As mandated by the NCAA the players can't practice in pads the first two days of spring ball so it was shorts and helmets today. (Look for first full day of pads on Thursday) That still didn't stop the 2005 edition of the UNM football team from having a very spirited practice that has some questions coming in.
Some of the questions Lobo fans will ask. Who will step up and fill the safety, linebacker, Hitmen, and defensive line positions. Not to mention who will step up and take over for injured running back DonTrell Moore during the spring and if he can't go during the regular season. Can another wide receiver step up and catch the ball other then Hank Baskett? What about this new offense we have heard about? Is Chris Nelson going to push Kole Mc Kamey for the starting nod?
I guess the first question we should try to answer is All-American candidate DonTrell Moore and his knee injury. As everyone knows DonTrell suffered a torn ACL during last year's Emerald Bowl and did have surgery earlier this year. After watching DonTrell today at practice you would never know that he was rehabbing a torn knee ligament. He was catching passes, riding the stationary bike, running conditioning drills, and just seeing DonTrell on the field had to put a smile on every Lobo fans face!
Not only that but DonTrell's attitude was one of let me get on the field. He was even telling head trainer Dave Binder. "Come on man let me try more. It isn't hurting. I don't even feel it." While I'm sure DonTrell would have loved nothing better then to be out on the field with his teammates, not once did you see him pout or be discouraged. He talked to media, was supporting his teammates, and displayed the courage and good nature that Lobo fans have grown to love!
Now of course DonTrell had to watch as the Lobos are unveiling a new offense, an offense that is loaded with motion, options, and misdirection. Once again, I'm no coach, but it seems like the quarterbacks are going to have a lot of quick and decisive decisions to make while running the new offense being introduced by Dan Dodd. So this leads to the next question. Who is going to be the starting quarterback? There is incumbent Jr. Kole Mc Kamey, and Jr-TR Chris Nelson. This battle will rage for the next couple of weeks, through the summer, and into the fall. This will be a challenge for Kole, as Chris Nelson wouldn't have come here if he didn't have a chance for the starting job.
Looking at today's practice Nelson is a big QB at 6-4 215 and he displayed a nice arm especially in the short and intermediate passing game hitting a couple of nice crossing patterns. I didn't really see Nelson pull the ball down much and run today so that will be something we will look for the rest of spring.
Mc Kamey meanwhile showed that he still has a nice arm, and the quick feet from last year. Not to mention he has put on some weight and strength since last December. (Check out the Night of Champions report) What makes Kole the leader for the quarterback spot this year is the same reason he won the job last year… Kole's ability to make quick decisions and the fact that he is a proven playmaker gives McKamey the edge over Nelson at this point.
Whoever wins the starting job is going to need offensive playmakers to make this offense go. We know DonTrell Moore and Hank Baskett are proven playmakers… but who else is going to step up. Today's practice I was extremely impressed by Paul Baker. The guy is quick to bounce to the outside and has a nice burst of speed around the corner. The big surprise at running back had to be RS-Fr Matthew Quillen. Matt is a nice power runner that will run over any linebacker that dares gets in his way.
At the wide receiver position it was nice seeing these guys make catches. Last year's spring practice I can recall seeing receivers dropping the ball, and dropping the ball, and dropping it again… Obviously this is the first day, but it was nice not to see after every play a receiver dropping the ball and smacking himself on the head after a drop. Dodd's new offense needs receivers to catch the ball and today Travis Brown, Marcus Smith, and Anthony Carter did not disappoint! Hank is Hank by the way…
Kind of tough to gauge The Hitmen today as it was mostly conditioning drills. But for those of you scoring the starting 5 were: Terrance Pennington, Bo Greer, Ryan Cook, Robert Turner, and Patrick Hodges.
Quick hits on offense
#97 Curtis "The Passion" Pino- A Red Menace favorite hair has grown even longer and thicker this year. Oh yeah, and his body as well! I believe The Passion is ready to step up this year and Logan Hall's starting job could be in serious jeopardy.
#3 (today) Marcus Smith coming off the flank behind Kole and them running an option play looked really good. It didn't go for much but I can see where this is going to cause opposing defenses problems.
Watching Matt Quillen at a wide out position when the Lobos run a trips formation leads me to believe MWC safeties are in for a serious headache with that lead blocker!
As far as defense goes… Rocky Long's defense is once again primed for another huge year with serious depth at all positions. Was really hard to gauge linebackers/defensive lineman play today as there wasn't major hitting going on but here are some thoughts.
The defensive line really has added some depth this year with guys coming off redshirt and JUCO transfers. I was really impressed with the play of Kevin Balogun. Kevin as many of you injured his knee last fall and ended up redshirting, the guy bulked up and will push for playing time. Being the first day of practice we didn't have a complete roster so I didn't' get a chance to really focus on Tyler Donaldson and Ryan Boyd but will give reports on those two guys as our reports roll on as well as the rest of the defensive line. Marcus Parker looks to be an all-conference player this year and we know Evroy Thompson will be a major contributor as well. Adam Garday stretched up high for an INT today that he took back to the house.
#27 Aleem Harris
The safety positions for UNM are LOADED! I mean they are LOADED this year. Starter Charles Brown and big contributor Tyson Ditmore find themselves fighting for playing time with returning players SR Ken West RS-Fr DeAndre Wright, and JUCO transfers Othellus Swift, Darvin Peterson, and Aleem Harris aka "The Punisher" All day long these guys names were called out by coaches as they all have speed and good footwork. I can hardly wait till Thursday when we can see them bring it! Some of the highlights from the safeties were Tyson Ditmore smacking the QB (even though they were off limits) knocking down the QB. In a real game QB is being peeled off the turf. Ken West stepped right in front of a pass picking it off, and Aleem is still learning the way. At 6-3 225 the guy is an imposing figure and in our interview with him told us he likes to punish people…
Some quick hits on defense
#78 Siosafa Vave has trimmed down and is looking very fit. The redshirt year looks to have done wonders for him, as he looks more aggressive and ready to earn some playing time.
Offensive player of practice
This is a tie to a pair of sophomore wide outs: both Travis Brown and Marcus Smith looked great catching plenty of passes and not making the drops they did last year. More importantly, when they did drop a pass or not make a catch they seemed to be more confident with themselves for the next play. Something we didn't see as much last year.
Defensive player of practice
#15 Ken West in front of Marcus
#15 Ken West in front of Marcus Smith
This is a tough one as they couldn't hit but I'm going to give it to safety Ken West for battling Marcus Smith on an out pattern for an interception and respect!
What a way to close out the 1st day of spring practice as #60 Billy Brittain and #59 Robert Turner (BIG SHOCKER HERE) were getting after it. I guess a Lobo practice just wouldn't be complete unless Robert Turner was throwing down!