Monday night's whether could not have been better. It was cool, calm, with no storms looming in the near distance. The same could be said on the field for the 2006 Lobo receiving corps. Now, this is the first practice I have been to, and I overheard Kole say that Monday was better than Saturday, but I can't remember when I have seen a Lobo receiving corps catch so many balls this early on in practice. All of the individual effort that was put in over the summer looks to pay off for these players, and their consistency on the field held off any stormy words from caches Toledo and Dodd, which is a rarity this early in fall practice. Make no mistake, they have a long way to go, but based on what I saw, we have the potential to have one of the top receiving games in the Mountain West.
#6 Mike Love
#53 Kendall Briscoe
Heading the bunch is #81 Travis Brown (6'3"-190), and #4 Marcus Smith (6'3"-215). Both receivers have gained plenty of game experience over the last few years, with Travis gaining the most last year being the #2 option next to Hank Baskett (now with the Philadelphia Eagles). Lobo fans know all about Marcus Smith's ability as we have seen his speed on the fly series as well as a return man. Both have benefited from off-season workouts and now look to give the Lobos something they have not had in years; bookend receivers that have the potential to be all league.
The first thing that stands out about the 2006 version of Travis Brown is the addition of muscle to his frame. Playing as a true freshman, it was evident why the Lobos went after the West Covina kid; he can catch the ball. It was also evident that he needed to add some weight. Travis has developed a physique more conducive to the D-1 game that will give him a stronger presence on the field. A stronger pair of hands has also developed. When Travis catches the ball, he owns it, and on Monday he owned it. He had several catches for gains of 20 + yards. It was hard to see how much stronger he is after the catch because they were not in pads. That does not mean that there was no contact, because there was, and Travis looked stronger in the run-after-catch aspect.
Marcus Smith can be as good as he wants to be. He has a long frame that is a prototype receiver build. Marcus makes difficult catches look simple, as he was doing in coverage all through practice. From this writer's point of view, the only thing that stands in his way is his mentality. If he can stay focused and not let a mistake consume his attention on the rest of a series, or game, he is poised to break out and become a huge threat.
There are several up-and-comers that are looking to also snag some playing time. Two reliable receivers who have also improved their game are #89 Thomas Wilson (6'1"-180), and #3 Jason Caprioli (6'0"-180). Both were displaying sure hands as well as sound routes. Both have the ability to get good separation from the opponent. Another was #88 Daryl Jones (6'4"-200). Daryl, a red-shirt freshman, is showing flashes of greatness as he snared some over the shoulder catches, even one for a touchdown. He needs to work on his consistency and routes to be a factor in the rotation this year; physically he is ready. Others that showed that they have a chance to contribute are #16 Victor James (6'0"-195), and #82 Jonathan Brooks (6'1"-180). Both showed good receiver skills and could figure into the rotation this year.
#87 Clayton Cardenas
Another part of the receiving Corps we must not forget is the tight ends. We all know that #83 John Mulchrone (6'4"-238) has arguably the best set of hands on the team. In Bob Toledo's new version of the west-coast offense, John's numbers will definitely improve over last years. In practice, John made some great catches up the middle and showed that he will be tough to bring down for the opposition. I have heard several people say that they think that he could possibly be Kole's #1 target this year. The addition of John's JC teammate # 87 Clayton Cardenas (6'3"-250) has bolstered the group of young and talented tight ends. Clayton's arrival was much anticipated, but Clayton is still green to UNM's system, so it will take him some time. One thing about him that stands out is his size; he is a lean 250 and will be physical up front, and in the lanes, for the Lobos. Another that is starting to impress is #85 Chris Mark (6'5"-256). Chris has improved vastly over the last two years and is displaying some serious skills. He was seen catching reps with the first team, and had a few nice snags from Kole. He is faster than you would think and has real nice hands. Look for Chris to be a very solid player for UNM in the near future.
#94 TJ Radzilowski
Offensive Player of Practice
I have to give the offensive award to # 98 TE Luke Walters (6'3"-230). Where did this guy come from? In practice Luke was insane. He did not drop one pass all night (I may have missed one). He ran great routes, got good separation, and made catch after catch. Some of those catches were slightly deflected by the defender who was draped allover his back. He would somehow come down with the ball and shed the defender and break for the zone. If Luke continues to perform like that, he will have a breakout year. Congratulations Luke!
Defensive Player of Practice
Defensive player for the day was #20 Mike Vandenberg (6'1"-175). Mike is only a red-shirt freshman, but plays older than that. Mike has great skills and speed, you can tell that the coaching staff like him, and expect great things from him. All practice Mike was tight in coverage, and you could hear the coaches giving him props for that. Mike needs to work on assignment-sound football and being more physical, and the rest will fall into place. Congratulations Mike!
I find it harder and harder to single one out because there are now so many. Part (I am sure a big part) of the reason that the receivers were so on was that the QBs were also on; most notably #12 Kole McKamey (6'2"-207). Kole was laying it in there all night; ball placement was stellar. Kole is going to flourish in the new "O". I think Lobo fans are going to find out just how good Kole can really be; now that Bob is his coach. Congratulations Kole!
Don't forget to order your season football tickets! TIME IS RUNNING OUT!
Also bid on our items for the YAFL Send-A-Kid Auction! All you have to do is
Open up the item you want to bid on, click Add Reply and put the amount you want to bid on the item!
All proceeds go to buy tickets for local YAFL players to go to Lobo football games!
Thanks to Sportsman's Warehouse and Ryan Cook for donating these items for auction!