the three open Safety jobs.
2017 Schedule: 9/2 Abilene Christian, 9/9 New Mexico State, 9/14 at Boise State, 9/23 at Tulsa, 9/30 Air Force, 10/14 at Fresno State, 10/20 Colorado State, 10/28 at Wyoming, 11/4 Utah State, 11/11 at Texas A&M, 11/17 UNLV, 11/25 at San Diego State
Final Overview
The Lobos will have to really push this new defense hard if they wish to get close to returning to their status of last season. With all of the new moving parts, and what they have lost, it's hard for me to look at this football team and see a group that can push back for a share of the Mountain Division title this fall. I think that the team can be competitive, but there are just too many holes, and too many games that I can see this team losing to make it all work. I see this as a five win football team this fall, unfortunately.

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