A favorable schedule could help New Mexico get to six wins and a possible bowl invite. The key for the Lobos is whether the offense can continue to pile up the rushing yards and if the defense can get a little stinger when it comes to points allowed. If everything comes together, Bob Davie's team could go bowling for the first time since 2007.
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Previewing New Mexico’s Offense for 2015
When there are questions at quarterback, it seldom bodes well. For New Mexico, however, the consequences of not having a locked-in starter might not be as damaging as for most teams, thanks to a rushing attack that averaged over 300 yards per game last season. Four offensive linemen with starting experience return, as does 1,000-yard rusher Jhurell Pressley.
The challenge for coach Bob Davie is to complement the option-oriented attack from the Pistol formation with a passing game that can be counted on. Lamar Jordan started the final four games of 2014 and played in seven others, and his ability to run (612 yards, 5.1 yards per carry) is superior to his ability to throw (53 percent completions, six TDs, five INTs). Still, Davie likes Jordan’s competitiveness, which showed itself in the two fourth-quarter road comebacks he engineered.
Jordan’s competition is Austin Apodaca, a junior college transfer who originally signed with Washington State. Apodaca is a pure passer who has never run much. At Mesa Community College in 2014, he threw for more yards (2,534) and touchdowns (27) than New Mexico has in the past two seasons combined. The hope is that one of the two quarterbacks gives an untested receiving corps more opportunity to shine and gives the offense a chance to stretch the field and convert more on third down.
Previewing New Mexico’s Defense for 2015
In an effort to aid a pass defense that was ranked 92nd in the nation last season, New Mexico is switching to a 3-3-5 base formation. The fifth defensive back, or “Lobo,” will be manned by either Ricky Bennett (who saw action in all 11 games as a backup in 2014) or Lee Crosby (who redshirted after a two-year stint in junior college). Both are physical defensive backs who should be able to provide ample run support.
Corners Cranston Jones and Jadon Boatwright both have starting experience, and Isaiah Brown has shown flashes. Safety Markel Byrd is a returning starter but is behind Ryan Santos on the depth chart. The defense’s best player, linebacker Dakota Cox, is hoping to be ready for the season-opener after tearing his ACL in November. Cox led the nation in tackles per game (12.9) as a sophomore before his injury. Returning starters Kimmie Carson and Donnie White will fill out the other two linebacker spots as New Mexico goes from starting four to three.
The defensive line welcomes back some experience. End Nik D’Avanzo is the top player on the line, while William Udeh and Cole Juarez form a strong nose tackle combo.
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Previewing New Mexico’s Specialists for 2015
Kickoff returns have been a specialty for New Mexico since Davie took over. The Lobos have returned seven for scores in the last three years, including two last season. Speedy Ridge Jones and Carlos Wiggins figure to man those duties. Zack Rogers handled punting (42.6-yard average) and field goal duties (5-for-8) last season. Kickoff specialist Jason Sanders appears ready to take over field-goal duties, which would allow Rogers to focus on punting.
faces five teams that won four or fewer games last season, plus FCS member Mississippi Valley State, so getting to six wins is not an impossible task. Should Apodaca adjust to the running portion of the offense and create a legitimate passing attack, New Mexico is going to score enough to win some games.
Defensively, the team gave up more than 28 points per game against unranked opponents, a number that simply has to come down. A bowl game is the ceiling for this year’s team, but it is a ceiling that at least appears to be reachable for the first time in the Davie era.