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Trying To Build Stability

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Lobo offensive line coach Lenzmeier wants to ease the transition

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Dillon Farrell and Darryl Johnson came to Albuquerque in the summer of 2009, from the land of gumbo and etoufee, to play football for the University of New Mexico.

They couldn’t possibly have anticipated the coaching jambalaya that awaited them: three offensive line coaches in three years.

Jason Lenzmeier, O-line coach No. 3, hopes to bring a little stability into their lives.

Lenzmeier, a UNM offensive tackle from 2000-03, played his entire career for the same position coach: Bob Bostad, recently hired as the offensive line coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“I got lucky, yeah,” Lenzmeier said after Wednesday night’s spring-practice session. “… There’s a lot of coaches who’ve helped me along the way, but (Bostad’s) the guy I’ve kind of modeled myself after.”

More role models the better? Perhaps. Johnson, an offensive tackle, has played for Cheston Blackshear, Ron Hudson and now will play for Lenzmeier.

“Every coach has something to bring,” Johnson said, “and whatever they bring is obviously going to help us.”

Yet, such transitions can be painful. The relationship between offensive linemen and their position coach tends to be close — perhaps closer than at other positions because of the selfless, hand-in-glove coordination required from the O-line.

Farrell played center as a redshirt freshman in 2010, when Mike Degory was his position coach, and mostly tackle last season for Hudson.

“It’s really hard,” Farrell said. “You grow, you form a really strong bond with them. You strike up a friendship that you’ll never forget.”

Johnson and Farrell, who played at rival high schools in Baton Rouge, La., will be fourth-year juniors next season. Lenzmeier plans to be the only offensive line coach they’ll have the rest of their careers.

Despite his long-term relationship with Bostad, he knows something about adjusting to coaching changes. As Lenzmeier begins his sixth year as a college coach, he’s working for his third head coach and for his fifth offensive coordinator.

“It’s the terminology (that’s difficult),” he says. “… That’s the stuff you’ve got to learn and get these kids to understand, too.

“It’s hard on the kids, so it’s nice to hopefully give them a little continuity.”

All three Lobos, players and coach, say the adjustment is going well.

“I heard a lot about coach Lenzmeier from the former offensive linemen that played here,” Johnson said. “… I knew for a fact that I could trust him.”

Lenzmeier’s devotion to his alma mater, Farrell says, shines through.

“He really cares about the players on and off the field,” he says. “He really cares about our character, and I really appreciate that.

“He’s big into trying to re-instill the pride back in this university.”

Without question, that pride has taken a beating since Johnson and Farrell arrived. They watched as redshirts while the Lobos went 1-11 in 2009; they played the past two seasons, with the same result.

Head coach Bob Davie, hired in November, has pledged to coach an aggressive, physical style of football.

“I can feel the difference,” Johnson says, “by the play-calling we have and the coaching staff we’ve brought in.

“All the players can see it’s gonna be a nice change for us this year.”

Feeling the difference, Farrell said, is a phrase to be taken literally.

“It’s a lot more hitting, definitely a lot more physical,” he said. “Coach Davie says we’re gonna run the ball, he’s not lying.

“As offensive linemen, we want that, too. We want to be dominant on the line.”

Lenzmeier played on some dominant offensive lines at UNM under Bostad and head coach Rocky Long.

“It’s a mindset,” he said. “If you believe you can do it, you can do it. They’re working hard, that’s the key thing. They’re doing what I ask them to do. They’re not doing it perfect every time, but we’ll just keep hammering away at the details.

“They want to be good, so that’s the key.”
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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