The 2014 college football season starts on Aug. 27 and continues into mid-January with the first edition of the four-team playoff. Athlon Sports is counting down until kickoff with projections and previews for all 128 FBS teams. Here is our team preview for No. 106 New Mexico.
Previewing New Mexico’s Offense for 2014
For a team that ran the ball 77 percent of the time in 2013, losing your No. 1 running back is probably not a good thing. But New Mexico remains confident that its triple-option attack out of the Pistol formation will remain potent even without Kasey Carrier, who averaged 1,296 rushing yards the last two seasons. The Lobos’ top returning rusher, Crusoe Gongbay, is facing some legal issues that could jeopardize his senior season. If he’s not available, Jhurell Pressley, one of the team’s fastest players, and Teriyon Gipson will battle in preseason camp for the starting assignment. Pressley averaged 9.4 yards per carry in limited action in 2013.
At quarterback, option specialist Cole Gautsche is back with hopes of improving his 44.9 percent completion percentage. Gautsche is a powerful runner who racked up 86.3 yards per game and ran for eight touchdowns, but he has had some concussion issues. Senior Clayton Mitchem subbed for Gautsche when Gautsche was hurt or the option was being stifled last year and had a much better completion percentage (59.3 percent). Mitchem, however, is not as much of a threat to run.
Three starters return on the offensive line, and center Garrett Adcock, who started eight games in 2012, is back from injury. Optimism is high that the Lobos’ strong option attack, which was fourth nationally and first in the Mountain West at 308.8 rushing yards per game, will remain potent.
Six of New Mexico’s top seven pass-catchers return, with Marquis Bundy the top candidate to have a breakout season.
Previewing New Mexico’s Defense for 2014
It was no secret that the focus of the spring was improving a defense that was shredded for 42.8 points per game and gave up 56 or more three times. Coach Bob Davie promoted Kevin Cosgrove as his new coordinator and brought in two new assistants on the defensive side of the ball. Six starters return in the 3-4 scheme, including virtually the entire secondary.
Along the defensive line, senior end Brett Bowers is an all-league candidate after making six sacks. The Lobos are bringing in three run-stuffing junior college defensive tackles to help a defense that surrendered 257.2 yards per game on the ground.
Dakota Cox is back at inside linebacker after leading the team in tackles as a true freshman, and on the outside Javarie Johnson, Donnie White and Tevin Newman showed flashes in 2013.
The secondary hopes to cut down the number of long scoring passes (New Mexico gave up 10 TD receptions of 30-plus yards in 2013). Senior David Guthrie, the team’s third-leading tackler, is trying to play a more aggressive style from his strong safety spot. SaQwan Edwards, a returning starter at cornerback, was suspended from the team in April. His loss would be a big blow for the defense.
Previewing New Mexico’s Specialists for 2014
With both kickers gone, Davie signed Jason Sanders to possibly take over both jobs in the fall. Sanders averaged 45 yards per punt and made 7-of-12 field goals as a high school senior. Zack Rogers (kicker) and Sam Gentry (punter) also got looks in spring practice. Wide receiver Carlos Wiggins led the nation with three kickoff returns for touchdowns and was sixth nationally with a 29.6-yard average.
Davie has seen mild progress with seven wins in his first two years after taking over a program that went 3–33 in the previous three years. But he and his coaching staff know that there is a long way to go for the Lobos to compete in the upper half of the Mountain West. The offense should again be above average. The relative success of 2014 will be determined by what type of progress the defense can make.