NCAA Football Preview - New Mexico Lobos

Prior to Davie taking over in Albuquerque, the Lobos suffered three straight seasons with a record of only 1-11. The team was the doormat in the Mountain West Conference so really it could only get better. Coach Davie managed to give the community some hope with four wins in the first seven games of 2012, but the team ended up just 4-9 and was again insignificant in conference action (1-7). The squad ended the campaign on a six-game slide, but showed some promise by losing the last three outings by a combined 16 points.

In 2013, New Mexico kicked off with a home loss to Texas-San Antonio and then proceeded to drop games by a wide margin as the defense went to sleep. The group surrendered a massive 516.6 ypg to rank last in the Mountain West and 119th nationally, with all of those yards leading to 42.8 ppg, which was again last in the league and 118th in the country.

The Lobos won a total of just three games last season versus UTEP, New Mexico State and Air Force, and finished 1-7 in conference play which left them sitting in fifth place in the Mountain Division. Unfortunately, even those three victories need to be taken with a grain of salt given the fact that the trio of opponents finished 2013 with a combined record of 6-30.

Because the Lobos were so awful on the defensive side of the ball, Davie opted to shake up his coaching staff after just two seasons, choosing to elevate inside linebackers coach Kevin Cosgrove to defensive coordinator. The program added two other defensive coaches in Barry Sacks and Charles McMillian in an effort to change the culture.

"We're fortunate to have a coach on our staff in coach Cosgrove who not only has extensive experience as a defensive coordinator, but who has worked directly with the current players in our program," Davie said. "Kevin and I share similar views on our defensive philosophy, and I'm confident he can produce a unit that can help us continue to grow the program as we move forward."

2014 ANALYSIS:

OFFENSE: While Clayton Mitchem is listed as a returning starter at the quarterback position for the Lobos, the most recent depth chart actually has him sitting behind Cole Gautsche. Gautsche appeared in only nine games last season, throwing for 639 yards and seven touchdowns, but he completed a mere 44.9 percent of his attempts, a far cry from the 59.3 percent of Mitchem. However, the bigger difference there was that Mitchem accounted for just a single aerial touchdown as he appeared in 11 games for New Mexico.

No matter which quarterback gets the nod in the opener, or the rest of the season for that matter, their main focus will be seeking out Carlos Wiggins and Jeric Magnant. The team will be trying to make a more concerted effort to get the passing attack off the ground this season, after placing 11th in the conference and 120th nationally with a woeful 113.0 ypg through the air. Magnant tied for the team lead with 19 catches, leading to 294 yards, matching Marquis Bundy who turned his receptions into 261 yards and a couple of TDs.

Wiggins, who posted 13 catches for 163 yards and two scores, was much like everyone else on offense that simply watched the rushing attack bull its way to 308.0 ypg and 40 touchdowns. However, this year the team no longer has Kasey Carrier (1,122 yards, nine TDs) to shoulder the load in that department and instead will be breaking in David Anaya (11 carries, 110 yards), while leaning on Jhurell Pressley and Teriyon Gipson who combined for 11 TDs in 2013.

The Lobos are set to bring back three starters along the offensive line, one of them being LaMar Bratton who was named to the 2014 Mountain West Preseason All-Conference Team. Bratton is also on the Rimington Award Watch List.

DEFENSE: The Lobos have quite a bit to work on defensively this season. The team ranked last in the MWC and 118th nationally with a staggering 42.8 ppg allowed a year ago, and much of that had to do with the fact that the run defense was almost non-existent. The squad was 11th in the league and 120th in the country with 257.2 ypg allowed on the ground, so for as well as the Lobos themselves ran the ball, the defense simply turned around and gave it all back.

The unit has a pair of returning starters at linebacker in Dakota Cox and Javarie Johnson, the former being the top overall tackler for the squad a year ago after making 99 stops. However, for as much action as Cox saw, very little of his play involved signature stops of any kind. In fact, Cox had just a single tackle for loss and only one pass breakup.

Luckily, the group also brings back Brett Bowers, the defensive end who in just 11 games led the Lobos in tackles for loss (9.0), sacks (6.0) and forced fumbles (three).

Even if there are a couple of top performers who are bringing back their experience and leadership for another go around in Albuquerque, the Lobos still have some serious concerns across the board, not the least of which shows the team ranking 123rd last season in team passing efficiency defense (172.77).

SPECIAL TEAMS: The Lobos are replacing both their punter and kicker from last season. While Ben Skaer was one of the best in the business when handling punts, averaging 45.8 yards per kick and landing 20 of his 47 boots inside the 20-yard line, kicker Justus Adams was not nearly as potent. Adams, a modest 8- of-12 on field goal attempts, made only one of his four tries from 40 yards and beyond.

New Mexico is going into the season blind when it comes to placekicking, with local product Zack Rogers taking over the responsibilities. Rogers, who has yet to attempt a kick in his college career, is also listed as the punter for the time being.

On a more positive note, when it comes to bringing back kicks, the Lobos have one of the best in the business in Wiggins. Last year, he led the nation with 1,303 yards and three touchdowns on 44 kickoff returns, which is why he won MWC Special Teams Player of the Year honor in 2013 and is considered the top threat at his position yet again. It should come as little surprise to find that Wiggins is on the watch list for the Paul Hornung Award, which recognizes the most versatile player in college football.

OUTLOOK: "I really like the feel of this team, just with the personnel that we have, the numbers that we have, and with our coaching staff," Davie has said heading into his third season with the Lobos.

Unfortunately, there is very little from the Davie statement that says this year's New Mexico brand of football is going to take a huge step in the right direction. The team's top running back is no longer around, and the passing game is still trying to take flight.

The Lobos have a winning record against just three of their opponents in 2014, two of those being familiar foes in UTEP and New Mexico State. Outside of potential wins against that pair, the only other outing that could possibly be considered a win up for grabs is against UTSA, since there is a sense of revenge involved following last year's surprising setback in the opener at home.

Suffice to say, 2014 has all the makings of yet another disappointing year for the Lobos and coach Davie.

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