Rocky what are you doing on your last day of peace before it all begins?
This is normal work for us, we are breaking down film, putting practices schedules together, contacting our players so they know where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be there. It is the calm before the storm but we are working.
But the storm is already brewing?
I think it is. It is in the coaches' hearts. I hope it is in the player's.
Rocky are your practices open to the fans.
Yeah they are open and anybody that wants to come is welcomed as long as they stay out of harms way they can come and watch practice.
Rocky you are coming into your eighth year at UNM. You guys have been to 3 bowl games in a row, working on your 4th, predictions for the preseason are positive. How do you feel after 7 years and when you started did you think you would be at this place right now?
(Laughing) There are a lot of times especially in the first three or four years that I figured I wouldn't be here going into my eight season. Now that we have had a few years where we have been kind of successful and very competitive, and going to bowl games it just doesn't seem that it has been that long… but everyday I look in the mirror I see how much older I am so it must have been that long.
Rocky your first few years you were never picked that high by media and coaches and this year you are picked to finish 2nd in some polls, first in certain magazines. Do you pay attention to any of that?
Sure I look at it, but I don't put any credence into it because I can remember when they picked us 8th and we finished 4th or 5th… I think people are forgetting that two years ago we were picked to finish 2nd. Last year they picked us 4th and 5th and we finished 2nd so I don't put any credence in it like I don't in pre-season all conference honors either because players have to play and win those honors and we have to go and play and try to win a championship.
Rocky what are the things you are most concerned about going into the season? What do are the things you have to work on to get ready for that opener?
We have to get into top form and be ready to play as good as we can play early because we have a conference game early. My biggest concern is that we have a conference game right out of the box with a team with a new coaching staff. We can make educated guess on what we are going to see on offense and defense from them, but it is really a guessing match. Our team is going to have to practice against a lot of things in fall camp, we are going to have to be ready for anything and hopefully our team is mature enough to adjust. In the 1st half they will have some advantages and how quick we adjust will be the difference. I am a little nervous that we won't be going into the game as prepared as I would like. Not physically as we will be prepared that way, but scheme-wise we may not be as prepared as we would be if we have seen a team play once or twice.
Rocky during spring and over the summer the buzz on offense has been about spreading the ball out and tossing it around. Are we about to see the birth of "Air Rocky?"
(Laughing Hard) No… you're not going to see air whatever. We did work a lot in the spring on a spread offense partly because we think we need to open up the offense a little more to win the championship, and partly because we weren't sure that DonTrell would be ready to go. So we spent a lot of time in the spring spreading the formations out, throwing it a lot, running the option out of the shotgun and that is now part of our offense. We will also get into two tight ends, hand the ball to a great tailback, we are big up front, and we will still try to mash some people up front and run the ball. We did add the spread though and if they do pack it in there and it is hard to run we are going to spread it out and throw it around a lot more.
Rocky as you watch Kole McKamey mature, talk to us about his progress. How much better is he now than he was when he first started with you guys?
There is no comparison. In the spring he looked like a veteran QB. Last year when he started the season he was a rookie that made a lot of mistakes, was unable to change plays at the line of scrimmage because he was just learning how to read defenses. He is a very good athlete with a very good arm, he can run fast, plays the option well and I really saw a lot of growth in him last year as the season went along and it continued in the spring. He is going to look like a veteran QB the next two years and that just makes our program better!
The question you have answered a million times this summer. How is DonTrell Moore doing?
He is doing really well. About 3-4 weeks ago he was cleared to do summer workouts with the team, doing exactly what they do. Running drills, agility drills, 7 on 7 drills with the team. He has his final checkup with the doctors on Sunday around 2 or 3 in the afternoon and the doctors will tell us what they want him to do in training camp to start with and they will continue to monitor his progress. I think he is ready to go and I think they will clear him to practice full speed and if they do that will be great. He will be 100% sometime this year if not right now as he is really close at this point.
#4 Marcus Smith
One of the big questions for Lobo fans is how much better are the wide receivers going to be? Is Marcus Smith going to be a big contributor this year? Is someone other than Hank Baskett to shine in the WR corps?
In our mind as coaches we are very confident that someone or 2 or 3 of those other receivers besides Hank are going to have good year. Marcus Smith has a lot of talent and you have seen his speed, and he is a prime candidate to be that other guy, but we have several guys that really improved in the spring. Guys like Anthony Carter, Travis Brown, Chris Brawley, and we also have a couple of weapons in our two tight ends that have very good hands.
I also answer this question sometimes about receivers. Everyone talks about having only one receiver, well the majority of the teams that are very successful in football have a main receiver that catch most of the passes, including the pros. The Philadelphia Eagles Terrell Owens catches most of the passes and almost all the touchdown passes. In our league David Anderson and CSU, Ivan Bouknight at Wyoming, Jeff Webb at San Diego St… they catch 2/3's of the passes for their teams and other than CSU they are all passing teams…
Rocky, switching to the other side of the ball; how good is your defense?
I think we will find out as the season goes on. Last year our defensive line was small and inexperienced. Well we aren't young or inexperienced anymore, still a little small compared to other teams but our D-line ought to be pretty good. We have to replace two outstanding linebackers in Nick Speegle and Fola Fashola. They were our two leading tacklers and we have some really talented players there but how quick they mature and play at that level is yet to be seen. We lost a couple of great safety in Josh Bazinett, and we lost Brandon Payne at corner but we played a lot of 3 corners defense and the other 2 are back so we should be pretty good there. I think we will get better as it goes and as always I expect us to play good defense.
I know Lee Roy is going to laugh at me when I ask this question Rocky, but how do you replace Wes Zunker?
I don't know if that is a funny question or not… I've been losing sleep at night the past week or so wondering if we can replace Wes.
People forget that you have to have real good special teams to win. Now we have our punter back in Tyler Gaus but we are going to have a competition in fall camp to see who our starting field goal and extra point kicker is going to be and they have to have nerves of steel because they are going to be asked to win games like Wes did against Texas Tech last year.
Rocky we want to ask you about a couple of your former players currently trying to make professional rosters. Camp reports from Cleveland about Nick Speegle sound good and Claude Terrell being named starter for the Rams… What do you think about all of that?
(Chuckles with pride) Obviously when it is your players it is great to hear that stuff. We thought both of them would get drafted and we think both will make their teams… I learned my lesson with Brian Urlacher. When they drafted Brian, the Bears called up and I told them it will take him a little while to get used to playing linebacker and a little while to reach his potential, but I think he will be an All-Pro guy in two or three years and then he becomes an All-Pro his 1st year so I've learned to not make predictions, but it doesn't surprise me that those guys are doing really well in camp.
Rocky there are a lot of newer head coaches in the league. How tough is that for you?
It make it a little bit more difficult because you don't know their personalities, but once we see them on tape 2 or 3 times we can get a feel for what they want to do and a feel for their philosophies. The only one that worries me is our 1st game. It is his 1st head coaching job, and UNLV is a team that we played close with last year, and we aren't sure what his tendencies or philosophy is at this time. The others we will see on film enough that it won't make a difference.
Do you tell your guys for that 1st game just do your job, don't worry about what they are going to do, and we win that game?
You can say that on offense because if you execute on offense it doesn't matter what they do. On defense you are reacting to what they do. How you line up, where your stunts and blitzes come from as they change by formations and motions…
You guys have done a good of adjusting at halftime in the past. What is the secret to that?
The secret is that the players and coaches understand our scheme… so if what we practiced all week long isn't working or it isn't what we practiced against we can talk to our players and they understand so that they can go out and perform by just changing a scheme or a stunt here as we all speak that same language.
Rocky on a whole different subject; the NMAA decided to expand their playoffs letting 16 of the 22 teams participate in the playoffs. Are you in favor of that or are that too many teams?
I think if you only extend the season by a week or so the more teams that get into a playoff situation the better. I wish D-I would have a playoff system as well so that we could have a true national champion.
Rocky, one last question, has the MWC decided what bowl game the regular season champion will play in?
No they haven't… I know they were still working on getting us another bowl tie in and I just something a little disappointing that the Liberty Bowl may have worked out a plan with the SEC, so we might be out of that one. There has been talk about alternating between San Diego and Las Vegas getting the champion, but nothing has been decided.
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